THE 63-year-old woman lies in bed inside her Tivoli Gardens home clutching a radio, listening intently to each news bulletin as though her life depends on it. Source: Jamaica Observer.
A worried frown creases her forehead. She appears restless. Pauline ‘Patsy’ Halliburton, mother of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, is terrified that she will never “see” her son alive again.
Coke, who is wanted on gun and drug charges in the United States, has been on the run since May 17 when a warrant was issued for his arrest. Less than a week later, security forces traded bullets with gunmen in his Tivoli Gardens community, and when the smoke cleared 73 civilians and a soldier lay dead. Coke, who was reported to have been in Tivoli at the start of the May 24 incursion, escaped, the police said.
Now Halliburton, who is diabetic and blind, is hungry for news of her son. Her frustration is compounded by the fact that she is somewhat restricted in her movement as a result of an amputated leg caused by the disease.
“The last few weeks have been the worst in my life,” she told the Sunday Observer last Wednesday.
“The last time ah see mi son and talk to him was Mother’s Day (May 9). Him even send mi present come; him never miss a Mother's Day,” Halliburton said.
Asked if she was in contact with Coke or if she had asked him to turn himself in, Halliburton answered: “Mi afraid of what the foreign people them might do.” Her reference was to the US extradition request. She, however, declined to state whether she was in contact with Coke.
During the interview, a family member, who did not wish to be named, adjusted Halliburton’s pillow, explaining that she had suffered a “slight stroke” shortly after the Tivoli incursion.
“Her health is failing,” the family member said.
But Halliburton boldly interjected that despite her condition, her “strong faith in God” would keep her.
“I’m strong, if not for myself but for my son.”
“Every night ah lay in my bed with me radio just praying and hoping that my son will be safe,” she continued, adding that it has been a while since she had a good night’s sleep.
In her heyday, Halliburton worked as a vendor, selling goods in downtown Kingston and supporting her three children — two boys and one girl. She also used the opportunity presented by the interview to dismiss rumours that Coke was the adopted son of former Tivoli Gardens ‘don’, Lester Lloyd Coke, otherwise called ‘Jim Brown’.
“Him a nuh no adopted son; a just people love to talk,” Halliburton told the Sunday Observer. In fact, she said one of Dudus’s sons was the spitting image of his late grandfather.
Tivoli residents have also scoffed at the suggestion that Coke was adopted, but the police and media reports have said otherwise.
As Halliburton spoke, soldiers moved around outside her house searching for clues to Coke’s whereabouts.
The lawmen had initially placed a US$20,000 bounty on Coke’s head, but increased that figure to J$5 million on Friday.
But the Coke the authorities say they are searching for is a far cry from the one described by his mother last week.
She described Coke as a quiet and caring person.
“Him hardly talk, but him care for people and try to help them. When him deh here, me nuh wanting a nothing,” said Halliburton, who said her son also covered the cost of all her medication.
She said not only was her son innocent, but that she felt he was a hero.
She likened Coke’s predicament to that of past who in their lifetime were regarded as outlaws by authorities, but who were later absolved by history.
“All a what dem a say is lie dem telling, and that is why I am calling on the authorities to carry out a deeper investigation in my son’s case,” Halliburton said.
Asked what her greatest wish was, she said, “Me just wish all of this problem would go away and that them would just leave him alone”.
“My son is a hero. A pure good things him do for people why them love him,” continued Halliburton, fighting hard to hold back tears.
She said he was also a disciplinarian.
“One of my clearest memory of this was when there was a strike of teachers some years ago and some people came out to protest, and him come around and say I must come off of the road,” she told the Sunday Observer.
Halliburton said Coke, at the time, also defended teachers, saying they should get greater recognition for the job they did. She added that she felt that a number of persons were now trying to use her son by blaming him for problems that were not of his making.
But despite her call for her son to be left alone, the police say they have stepped up their operations to apprehend him.
In fact, last week they placed several areas across the island under curfew to restrict the movement of criminals who may be associated with the reputed community leader.
Since Coke fled Tivoli, police say, several searches in the community and surrounding areas have resulted in the seizure of more than 70 guns and thousands of assorted rounds of ammunition.