The relatively short reign of one of Jamaica’s most wanted criminals came to an abrupt end on Saturday morning, when Ryan ‘Ratty’ Peterkin met his demise on the Westmoreland/St Elizabeth border.
Reports are that a security team went to a house in Berkshire district in search of Peterkin, the feared head of the Ratty gang that operated out of Cambridge and Retrieve in St James before the state of emergency was established in that parish on January 18 this year.
On the approach of the team of police and soldiers, Peterkin and another man reportedly opened fire and attempted to evade capture.
A shootout ensued, during which Peterkin and his accomplice were hit.
The two men were pronounced dead at the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in Westmoreland.
An AK-47 rifle with two magazines and 12 live rounds of ammunition, as well as a .38 revolver, were recovered from the scene.
The matter was referred to the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) and the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) for investigation.
With the conclusion of Peterkin’s leadership of the criminal outfit that drove fear into the hearts of residents of his hometown, the background to their atrocious activities has come to the fore.
Firstly, prior to the state of emergency, the community of Cambridge in southern St James was under siege as a virtual state within a state, as gangsters there ruled with impunity, including murdering numerous women, with three perishing within less than 72 hours in one case.
In the first of the murders, which took place shortly after 11:00 on a Saturday night, the gangsters invaded a house on Mother Lane in the community and killed Ann-Marie Johnson, 44, and her 24-year-old daughter, Shantoy McKenzie. This was despite the two women being relatives of Peterkin.
Responding to the development, residents of the community, speaking anonymously, said the mother and daughter had angered the gangsters by complaining about their goats and chickens that the hoodlums had stolen and slaughtered to provide food at a party which the thugs kept in the area.
In the second incident, which happened shortly before 11:00 a.m. a few days later, Roxanne Daley, 17, a recent graduate of Cambridge High School, was shot dead as she walked along McLeod Road towards her mother’s house.
It was not established what prompted the attack on Daley.
Indications from concerned residents and the local police themselves were that Peterkin and his cronies were so heavily armed that the police in the area were afraid to challenge them.
In fact, there were reports from the local police themselves that on at least three occasions when they tried to venture into the Cambridge community, the vehicles they drove were shot up by the gangsters, with the lawmen being forced to hightail it out of the community, in at least one case on foot, after having arrived in a vehicle.
A resident reported that the gangsters, operating between Cambridge and Retrieve, openly walked the streets with high-powered rifles. This was while Peterkin was reportedly linked to the deadly lottery scamming phenomenon, which was said to have helped to fund the acquisition of their weaponry.
Additionally, the gangster reportedly established an illegal ‘toll’ in the area, through which they extorted money from motorists.
The situation reportedly got even deadlier after a splitting up of the Ratty gang, resulting in fatal attacks on members of Peterkin’s own family by breakaway factions who were his former cronies.
So bad did the situation get that relatives of Peterkin at one stage, reportedly called for the security forces to bring an end to his illegal activities in order to return some level of dignity to the family’s name.
Their anxiety reportedly stemmed from a vicious feud between the notorious gangster and his former top-level lieutenant, Delano Wilmot, which resulted in the murder of four of Peterkin’s relatives.
Relatives of his reportedly fervently urged efforts to end his operations because the emotional cost was supposedly too high a price to pay for their link with the wanted man.
But Peterkin remained elusive, and despite being named among St Jame’s top five most wanted figures earlier this year, and among the top fugitives island-wide, was able to avoid capture, and was reported to have shot his way out of security force dragnets on a number of occasions.
Having been forced to flee St James, Peterkin became relatively silent and off the radar, but then came Saturday’s encounter with the security forces and the sudden end to his vicious existence.