‘Former ‘death squad’ accused turns to religion
By Michael Benjamin
July 26, 2004
Less that one week after beating the murder rap, Ashton King is so grateful to the Almighty God for saving his neck from the hangman’s noose that he has decided to dedicate the balance of his life in service to the Lord.
The 49-year-old businessman made this stunning revelation moments after exiting the ‘From the Heart Ministries’ Church in Carifesta Avenue, Eve Leary, where he and his reputed wife, Paula, spent three hours yesterday morning, singing praises and poring through pages of the Holy Bible.
King said that his short sojourn in the Camp Street jail has caused him to indulge in intense and critical soul-searching. He also said that such self-examinations revealed many shortcomings that needed urgent attention.
“During those moments of quietude and peace I realised that my life was disorganised and that irrespective of how hard I tried, things were getting very murky,” he said.
King was fingered and subsequently detained for the January assassination of cattle farmer, Shafeek Bacchus. He was subsequently slapped with the capital offence and remanded in the Camp Street jail.
King said that he was placed in a section of the prison called ‘The Dungeon or Strong Cell.’ He also said that the cell was termite infested, lacked proper ventilation, and was a far cry from the luxurious two-storied residence in Pineapple Street that he shares with Paula, his reputed wife.
During the seven months of incarceration, King endured immense suffering in a cramped cell with only two 15 inches by 15 inches openings to allow for fresh air. There were also other problems.
“When it rained inmates utilising this section of the prison were forced to endure hours of unbearable cold and on hot days the heat was intense and stifling, King related.
It was while living under such degrading conditions that King realised the need for support from stronger forces if he were to survive his ordeal.
Church service is a Sunday ritual in the prisons but not for King. He, along with Sean Hinds, the number one accused in the Shaffeek Bacchus murder, was categorised as high profile prisoners and was told that they had to obtain special permission to attend these sessions.
This certainly did not deter King from searching for his King. One day, the superintendent, who conducted church services, Sister Faye, was on her way to the prison chapel to conduct services. As she passed by his cell King, like the biblical story where Zacchaeus surmounted the vicissitudes and climbed a sycamore tree to see his saviour, intercepted her.
She stopped and indulged him in several minutes of scripture reading. “She prayed for me and imposed upon me that the Lord was my only hope,” King revealed. Just before the reverend left for the chapel, she asked King to bow his head and allow her to pray on his behalf.
It was this simple gesture that saw King thirsting for a dose of the Holy Word every day.
He next asked for and received a Bible from the prison authorities. It was to be his constant companion for the duration of his stay in the penal institution.
Now having regained his freedom, King refuses to renege on the commitment he made to God while he languished away in the Camp Street Prison awaiting his fate.
“I never doubted the power of God,” he said.
Despite his anxiety to turn from his wicked ways, King says that after he had intimated his plans to his pastor, he was told that he must first subject himself to a period of preparation.
Such preparations include daily counselling to fully understand the precepts and principles of Christianity along with lectures to highlight the stringency of such an awesome commitment, and to prepare him for the long journey ahead.
The process is a lengthy and arduous one, but King is certainly not deterred.
Senior citizens have always advocated that it takes a hard experience for some people to turn from their wicked ways. Ashton King is the most recent testimony that endorses the idiom: “old people always right.”