(JAMAICA GLEANER) – An American visitor has become the latest murder victim in western Jamaica after his body, with multiple stab wounds, was found inside a hotel room in Montego Bay yesterday.
Investigators attached to the western city’s Freeport Police Station have identified the deceased man as Pheodore Walling, who is of a Michigan address in the United States. He was a guest at Hotel Gloriana, where his body was discovered.
The American’s death coincided with a strong defence of the country’s travel industry by US Ambassador Donald Tapia, who emphasised yesterday that Jamaica was a safe place for tourists.
Speaking at a Lions Club of Kingston meeting at The Jamaica Pegasus, Tapia argued that the impact of violent crime on the hospitality industry was negligible, though he acknowledged that he was constantly asked about murders.
“The place is safe. There are certain areas that are very bad, but overall, when you look at Jamaica is safe. They do not attack the tourists … so they are not affecting tourism,” he said.
“… So (crime’s) one of the things we need to get off the front page and put on Page 18 or 16, not on the front page.”
Crime affects 0.1 per cent of tourists, the Ministry of Tourism has said.
However, Walling’s death has left Janet Silvera, the president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, quite concerned as with the tourism sector already facing worrying threats from the global coronavirus outbreak, this killing could further unsettle the sector.
“Jamaica is already fighting with the fallout as it relates to the coronavirus, so the death of a tourist is just more bad news,” said Silvera. “One would want to believe a visitor to the island would be safe … . In fact, 99 per cent of our visitors usually enjoy incident-free vacations.”
According to the police, Walling arrived on the island recently and was staying at the popular property, which is located along Godfrey Dyer Boulevard. It is unclear whether he was a business or leisure traveller.
Based on reports from the police, about 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday, a housekeeper raised an alarm when she stumbled on the body, which was on its back on a blood-soaked bed.
Walling was last seen alive on Tuesday afternoon, a source at Hotel Gloriana told The Gleaner. At the time, he was reportedly seen in the company of an unidentified male.
He is the third person to be murdered in St James this week and the 14th since the start of the year.
St James is one of eight police divisions under a state of emergency. Murders have risen nationally by 11.5 per cent, with more than 230 people slain up to February 29.