By M. Peggy Quattro
The mystery surrounding the violent death of Reggae Superstar PETER TOSH is as complex and mysterious as the man himself. The many reports, stories, assumptions, and speculations leave a shroud of doubt and suspicion in staggering proportions.
What is known to date is that on the evening of Friday, September 11, 1987, three gunmen on motorcycles entered Tosh’s Plymouth Avenue residence in Barbican, Kingston, Jamaica. Apparently known by Tosh, the three were in the house for a short while before the massacre began. What a dark day for Reggae and a sad and shameful day for mankind. One of the killers, Dennis Lobban, turned himself into the Kingston Police only days later, following a warrant issued for his arrest and the involvement of Interpol (the international police force.) Two others are still being detained, their names as yet unannounced.
The first to be fired upon was Marlene Brown, long-time girlfriend and Tosh’s current manager and accountant. Winston “Doc” Brown was shot and killed on the spot, with Peter being shot several times and reportedly beat about the head. He died hours later at the University of the West Indies Hospital. Jeff “Free I” Dixon also received shots to the head resulting in his death days later. Also wounded were Free I‘s wife Joy, Peter’s drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis, and another friend named Michael Robinson.
The Sunday “Gleaner” reported that the weapons used were a magnum, an automatic, and a 9mm German gun. It also stated the house was ransacked, furniture overturned and went so far as to publish a gory photo of the blood-soaked carpets.
Understandably, many parties involved are not speaking out until the smoke clears and the miscreants are brought to justice. Rumors abound of reasons why the dreadful attack occurred. One widely reported story is that gunman Lobban had, several years earlier taken the rap for Peter for gun possession seized in a police roadblock. It is being said that Peter was to “take care” of Lobban, who was recently paroled and recently went to Tosh’s home for his provision.
Another allegation is that Lobban was in prison for the murder of his own brother and was recently paroled from a life sentence only to be “hired” to commit this villainous act. Nothing is definite, nothing is certain, but rest assured that the police high commission is investigating and eventually the truth will be revealed.
The overwhelming shock of the brutal incident is still felt in Kingston and around the world. Prime Minister Seaga called for ‘‘the need to intensify the drive against the crime in all elements” while another leader, Michael Manley, describes it as “a blot of shame on all Jamaicans.” The Jamaican Anti-Apartheid Movement paid tribute to Peter “for his militant music (as) he spared no effort to use his lyrics to condemn the evils of the apartheid system.” The Workers Party of Jamaica noted, “Tosh spoke out against oppression, for black dignity and racial pride, and (was) loved and revered by Jamaicans of all walks of life, especially the youth.” So was Peter Tosh loved – for his fearless, consistent advocacy (on and off the stage) of Black/African rights and for what later became Tosh’s catchphrase – EQUAL RIGHTS and JUSTICE, and for his playing a leading and unforgettable role in promoting Reggae internationally. Ironically, his deathblow came out at the time he was resuming his turbulent and controversial career after a two-year recess.
Other dramatics surrounding the loss of Tosh gave Jamaican media a field day. First was the fight over the body and the burial. Marlene Brown reportedly told Mrs. Alvera Coke (Tosh’s mother) that she could not have her only child to bury in Westmoreland, the place where Winston Hubert McIntosh was born on October 9, 1944. The government did not recognize Ms. Brown’s “Queen” status and turned the body over to Mrs. Coke for burial. At this same time, two men surfaced, both claiming to be Peter’s father. One, Alfred McIntosh, was a supporter of Brown, while the other, James McIntosh was later confirmed by Mrs. Coke to be Peter’s actual father. James McIntosh stated that he had met with Peter some years ago, that they had made their peace and had spoken several times since.
It was on Friday, September 25. 1987, that 12,000 fans and friends joined Peter’s family, including 8 of his 10 children, to pay their respect as Peter lay in state, clad in a khaki suit under a white satin burial robe, in a bronze-colored casket trimmed in Rastafari colors of red, green and gold. For over four hours, the National Arena rang out with his mystical music as thousands viewed the original Wailer, for some the first time, for all the last time.
The following day a Thanksgiving service was held in the National Arena. Afterward, Peter Tosh was driven the 120 miles to his place of birth to be permanently entombed in a mausoleum erected for him in Belmont, Westmoreland, Jamaica. Jah live!
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