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Selwyn Joseph

After he converted to Islam two years ago, Selwyn Joseph began trying to clean up the streets of San Juan where he lived and tried many times to stop the sale of drugs just a stone’s throw away from his house.

On Saturday, however, those efforts cost him his life when he was beaten and stabbed twice by a neighbour.

At Joseph’s home at John Dulam Street, San Juan, on Sunday, his relatives wept as they recounted the incident that led to his death.

Joseph, 38, was a father of three young children, six, three and one and was expecting another child with his wife.

His sister, Schizelle Joseph, said Joseph was in a good mood when he woke up on Saturday, as it was the last day of fasting and he was looking forward to celebrating Eid yesterday. Around noon, he left home to run an errand.

“One of his brothers from the mosque asked him to bring some fever grass (lemongrass) for him because he was not feeling well, so he went out the road for the grass. But there is a problem out the road with the drugs and he told the guys multiple times, stop selling drugs on the street, there are children on the street. He has been pleading with them for quite a while, apparently, they had enough of his pleading,” Schizelle said.

She said a relative of the person Joseph was talking to then approached him and the two began arguing.

The argument soon turned physical. But Schizelle said her brother was outnumbered and also weak from fasting an entire month, so he could not defend himself.

“One of them held him in a headlock as he was trying to run, they caught on him, they held him by the throat while they continued beating and stabbing him. He was on the ground and they continued until they were satisfied and then they left him there,” she said.

A friend eventually took Joseph to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

The entire incident was captured on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras nearby and that footage was handed over to police.

Guardian Media understands two people were detained in relation to Joseph’s murder.

Joseph attended the Nur-E-Islam Masjid in San Juan and Schizelle said the mosque elders spoke highly of him.

“Growing up with Selwyn, he was very feisty but he found his religion and turned his life right around and listening to the elders in the mosque last night, I felt proud to be his sister. He was good and he wanted better, his children don’t even be outside, he wanted better for other people’s children,” she said.

As the family awaits an autopsy, another of Joseph’s sisters, Sabrina, said the COVID-19 pandemic had made her family’s grief even worse, as her mother and another sister who live abroad cannot return for Joseph’s funeral.

Sabrina said as the remaining siblings gathered at Joseph’s home on Saturday, they were also warned by police that there had been threats put out against the family.

“We don’t live in fear but it is an uneasy time,” she said.

Joseph’s brother, Curtis, summed up the murder by saying, “It was basically like a bunch of wolves attacking a weaker animal.”

At the Nur-E-Islam Masjid several streets away, Imam Sharaz Ali said Joseph was a very active member of the mosque. He said its members were shocked and saddened by his death. Ali said the mosque had reached out to Joseph’s family and would cover the cost of his funeral.