By Andrew Bruce, November 16 at 1:24 PM
Michael X born Michael De Freitas also known as Abdul Malik was convicted of murder in 1972 and executed by hanging at the Royal Jail in Port of Spain on May 16th, 1975. Michael is said to be involved in the first Nothing Hill Carnival. He also founded the Racial Adjustment Action Society and later became the self-appointed leader of a Black Power commune on Holloway Road, North London, called the “Black House”. Growing up as a young high school freshman I was given an autobiography of Michael X called, “From Michael Freitas to Michael X” (London: André Deutsch, 1968), which was retrieved from the debris from his burnt home at Christina Gardens in my home town of Arima. I was left confused digesting the split personality in the autobiography and the crimes for which Michael X was charged.
In Trinidad, we were more consumed with the murders at Christina Gardens which shocked the quiet town of Arima and the rest of T&T. But there was much more to the story which involved, British Royalty, members of the British parliament, MI5 and MI6, gangsters, slumlords, pimps, and prostitutes. Here is a scene from “The Bank Job” a dramatization of a real-life bank robbery in 1971 in which Michael X is claimed to be in possession of compromising photos of a female member of the British royal family, with plans to use them to avoid any prosecution in England.
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug. 21 (Reuters) — Michael Abdul Malik, also known as Michael X, a former black power leader in Britain, was sentenced to death by hanging here today.
He was found guilty of murdering a Port of Spain barber, Joseph Skerritt, 25 years old, at Christina Gardens, Arima, 16 miles east of Port of Spain, last February. The body was unearthed on Feb. 22 from behind Malik’s burned‐out house.
The Crown charged that the defendant had a hole dug in his backyard on Feb. 8 and, the same day, Stanley Abbott, acting on Malik’s orders, grabbed Mr. Skerritt and jumped into the hole with him. Malik, the Crown contended, then struck Mr. Skerritt’s neck with a cutlass.
A crown witness, Adolphus Parmassar, testified that he had seen the killing and had helped to cover the body, on Malik’s orders. Abbott, a former British Army dispatch rider, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years’ hard labor.
I was in front the Arima Court House on Queen Street when Malik made his first appearance, he wore a light brown jacket and pants with crep sole. That morning the whole of Arima was by the Court House, says one resident.
Stanley Abbott was executed in 1978 for the murder of Gale Ann Benson;
Michael X, otherwise known as Michael de Freitas or Michael Abdul Malik, was executed on 16 May 1975 for the murder of Joseph Skerritt;
Edward Chadee’s account of what happened:
From BridgetteAnn Reyes
Tidbit from Bridgette: Muhammad Ali gave his bloody boxing shorts that he wore when he fought Henry Cooper to Michael Abdul Malik, and is referred to as a black militant from Trinidad in The Greatest – My Own Story by Muhammad Ali and Richard Durham.
From Neil Giuseppi:
The house was never rebuilt. I believe the lot is now empty. Pamassar used to be around Arima all the time. I have not seen him for years now, however.
Yes. I knew the family and when he was released. I was invited, and attended, a party held for him. He had a brother called Tolly who was a popular barber in Arima.
He, like Edward Chadee, were innocently caught up in the mess. Parmassar was the gardener for Malik’s property and Chadee was a car salesman who got caught up in the hype surrounding Malik.
Excerpts from a posting on the Arima We For fb page:
With the capture of infamous killer Abdul Malik aka ‘Michael X’, newspapers were selling like hot bread about this case in Trinidad. All the papers were full of that news for weeks. There was extremely high interest in the story. Normally, when there is a murder we are so used to it that the papers barely mention it. This was a special case and usually nobody hangs for a murder either, but now people expected a hanging.
To show how innocent we were back then, this murder rocked Trinidad. If one misbehaved, your elders would threaten to bring Malick for you. It was really big. Today it would be lost amongst the savagery of murders taking place in Trinidad.
Allan Tam said, “I remember the day he was hanged. I went to a school called Holy Family on Frederick and Oxford St. It was on the same block, opposite the jail. I must have been 4 at the time. We all knew what was happening. The street was quiet that morning as our parents had to quickly get us to the gate of the school and leave and there was no parking allowed on the street.” I think we knew from the teachers almost immediately when the actual execution took place because they could literally hear the activities in the jail yard.
Another said, “I too remember the morning Malik was hanged. What stayed with me is the image of his wife, Desirée, sitting under a tree in nearby Lord Harris Square. She was all alone, crying. She sat there for hours.”
Patrice Pollard: I read 3 books on this Michael De Freitas, Malik, and Malik The Accused. My father borrowed these books from a colleague and I read them. John Lennon’s assassination was linked to this, many who know the story would know of this.
One should look at the movie The Bank Job with Jason Stratham.
Allan Tam: The Bank Job with Jason Stratham. Michael X is a character in The Bank Job (2008), a dramatization of a real-life bank robbery in 1971. The film claims that Michael X was in possession of indecent photographs of Princess Margaret and used them to avoid criminal prosecution by threatening to publish them.
Gale Ann Benson was with Steve Yeates. She was not having an affair with Malik.
For those who were not born in that era please read VS Naipaul’s “The Return of Eva Peron And The Killings in Trinidad”.
Assad Mohammed: True and interesting theory about the motive for the murder of Gail Ann Benson. I don’t think the trial uncovered third body. At that time the property was owned by the Mootoo family.
The judge in the trial of Abdul Malik, Justice Evans Rees.
This is another episode in the country’s history that was immortalized in calypso by Kitchener. The calypso is called ‘One to hang’ (1973).
Ed Reid: One to hang was about Stanley Abbot. I was in the prisoner box with him when the sentence to hang was pronounced on him. I was on his right. Another officer was on his left. When the judge put on a special black head gear, read the sentence, signed the order and broke the pen, Abbott got white like chalk, rocked a couple of times, then fainted. Both the other officer and myself were both too scared and too weak, to even assist him to his feet.
Ed Reid: Abdul Malik was brought back to Trinidad by SGT Norton Registe of the Special Branch. I was in the CID at the time, where I worked the 6pm to 8am shift that night. I remember speaking to Malik several times that night. He was clean shaven and dressed in a gray shirt jack outfit. He was held in a cell between the CID front office and the Court and Process Branch.
One of his victims was Joseph Skeritt, a school friend of mines from Rosary Boys School. One of the persons arrested for that murder was Samuel Brown. He was released after the Preliminary Inquiry. I last saw him in Washington DC about 3 years ago. He once told me that a senior police officer told him to get out of Trinidad on the next flight, after he was released, and he did.
I used to guard Adolphus Parmessar at a safe house in Bourg Mulatresse. He was guarded by both uniformed officers from San Juan police station and the CID in Port of Spain.
The jury was sequestered for both trials at Normandie Hotel. I recall one day when Detective Sergeant Harold St Louis led a party of us to accompany them to Maracas to bathe. Nicely catered food on that outing.
Edward Chadee was also sentenced to hang for one of those murders. His sentence was commuted and he was eventually pardoned. The daughter of Sir Courtenay Hannays once told me that her father was instrumental in getting Chadee’s sentence commuted, since they had known him since he was a little boy growing up, and frequenting their house.
Chadee got caught up in the web but he was no murderer.
Norton Registe went on to become an ACP and the holder of a law degree.
Ed Reid: There is an interview with Chadee that was published in one of the dailies. It has given the best insight into this sordid affair.
I used to have a Newspaper clip of myself and Parmassar walking across from police headquarters going to the trial.
Lawrence John: Malik was a young, black revolutionary with support from a British Millionaire benefactor. Group iInfiltrated by a young British socialite and daughter of a powerful, ‘conservative’ politician. He was in possession of scathing evidence against ‘the elite’ of the day. Twice provoked by the burning down of black empowerment communes. First person to be charged under British race relations law etc…..History and conspiracy typed movies has taught us that ‘the elite’ will pull out all stops (including signing off on the death of a loved one gone rogue) when they want you eliminated for rallying the oppressed masses.
Solina Ali-lowkaran: As a little girl growing up, I remember this story. My father took us to see the house in Christina Gardens and the police allowed us to visit the inside of the house and also the graves at the back of the house. It was scary.
There is a CD put out to be purchased (I have this cd.) it came from an interview by Edward Chadee, on the program “Eye on Dependency” by Gath and Natasha a couple of years ago where Chadee tells in detail the complete story of this event up to his eventual release from prison and more! The story is unbelievable…. it was put out in public by radio 95.5 for sale…….anyone wanting to know the real story moment to moment, should listen to this narrated by Edward Chadee himself. I have always thought that it should be made into a serious documentary for its truth and detail, especially as Mr. Chadee is still with us. The murders, trials hanging etc. were told by Chadee. in this CD. He had to return for a further interview with Gath and Natasha to tell it all.
Ed Reid: A few months before Malik ordered the murder of Joe Skeritt, he (Skeritt) and Sylvan Cashie aka Musso from the Lawbreakers gang, were accused of raping Ann Marie Innis, a popular singer back then, who had fallen victim to drugs. She ran into a fella called “Missing Ball” house to escape. Don’t speculate as to how he got that name “Missing Ball”. There used to be a popular game in the newspapers. They would show you a picture of an English football scene. But the ball was missing. You had to guess where the ball is by marking ONE “X” on the picture. If the center of your X matched the center of the ball, you won big money at the time. He won and opened a parlor.
It was rumored that Malik killed Joe Skeritt for that rape. The fact as disclosed by statements revealed that Malik had sent Joe Skeritt with a group of men to raid a rural police station and take their guns. Skeritt aborted the mission. Malik made him dig his own grave in Christina Gardens, under the pretext that he was creating a flower bed. Then while Skeritt was in the shallow hole, it was revealed that Abbott bussed a chop behind his neck, causing him to fall in the hole. They then covered up his body. The two shallow graves were only discovered because there was a fire at Christina Gardens.
Victor Charles: Another piece of history for the younger generation. It is true. Regarding the late Ann Marie Inniss it was sad. A very good singer in her time. Her dad Bertram Inniss was back up musician for Sparrow. Before she died, she sang Boogsie’s arrangement called Fire Down Below.
Ed Reid: I was fortunate to be attached to the CID at that time. And being from Belmont/Gonzales, I knew some of the players involved.
John Bruce Milne: John Lennon and Yoko Ono were very friendly with him and used to stay with him at Christina Gardens.
Kenny Attai: I remember this well since I lived not too far from Christina Gardens at that time. We used to visit the Mootoo family at that same house before it was occupied by Malik. I would see Malik from time to time in Arima and for some reason always felt something strange and fearful about him. Maybe it was his appearance. Remember seeing him and his wife walking with sandals on. Chadee’s interview with Garth and Natasha was nail biting.
Andrew Bruce, November 16, 2019: Michael X born Michael De Freitas also known as Abdul Malik was convicted of murder in 1972 and executed by hanging at the Royal in Port of Spain on May 16th. 1975. Michael is said to be involved in the first Nothing Hill Carnival, he was also the founder of the Racial Adjustment Action Society and later became the self-appointed leader of a Black Power commune on Holloway Road, North London, called the “Black House”. Growing up as a young high school freshman I was given an autobiography of Michael X called, “From Michael Freitas to Michael X” (London: André Deutsch, 1968), which was retrieved from the debris from his burnt home at Christina Gardens in my home town of Arima. I was left confused digesting the split personality in the autobiography and the crimes for which Michael X was charged. In Trinidad, we were more consumed with the murders at Christina Gardens which shocked the quiet town of Arima and the rest of T&T.
But there was much more to the story which involved, British Royalty, members of the British parliament, MI5 and MI6, gangsters, slumlords, pimps, and prostitutes. Here is a scene from “The Bank Job” a dramatization of a real-life bank robbery in 1971 in which Michael X is claimed to be in possession of compromising photos of a female member of the British royal family, with plans to use them to avoid any prosecution in England.
Rohan Dial: I remember this. He used to buy stuff at our drug store and on two occasions he was accompanied by Yoko Ono and John Lennon.
Edward Metivier: When the discovery of Joe Skerrit and Gail Ann Benson’s bodies hit the news, I rode to the crime scene. The Police didn’t allow me to ride to the house, but I could see some of the police activity from the O’Meara Main Road. I was intrigued as murders in Trinidad were rare, and in Arima, once in a blue moon. I too remember seeing the ‘Lennondary’ John and Yoko walking barefooted along John Shaw Ave., near Welcome Hotel, they must have enjoyed Arima, as there were no mobs seeking.
Neil Giuseppi THE MALIK MURDERS
It was in early 1972 that news broke that would rock the foundation of Trinidad and Tobago’s society to its core. A body had been found buried on the burnt-out premises of Michael Abdul Malik at Christina Gardens in Arima.
Michael Abdul Malik was born in Belmont in 1933.
In 1957 he migrated to England where he soon became an enforcer for the slum landlord, Peter Rachman. He also became involved in radical politics and by the
mid-1960s, inspired by Malcolm X, he renamed himself Michael X.
In 1967 he became the first non-white person to be charged and imprisoned under the UK’s Race Relations Act and was sentenced to 12 months in prison for advocating the immediate killing of any white man seen “laying hands” on a black woman.
After his release and over the next few years, he was continually in trouble with the law and in 1971, he fled to his native Trinidad, where he started a commune in Christina Gardens, Arima.
In February the following year a mysterious fire flattened the building on the property where Malik lived.
It was then that the drama started.
Police investigating the fire discovered the body of Joseph Skerritt, a Belmont barber. They immediately arrested all those who were on the premises at the time.
They were Samuel Augustus Brown, an American citizen who had served as a demolition expert in the United States Army in Vietnam and who is believed to have been instrumental in setting the fire which destroyed the premises, Edward Chadee, a motor car salesman, and Adolphus Parmassar, the gardener.
Malik was nowhere to be found.
Apparently he had fled to Guyana probably realising that things at the commune were about to fall apart. There was no sign either of Stanley Abbot, another one of the commune’s leaders.
Malik was eventually captured in Guyana and returned to Trinidad to face trial for Skerrit’s murder.
On February 24th 1972, Stanley Abbot walked into C.I.D. Headquarters in Port of Spain and told the police that the men in custody were small fries in the commune and that Malik was responsible for all that had taken place. He also informed them that there was a 2nd body on the premises.
The body was that of Gail Ann Benson, a British citizen who had been staying at the commune with Hakim Jamal, an American Black Power activist. She was the daughter of a member of the British House of Lords, Lord Greville Plugge.
The details of her murder are extremely gruesome but it turns out that the persons who carried out the deed were Stanley Abbot, Steve Yeates who had mysteriously drowned a few weeks after the murder and an American, Marvin Deane, who was called Kidogo, and who is the only person who has never been apprehended.
At the Preliminary Inquiry, Samuel Augustus Brown was freed on a no-case submission by his lawyer and Adolphus Parmassar turned State Witness and was freed.
All the others faced trial, Malik for Skerritt’s murder and Abbot and Chadee for Benson’s.
The Prosecution was led by Queen’s Counsel, Karl Hudson-Phillips, while St. Lucian Kenneth Foster appeared for the defence.
Malik’s wife, Desiree, was also a regular attendee both at the Preliminary Inquiry and at the trial.
Malik was found guilty of the murder of Joseph Skerritt and sentenced to death while Abbot and Chadee received death sentences for the murder of Ms. Benson.
Malik and Abbot were both executed in 1975 while some years afterwards, Chadee’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he was eventually pardoned by the State.
He is today a free man.
Much has already been written about the murders and that will suffice for now.
I feel it incumbent upon me, however, to comment on a film that was produced purporting to be a true story of the Malik murders.
The film is called “The Bank Job.”
I looked at the movie and, having covered Malik’s trial from the Preliminary Inquiry stages, I can say, without fear of contradiction, that most of it is pure fiction. A large majority of the “so-called facts” stated in the movie are totally untrue and were never mentioned at the trials.
Quite recently, on the radio programme “Eye on Dependency” on I 95.5 fm, Edward Chadee who was present at Gail Ann Benson’s murder, made the same observation.
At the end of the film, the producers scrolled a series of so-called “facts” including one which stated that Malik was hanged for the murder of Gail Ann Benson.
TOTALLY FALSE: Malik was never even tried for Benson’s murder.
He was convicted and hanged for the murder of Joseph Skerritt who had been killed a month before Ms. Benson.
I met Malik in person on only one occasion.
He had come to ttt apparently to meet with Lalsingh Harrybance, a noted psychic at the time.
While there he requested to meet with Yusuff Ali who was the Head of News. Yusuff and I were the only ones in the News Room at the time and he came upstairs and spent about 30 minutes with us.
He was accompanied by Steve Yeates, who later adopted the Muslim name Muhammad Akbar, and who drowned in Sans Souci a few weeks before all the drama erupted.
Malik spent the time trying to convince Yusuff to let him host a programme on television on “Black Culture”.
He was well-dressed and very articulate.
But two things stood out and Yusuff and I commented on both afterwards.
The first was that although he was so well-dressed, his finger nails were very dirty.
The second was that Yeates never said a word during the time they were there. On one or two occasions, he appeared to be about to make a comment but, on each occasion, Malik just glanced in his direction and he remained quiet.
To be honest, both Yusuff and I were quite impressed by the man and Yusuff seriously began to consider raising the issue with Programme Director, Farouk Muhammad, of Malik hosting a programme on T.T.T.
Before that could be taken any further, however, the news of the murders broke and that was the end of that.
Kitchener version in calypso.