Police Commissioner directs probe into handling of Jenelyn case

Police Commissioner David Manning has issued directives for separate investigations into the police handling of the late 19-year-old Jenelyn Kennedy case in the two years leading up to her death.

Manning said it appears from initial reports that Jenelyn was allegedly living in an abusive relationship with her partner, Bhosip Kaiwi, for over two years.

“What did the authorities, especially police do to protect Jenelyn? Why weren’t interventions made at various stages of this abusive relationship? Where were family members when Jenelyn was tortured during the last five days of her life?

“These are questions that need to be asked and answers found. Weaknesses within our systems, be it with the police, legal, welfare or courts, need to be identified now and changed or removed to ensure that our womenfolk are better protected from such violence.”

Manning was recently provided a brief by the Port Moresby Family & Sexual Violence Unit which detailed what transpired in the three months prior to Jenelyn’s death:

According to the FSVU brief,

  • Jenelyn first approached the FSVU in town on April 20 this year. Members of the FSVU tried to put her in a safe house but she decided to go to her friend’s house at Touaguba Hill. She was transported there by members of the FSVU;
  • On 2nd of May she was rescued by members of the FSVU from her friend’s house at Touaguba Hill and brought to Femili PNG. (Femili PNG is a local NGO based in Lae and Port Moresby that runs Case Management Centres to assist survivors of family and sexual violence to access the services they need. Its target population is women, men or children who are survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual violence and/or child abuse);
  • On 12 May an Interim Protection Order was secured and served on Bhosip at the FSVU office in Boroko by the case officer;
  • On 13th of May Jenelyn decides to leave the Safe House;
  • On 15th of May she was reported to have presented a letter to the case officer to withdraw the case. The case officer told Jenelyn that this was not possible and that the case would proceed;
  • On 18th May Jenelyn and a woman identified as “her sister” took the letter to the Director of the FSVU seeking to have the case withdrawn. Again, her request was declined. She was warned of the consequences should the complaint be withdrawn. She was advised that her case would go ahead and her partner will be arrested and charged;
  • On 26 May the case officer called Bhosip but he did not answer the telephone. Instead he had his lawyer call the case officer. The case officer told the lawyer to bring his client into the station for him to be interviewed. The lawyer asked the case officer if he had seen the letter from Jenelyn withdrawing the complaint. The case officer said he was not aware of the letter and asked the lawyer instead to bring his client in. The lawyer said he would but did not do so until today.

Manning said: “I am concerned if we as a police service had done enough for Jenelyn. I am concerned if our laws are adequate to deal with such cases.

“Why did Jenelyn decide to come out of the Safe House? Why did we take months to even attempt to arrest Bhosip? There is also the question of long term support for the victims. Are our systems adequate to not only protect our women but sustain their livelihoods in the long run?

“Victims of family and sexual violence more often come out with no one to support them financially hence, most end up going back into the abusive relationships.

“After the findings of this inquiry, I will be calling for a forum with all stakeholders to look at ways to strengthen the law if need be, ensure the police are more responsive and accountable when dealing with such cases, and to push for the state to provide long term support system for victims of family and sexual violence.

“Many victims of family and sexual violence withdraw their complaints because the abuser is the main provider. Going forward, should a woman report her husband for abuse, the state must step in and financially support the woman. Until and unless we have such a support system in place, women like Jenelyn will continue to suffer in silence.”

Press release