The task of making cumulative sense of The Case of the Severed Head has been akin to Alice going doing the rabbit hole. Belize, to put it mildly, is not a country with high standards when it comes to the truth.
The trial, in retrospect, appears to have been an exercise in avoiding truth. The self-muzzling of defence counsel appears shameless and much of the writing of the initial judgement is cringeworthy. So, this accumulation of facts and conjectures marks the beginning of an inquiry process that is obviously needed by any country that wants to call itself civilized. A cohesive tale is only now starting to emerge. If one undertakes a jigsaw puzzle, one must first go through the methodical exercise of turning all the pieces right side up. This is what this site has attempted to do.
This site is not intended to serve as a forum for debate. If anyone has pertinent information or opinions that should be shared for the public good, they are encouraged to contact Belizean media outlets. Perhaps such outlets will be re-invigorated to pursue some questions that could have been asked years ago. Interested parties who can supply further insight or facts are hereby encouraged to contact one of the following media outlets in Belize:
Amandala: founded in 1969, most widely circulated newspaper
The Belize Times: official newspaper of the PUP
The Guardian: official newspaper of the UDP
The Reporter: founded in 1967, widely respected
The San Pedro Sun: respected source for San Pedro
Ambergris Today: rival to The San Pedro Sun on Ambergris Caye
Caye Caulker Chronicles: chief paper for village of Caye Caulker
The Placencia Breeze: tourism paper for Placencia
The Wabagari Post: local newspaper of Dangriga Town
San Pedro Daily
This site also serves as a template for a book or a movie. Publishers or producers are invited to make contact via firstname.lastname@example.org Non-professional messages will not be answered.
As stated at the outset, The Severed Head Mystery website serves as a collection of facts and conjectures to potentially form the foundation for a book or a screenplay.
Cue the helicopter shots of splendid beaches and romantic islets as the opening credits roll. Our let’s-start-over-again couple goes to Belize with genuine desires to uplift both the people and the country.
Danny Mason—not unlike the deluded character played by Harrison Ford in Mosquito Coast (a movie filmed in Belize)—could be viewed sympathetically at the outset. He is idealistic and hopeful. He is energized by a realization that he could improve the country with his futuristic ventures.
He makes friends, he influences people. Then it suddenly unravels as corrupt police and a complicit legal establishment work to satisfy their masters. We watch the horrific downfall of a happy couple with the eerie allure of slowly driving past a fatal car crash. Shouldn’t they have been more careful?
Hubris is certainly not a crime. But as more “First Worlders” relocate to so-called Developing Countries for more adventurous lifestyles, the people who are stuck in those countries are going to become more adept at entrapping them.
Danny Mason was confident he could win at the influence-pedaling game of Snakes and Ladders, Belize-style. Our movie or book is a tragedy in three acts, documenting the obliteration of this couple’s romantic vision. Many readers or viewers will choose to withdraw their empathy. This naturally occurs when one encounters a roadside tragedy. Hey, shouldn’t that guy in the fancy car have driven a lot more carefully—for the sake of his wife? This process of distancing ourselves from calamities enables us to quickly put extremely unpleasant realities out of our mind.
Nobody enjoys thinking about Danny Mason spending the rest of his life in prison. We prefer to look away.
And in this way evil thrives.
The most interesting character could be Dean Barrow. He is the country’s Nero. While he has fiddled, amassing his fortune, the soul of Belize has burned. History will judge him harshly. (International debt for Belize has risen from $256 million in 1989 to $2.5 billion in 2017.) If Barrow walks away and enables Belize to become a police state, he can always retire to Turks & Caicos, or perhaps Bahamas, and maybe help direct his son’s dream of one day replacing him, while still orchestrating from afar. Barrow cannot become the Robert Mugabe of Central America because there is a three-term maximum for an elected leader.
We must reserve a cameo role for the ghost of George Price, a spirit who can haunt Barrow every night like the ghost of Jacob Marley.
Although the briefly elected leader of the UDP for 72 hours, John Saldivar, could serve as a model for the story’s most overt villain, he could be relegated to a minor character, an elevated thug. The number of riveting movies we’ve ever seen about Josef Stalin remains zilch. Ditto for Blackett, who has veered sideways into some sort of semi-retirement. If he has any sense, he’ll try to keep a low profile.
It is the fixer and go-between, Jesus Castillo, who has a more intriguing role. He was the one who brought both Lucas and Flowers to Danny Mason; and he was the one who insisted Danny Mason should join him at Mr. Santo’s Bar. Police states rely on such people.
Danny Mason is a complex character. Not a hero, not a villain. A victim of his own hubris, to be a sure, but he is also a sympathetic character affected by lifelong racism, overly keen to please, imaginative, bold, outgoing, combative, frequently generous and kind.
Sandra Bullock can play the nice Canadian girl who ultimately shows how remarkably tough and brave she can be when the entire country is aligned against her. Sally Fields and Demi Moore have excelled in similar roles. Perseverance against all odds.
Maybe it’s better as mini-series? The malevolent treatment that Melissa Ferguson has endured for more than three years reveals how deeply cowardly men in positions of power can be in Belize–to persecute an innocent woman.
Regardless, the action has to start with four phones calls made by Jesus Castillo to Danny Mason on July 15, 2016, urging him to come to an out-of-the-way gravel parking lot.
- Giles Winterbourne
“What I have most wanted to do… is to make political writing into an art.” — George Orwell
The future of Belize is at stake.