An eight-year-old British girl who was killed by a gunman in Jamaica was given special permission to travel abroad by her school because she suffered from sickle cell anaemia, it emerged last night.
Imani Green was shot twice, including once in the head, when a gunman burst into a relative's cafÃ© in the rural northern village of Duncans, Trelawny, on Friday evening.
Her sister picked her off the ground and flagged down a car to take her to hospital, but the young girl later died. Three other people were wounded in the attack. Imani, from south London, travelled to the island with her mother after Christmas and had been expected to stay there for about a month. The girl's condition meant that she was susceptible to the cold which could dramatically worsen her condition, so her school agreed that she could go to Jamaica.
Her head teacher, Anne Wilson of Fircroft Primary School in Tooting, last night paid tribute to the "happy, playful" child. "She dealt with her illness very bravely and coped well with the special arrangements we had to have in place to support her," she said. "She had been given special permission to travel to Jamaica so that she could benefit from the warmer climate and we had been in contact with the local primary school she was attending while there to make sure she was receiving an appropriate education."
Police said one theory was that the shooting was in reprisal for an earlier attack, but they said they retained an open mind. The gunman opened fire after an argument in the cafÃ©.
Imani's sister Jamila Palmer told the BBC that she went running after hearing the shots and that her sister was still alive when she picked her up. "We heard gunshots. We ran outside and shouted: 'Imani, Imani, Imani'," she said. "I picked her up off the ground and realised she was still breathing."
She flagged down a car to take her to hospital but her sister was fatally wounded.
Peter Bunting, the Jamaican Security Minister, condemned the killing. "The senseless killing of a young, innocent child must outrage all well-thinking Jamaicans, and cause us to join our security forces in an intensified effort to rid our communities of criminals," he told the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.
Sickle cell anaemia is a genetic condition when red blood cells develop abnormally and shortens life expectancy.
Complications can include strokes, increased vulnerability to infections and difficulty breathing. However, Imani's family said her condition had immediately improved in the warmer weather in Jamaica.
Members of the family left the home yesterday to travel to Jamaica to be with Imani's mother. A friend of the family, who declined to be named, said the death would badly hit the close-knit community. A neighbour said: "She was just a little girl. This is all so sad. We're distraught." Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, said: "[I am] devastated to hear the news of eight-year-old schoolgirl Imani Green, a pupil at a Tooting primary school. This is terrible news."
A British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: "We can confirm the death of a British national on January 11. We are providing consular assistance."