Gang assault with machete in Billabong high school

An 18-year-old man has been arrested after entering Billabong International High School with a machete during a gang assault.

Billabong Executive Director Ahmed Adhly Rasheed explained that a gang attack outside the school caused one individual to run into the school while the gates were open as pupils left for the day.

Police confirmed they were informed of a disturbance near Billabong school at 3:08pm, with another man was taken to hospital for treatment to head injuries received during the attack.

A third man arrested at the scene was later released after it was found he had not been involved in the incident.

Eye witnesses told Haveeru that a group of three men entered the school, one of them with  a machete.

“Two of the men were captured by members of the public while the man with the machete was able to escape from the area,” said the eye witness.

As the timing of the gang violence coincided with the end of the school session, many students saw the attack up close.

The staff member explained that poor security has been a concern of the staff for a long period of time, noting that the neighbourhood was notorious for gangs and that anyone was free to walk into the school at any time.

The employee recalled an incident last year where a girl on her way to the school was injured after an assault by local gangs. The empty plot of land in front of the school is reported to be a regular meeting spot for gangsters.

Executive Director Rasheed, however, stated that the school has a strict security policy, with the gate closed and guarded throughout school hours.

“We have done what we can do to protect our children and staff from such incidences within our boundaries,” said Rasheed, who praised the school’s security measures for stopping the intruders.

“We have even reported the case of street violence each time in writing when a gang violence has occurred near the school even if it has nothing to do with the school.”

Gang violence has become one of the most prominent issues in the Maldives, with a 2012 study by the Asia foundation counting 20 to 30 gangs in the capital, each with 40 to 500 members.

Four recorded deaths have occurred as a result of gang violence so far in 2014, with one of them a case of mistaken identity.

Speaking in September, Home Minister Umar Naseer noted that he had identified around 50 gang leaders, and said that 13 of the 30 gangs in Malé could be considered “dangerous” criminal organisations.

Naseer linked the criminal activity strongly to gangs, saying “We cannot find a solution to the problem of stabbing and murders on the street without stopping drugs.”

*Article updated 24/11/14 to include responses from Billabong International High School

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Letter on ex-Billabong teacher

Dear Editor,

I am writing to bring to your attention and to express my disgust at the fact that my son and countless other children who attend Billabong International School in Male’ was potentially exposed and endangered when the school last year appointed Alexis Valoran Reich aka John Mark Karr as the schools head teacher.

It was today brought to my attention that Alexis Valoran Reich is a suspected murderer and pedophile in his native United States of America.

Upon obtaining this information, a group of concerned parents, today, made an appointment with the owner of Billabong International School Maldives Mr Absy and went to the appointment at 2.45pm only to be told
by the school that Mr. Absy will not be able to keep his appointment with the parents due to the fact that Mr. Absy was out of the country (it is believed that Mr. Absy found out why the parents had requested for an appointment)

The parents where then met by the principal of the school who informed the parents that the school was aware of Mr. Alexis Reich’s past history and his employment was subsequently terminated due to this fact.

Although I am relieved today that Mr. Alexis Reich no longer works in in Billabong International School, I would like to know;

1) If he is currently still in the Maldives?

2) Why was he employed in the first place?

3) Were any children harmed by him while he was a teacher in the Maldives, if so what was done by the school to address the matter and to help the children in question?

4) What are the guidelines of the Ministry of Education on hiring teachers in Maldivian Schools? and if these guidelines are different to private schools and public schools in the Maldives and if so, how?

5) What is the concerned authorities in the country going to be doing in the future to avoid unfortunate and avoidable instances like these in the future?

I would very much appreciate if my concerns had a venue to be made public through your reputed news agency.

Yours Sincerely,

Muzaffar Naeem (Muju)
Concerned Parent

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Sex change disguised infamous JonBenét murder suspect as transsexual Billabong teacher

A teacher who worked at Billabong High School in Male’ from Feburary until June 2009, Alexis Valoran Reich, has been revealed as the transsexual alter-ego of John Mark Karr, a man who falsely confessed to murdering JonBenét Ramsey in the United States and has been investigated for possession of child pornography.

The JonBenét case remains one of the most high-profile unsolved murder cases in the US. The six year old was discovered dead in the basement of her parent’s house in Boulder Colorado in 1996, apparently strangled with a garrote made from a length of cord and the broken handle of a paintbrush.

The case initially focused on Ramsey’s parents as the murder suspects, attracting extensive media coverage, which often remarked on her participation in child beauty pageants.

Karr, who was on the run in Thailand after being charged in the US for possession of child pornography, confessed to the killing in 2006 and was extradited to the US to await trial. He was eventually acquitted because his DNA did not match that discovered on Ramsay’s body. The five charges of possession of child pornography were also dropped after investigators reportedly lost the computer they seized from him in 2001, containing the images.

Boulder police reopened the case February 2009, although the case remains unsolved despite the unmatched DNA evidence.

Karr disappeared from the public stage and reportedly began working as a teacher in countries across Europe and Asia. He arrived in the Maldives on January 20 last year as a woman, ‘Alexis Valoran Reich’, and was employed at Billabong school as a preschool and grade one English teacher.

Karr/Reich left the school in June after “personal differences” with then-Principal Kevin Dillow, explained Billabong board member Ahmed Adhly Rasheed.

“Reich was employed through a reputable English teacher recruitment agency, which provided us a [clean] Seattle City police report in his name,” Rasheed said.

“We did several checks – the immigration check when [the staff member] enters the country, the check when the work permit issued, and we checked the referral letters from places where he had worked before. We also do our own checks, and were in the process of doing that when Alexis left. He arrived on January 20 and left four and a half months later.”

The connection between Karr and Reich only became public knowledge in March-May 2010, following news reports in the US on his sex change that led to an update of Karr’s entry on Wikipedia.

The photo of Reich in Billabong’s personnel file is unmistakably a feminine likeness of Karr, and his passport details – birthdate December 11, 1964, issued December 2008 in his hometown of Georgia – match Karr’s details exactly.

“We had the police in the school this morning asking where this person was,” Rasheed said, emphasising that Reich had left the school over a year ago, destination unknown.

During her time at the Billabong there were no allegations made against him or any evidence of impropriety, Rasheed said. Reich was by all accounts an excellent teacher – “he was in fact the most popular teacher at the school.”

“He left because of a conflict with the principal Kevin. I don’t mean to defend this guy, but he was actually very popular among the parents. When he left and parents found out it was to do with a conflict with management, some parents approached us and expressed disappointment that he was leaving, and desire that he [remain at the school].”

A Billabong teacher who worked alongside Reich concurred: “Sure he was a bit strange, but he was really good with all the kids. They all liked him – there was no seediness,” the teacher said. “I think he pulled a runner because he wasn’t enjoying the work. He used to complain, but just about normal work things. There were no issues.”

Rasheed said the school received no allegations about Reich while he was working at the school.

“Nothing of any concern happened while he was here – there were no allegations,” Rasheed said. “Our concern is the talk around town that this is somebody who is still working at the school.”

Reich’s passport identified her as male – it had been issued the month before he arrived, Rasheed explained.

“He spoke with a deep voice. I don’t know the extent of his sex change operation,” Rasheed said. “He was known as a man to co-workers, teachers and students while he was in the Maldives.”

Billabong’s unwitting employment of an infamous transsexual teacher acquitted of murdering a six year old beauty queen – a saga somewhat at odds with the conservative nature of modern Maldivian society – together with the allegations of child abuse facing the (former) Principal of the Maldives’ other private school, Lale Youth International – has raised questions among parents and the Education Ministry as to the efficacy of the country’s vetting procedures.

In a letter to Minivan News, concerned parent Muzaffar Naeem said that while he “was relieved that Mr Alexis Reich no longer works at the school”, he questioned the Education Ministry’s guidelines on the employment teachers, and whether the rules were as stringent for privately-owned schools as they were for government institutions.

Deputy Education Minister Shifa Mohamed said the same proceedures were required to be in place at private schools as those in government-owned schools.

“The Ministry expects all schools to follow the same proceedures and obtain police clearance before employing teachers,” she said. “It is also the responsibility of each school to take the initiative and check that teachers are of good quality.”

Rasheed reiterated that the identity of Alexis Reich was only revealed a month ago: “we followed our proceedures but of course in this case there was no connection between the two individuals.”

Current Principal of Billabong David Key, who took over from Dillow in November, observed that Reich’s Seattle City police record would have been clear if his history of charges was kept in another US county.

“It’s similar if you ask the London Metropolitan police for a police record check – they won’t check the rest of the country,” said Key.

“This school is putting in proceedures that are stock standard in every international school in the world – get records, references, call referees first, all these kind of things. Police records should not only come from the country where they were born, but should come country the person was last living in. This is very important – you can have a teacher who has worked for five years in Thailand but hands in a UK police report. They been in Thailand last five years, how do we not know anything [happened]?”

Most important, Key said, was the need for schools to interview teachers “face to face, person to person.”

“I think we need to actually meet people, because that gives you a better idea of nature of a person than Skype or a phone call. The teachers I would like to employ [at Billabong] are people I know would fit into this society and have an agreement with the way of life here – rather than necessarily having the best educational qualifications. Those are important, but it’s more important that the teachers we get fit into the Islamic culture here and the nature of the Maldives.”

Correction: Reich’s passport, issued December 2008, identified him as male, not female as previously stated.

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