This day in Jamaican history: Thieves ‘steal a beach’ in Trelawny

Unsolved to this day, 12 years later, the hundreds of truckloads of sand stolen from the Coral Springs beach in Trelawny is still unaccounted for. (Photo contributed)

It was a crime that shocked the country and is still unexplained to this day when Jamaicans woke up on Sunday, July 20, 2008, to the realisation that a beach in Trelawny was stolen.

Well, that’s not necessarily the case, as some hundreds of tonnes of pristine, white sand were removed from the planned Coral Spring beach in the parish—and those who pulled off the successful heist made a clean getaway.

The incident has had no breakthroughs in the case; no arrests were made and the entire investigation was later scrapped as members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) were left incredibly embarrassed.

It was widely believed that the sand was stolen and sold to rival resorts, however with no proof, the theft triggered a massive political row with the then Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)-led government.

Considered by many to be the ‘steal of the century’, the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) decried a cover-up and demanded a full investigation.

Then deputy commissioner Mark Shields, in an interview with the BBC, described the heist as a very complex scheme.

“You’ve got the receivers of the stolen sand, or what we believe to be the sand. The trucks themselves, the organisers and, of course, there is some suspicion that some police were in collusion with the movers of the sand,” he told the BBC.

An estimated 500 truck-loads of sand were removed from the Coral Spring beach and 12 years later, there are no signs of the missing sand or any suspects collared.

The heist made international headlines, and was even featured in the popular Ripley’s Believe It or Not! comics later that year.