Met investigation stuns Cayman

On 27 March, 2008 Governor Stuart Jack announced to a roomful of reporters that three of the top four commanders in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service had been placed on leave while allegations of misconduct in a public office were investigated.

Mr. Bridger

Mr. Bridger

That news, coupled with the revelation that a secret team of UK police officers had been in Cayman since September 2007 looking into the case, left island residents stunned and speculation about what might have led to the probe began almost immediately.

Few details were forthcoming from either the governor’s office or the investigating team, which was led by then-UK Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Martin Bridger. They refused to discuss any specific allegations against the three police commanders.

It took several months for a clearer picture of the investigation to emerge.

Court documents revealed that in the summer of 2007, ex-MLA Lyndon Martin had gone to the RCIPS and the governor’s office to report concerns that his then-boss, Cayman Net News publisher Desmond Seales was receiving confidential information from Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis. This information allegedly included records of police command staff meetings, locations of planned drug busts, and other items which, if they got out, might have placed police officers in danger.

In attempts to prove or disprove those allegations, police enlisted the aid of another Net News employee, John Evans, who, at RCIPS commander’s request, searched Mr. Seales’ personal office on 3 September 2007.

No evidence was ever found that such an improper exchange of information took place, and Mr. Ennis and Mr. Seales were later cleared of any wrong-doing by the UK Met officers. Mr. Martin was later hit with a slew of charges including lying to police investigators and burglary. All but two of the charges against him have since been dropped.

The roles Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon, and RCIPS Chief Superintendent John Jones allegedly played in that 3 September search are still under investigation at the time of this writing.

Mr. Kernohan left Cayman in late April to be with his dying father in Scotland. He never came back to the islands and was eventually fired by Governor Jack for failure to return.

Several weeks after the police commanders’ removal, the Met team had another shocking announcement. On 15 May, Mr. Dixon and a former RCIPS Inspector were arrested and taken to jail in connection with another matter which was apparently unrelated to the original police investigation.

Mr. Dixon was charged with misconduct and doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice. According to court records, he had ordered two gambling suspects freed in 2003 on Cayman Brac. About a year after that, prosecutors allege a DUI suspect was also let go from the George Town police station under Mr. Dixon’s command.

He is due to face trial on those allegations in the early part of 2009.

The retired police inspector who was arrested the same day as Mr. Dixon was eventually cleared of any wrong-doing in the case.

During the summer, things appeared to finally be slowing down a bit in the Met team’s investigation until Mr. Evans, one of the key Crown witnesses in Mr. Martin’s upcoming trial, left the island. ‘Fleeing’ – to use his own words – what he perceived as negative publicity and the potential backlash it could cause. Mr. Evans has remained in the UK and has vowed to provide testimony from there, if necessary.

The next month, the team arrested Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson on suspicion of misconduct in a public office. The judge was never charged, but his home and office were searched and he was taken to jail for questioning. A visiting judge later ruled that warrants which allowed the search had been obtained improperly and illegally.

It was also revealed in a Caymanian Compass report on 3 October that the islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie had earlier denied search warrants to UK Met officers partly because the people they were sought against had committed no criminal offence, in the justice’s opinion.

By the end of the year, calls among the community to wrap up the on-going investigation were growing louder. Some particularly vocal critics were lawmakers in the Legislative Assembly who have called for Mr. Bridger specifically to be taken off the case.

Thus far, there has been no indication from Governor Jack or the police investigation team on how much longer the case will continue. Mr. Bridger has previously said his officers have turned up other matters related to integrity and behaviour in a public office which will be forwarded to Mr. Jack for review.

Few details were forthcoming from either the governor’s office or the investigating team, which was led by then-UK Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Martin Bridger. They refused to discuss any specific allegations against the three police commanders.

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