Questions raised in 2007 killing of former cop

Could it have been prevented?

More than two years after former Cayman Islands police officer Michael Elliot Ebanks’ was killed, a report from the complaints commissioner’s office has revealed that his death might have been prevented if a doctor’s advice to public authorities was heeded.

However, the Caymanian Compass has learned that advice was not even known about until after Mr. Ebanks, 40, was slain, allegedly by his roommate, in a flat on Courts Road on 1 June, 2007.

The report completed by the complaints commissioner’s office last month does not identify Mr. Ebanks or his former roommate, 73-year-old Windell Dilbert, by name. It only refers to Mr. Ebanks as ‘A’ and Mr. Dilbert as ‘B.’

However, the report does concern Mr. Ebanks’ situation, according to sources contacted by the Compass, including police officials.

The complaints commissioner’s office reviewed the case from an administrative standpoint and did not look into the specific circumstances surrounding Mr. Dilbert’s death. Rather, analysts recommended changes in social services policy where it was found to be lacking in Mr. Ebanks’ case.

In August 2006, the complaints commissioner’s report stated that person ‘A’ moved into government housing at a Courts Road flat based on a referral from Caribbean Haven drug treatment centre. Caribbean Haven staff appealed to social workers at the Department of Children and Family Services to assist person ‘A’ while they completed their education and found employment.

According to the complaint’s commissioner’s review, ‘A’ was regarded as an ‘intake’ client by the Department of Children and Family Services. This means it was up to ‘A’ to keep in contact with social workers.

The report states that a particular social worker took interest in ‘A’s’ case, but that individual left the department in March 2007.

About two months later, ‘A’ was hospitalised and received surgery. The reason ‘A’ was hospitalised was not contained in the complaints commissioner’s report.

However, the Compass has learned that Michael Ebanks was hospitalised in early May for serious burn injuries – apparently from being set on fire. Police said they had not been made aware of the burn incident until after Mr. Ebanks died.

On 3 May, the complaints commissioner’s report states that ‘A’ attempted to call the Department of Children and Family Services from the surgical ward of the George Town Hospital. A social worker tried to return the call but was unsuccessful.

When ‘A’ left the hospital, he did so with a letter from Health Services Authority surgeon, Dr. Ajit Mathew.

‘In the letter, Dr. Ajit Mathew requested that ‘A’ be relocated to a new address in order to help recover from the surgery,’ the complaints commissioner’s report noted. ‘The doctor expressed concern that ‘A’ would be at risk of infection if ‘A’ remained in the present government housing.’

Burn injuries typically carry a high risk of infection.

The complaints commissioner’s report states that ‘A’ hand-delivered a copy of Dr. Mathew’s letter to the Department of Children and Family Services office in George Town on 17 May.

According to the complaint’s commissioner’s report, the letter was in an official government envelope and was addressed to ‘the director.’ The letter was put on an appointment sheet since ‘A’ was unable to wait around for a social worker.

‘On Tuesday, 29 May, 2007, before going on leave, the office assistant wrote a note, stuck it to the unopened letter, and returned the letter to the appointment book,’ the complaints commissioner’s report stated. ‘The social work supervisor for George Town also went on bereavement leave due to a death in her family. On Friday, 1 June ‘A’ died. On Tuesday, 5 June, 2007, the letter, still unopened, was given to the social work supervisor for George Town.

‘Thus, 12 working days elapsed before the letter was opened and read.’

It is unclear whether Mr. Ebanks would have been moved to different government housing if the letter from Mr. Ajit had been opened before his death. The complaints commissioner’s report notes that space in public housing is always limited and that there is a ‘waiting list’ for such facilities. But other options, such as contacting Mr. Ebanks’ family for temporary accommodation, were also not taken.

‘Failure to read the letter resulted in a missed opportunity for the Department of Children and Family Services to understand ‘A’s’ situation, to understand the doctor’s opinion, and to consider appropriate action. ‘A’ was denied the potential assistance of the Department of Children and Family Services as a result.’

Mr. Dilbert was charged was Mr. Ebanks’ murder about a week after the former cop died. However, he never stood trial.

On 25 October, 2008, Mr. Dilbert was found dead in his cell at Northward Prison. A coroner’s inquest was scheduled to determine what caused the death, although family members had testified in previous court proceedings that Mr. Dilbert appeared to be suffering from throat cancer and was having trouble breathing.

Mr. Dilbert was never charged in connection with the incident that involved Mr. Ebanks being set on fire.

‘Failure to read the letter resulted in a missed opportunity for the Department of Children and Family Services to understand ‘A’s’ situation, to understand the doctor’s opinion, and to consider appropriate action. ‘A’ was denied the potential assistance of the Department of Children and Family Services as a result.’

Complaints commissioner report

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