More than 1,000 mourn Bethany Butler

Mourners from across the Caribbean, including residents of St. Vincent, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Guyana gathered at the Kings Seventh-day Adventist Church on Walkers Road, George Town Sunday to remember a little girl who had touched their lives.  

The Cayman Islands’ elected leader, Premier Alden McLaughlin, was among more than 1,000 people who attended funeral services for 6-year-old Bethany Butler, killed on Oct. 27. Bethany’s mother, Tamara, has been arrested in connection with her death and at press time Monday, police officers were still guarding Mrs. Butler in her hospital bed and holding her in custody under the tenets of the territory’s Mental Health Law.  

Dozens of Royal Cayman Islands Police officers turned out for the funeral services to support Bethany’s father, Sgt. Lenford Butler. Also on hand were representatives of Savannah Primary School, which Bethany attended, and members of the Bodden Town Adventist Children’s choir, the church where she was a member. Both groups made special presentations for the service.  

Her Year 1 teacher at Savannah Primary, during a video presentation broadcast at the funeral, noted that Bethany, who joined halfway through the school year had “unlimited potential, self-confidence, energy and artistic capabilities.”  

This was also noted by her grandmother Claudette Clare, one of a few dozen people who attended the funeral from the Turks and Caicos Islands in the northeastern Caribbean.  

“I treasure every moment we shared, especially when you and your mommy lived in the family home in the Turks and Caicos Islands,” Mrs. Clare said. “We played hide and seek, you painted lovely pictoral scenes for me. You will now not only paint and draw the rainbow, you will be the rainbow. Farewell, my grandbaby.”  

Many of those who eulogized Bethany recounted grim tales during the nearly two-hour service. Sgt. Butler’s sister, Annie Butler-Hackshaw, who traveled from St. Vincent for the service, read a letter from two of her sisters who reside in New York and who were unable to stay in Cayman long enough to attend Sunday’s funeral.  

“The morning of Oct. 27, the same day of our independence in St. Vincent, between heart-wrenching sobs, our brother [referring to Lenford Butler] told us of the tragedy that had befell our niece,” Mrs. Butler-Hackshaw read from the letter. “We will never forget the anguish and pain in his voice. Yet, as our own screams pierced the room, he was the one reaching out to us … imploring us to pray, just pray.  

“We know that the most horrific thing that can befall a parent has befallen you. Her memories will be etched in our minds forever. So, our brother, do not for too long in pain and grief abide.”  

Sgt. Butler did not speak at the Sunday church service.  

Another aunt, Cynthia Butler-Watson, recounted that Bethany wished to be a lawyer when she grew up and displayed a surprisingly analytical mind in discussing biblical stories. 

She also liked going on walks, jogs or bicycle rides around the neighborhood was her father.  

“She took pleasure in imitating him when he greeted people with the saying ‘countryman, what gwan?’ an expression coined in his Vincentian culture,” Mrs. Butler-Watson said. To which Sgt. Butler usually replied to his daughter, “you just don’t sound right saying it that way.”  

Mrs. Butler-Watson said Bethany would spend hours with her mother at home studying her lessons, but also knew when to take a break. “When Beth thought she’d had enough, she would say ‘OK, mom, I know everything.’”  

The investigation 

Tamara Butler, 37, has been in the hospital under police guard since Monday, Oct. 27, after her daughter was found dead earlier that day in the passenger seat of a vehicle parked in the bush off the Queens Highway, Grand Cayman, near Barefoot Beach. Ms. Butler was arrested a short distance away from the crime scene.  

According to police, Ms. Butler was admitted to the hospital as a patient under the Cayman Islands Mental Health Law for “a period of observation … to assess her condition and suitability for interview by officers conducting this investigation.”  

A pathologist’s examination on Friday, Oct. 31 confirmed that Bethany died from multiple stab wounds.  

Section 5 of the Mental Health states: “Where it appears to any [police] constable that any person is, by reason of mental disorder, an immediate danger, or is likely to become a danger to himself of others, [the constable] may take such person into protective custody ….”  

The law states that a person in such a situation will be examined by the chief medical officer at the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority and may be held up to 48 hours so that they may be examined by the officer and at least one other physician. If the patient is determined to be in need of further treatment, the chief medical officer can order the person to be detained for a period of not more than six months. At any time during that period, the chief medical officer can issue a certificate of release, authorizing the prisoner’s release from the hospital with the assent of the health minister.  

Police have declined to speculate on how long a period Mrs. Butler would need to be held at hospital.  

Bethany-Funeral

Bethany Butler’s grandmother, Claudette Clare, at podium, in purple, speaks at the 6-year-old’s funeral on Sunday. – Photo: Brent Fuller