Police chief: Culture of silence keeping killers on the street

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Young men will continue to die on Cayman’s streets unless the community ends the culture of silence that is preventing police from bringing killers to justice, Police Commissioner David Baines has warned. 

Mr. Baines said Cayman’s “no snitching” culture is the most entrenched he has ever seen, and acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges facing police is convincing witnesses to testify. 

He commended Oliver Yates, the father of a 22-year-old man shot dead outside a West Bay restaurant, for his plea in the Cayman Compass this week for witnesses to speak up about the murder. Mr. Yates told the Compass he knows who killed his son and urged the people who saw the shooting to assist police. 

Commissioner Baines acknowledged that police are also aware of the likely identity of the person who shot and killed Victor Yates on Jan. 3.  

But he said knowing the story and proving it are two different things.  

“I fully understand Oliver Yates’s angst and frustration because everybody knows who is responsible for that shooting. 

“As he put it quite eloquently, there is no point in us just having the story, we have to prove every element of it in court.” 

He said investigators need witness testimony to convict killers and insisted that police have shown they have the capability to keep people safe when they are courageous enough to come forward and give evidence. The recent murder convictions of Chad Anglin, Raziel Jeffers, Leonard Ebanks and Brian Borden all relied on evidence from protected witnesses. 

Mr. Baines said there is an additional layer of protection that, in certain circumstances, allows witnesses to testify anonymously. 

“We are able to ensure their safety when they take the courageous step of speaking out,” Mr. Baines said. 

Despite these protections, a culture of silence pervades. 

“In my experience, it is a more evident phenomenon in the Cayman Islands than anywhere else, including inner city areas in the U.K. It is linked to family ties and geography. It is a small island; everybody knows one another. 

“It is not necessarily the people you help put away that you are worried about, you are worried about their family and their friends, the people you see on the road or down at the supermarket.” 

He said he understands why people are reluctant to talk, but insisted that unless people speak up, killers will continue to get away with murder. 

“Collectively, the people of the Cayman Islands have to decide what they want,” the commissioner said. “The police alone can’t solve these crimes. We need witnesses.  

“Unless we, as a community, stand up collectively and recognize what is wrong and give up these young men, this is an issue that will continue to arise. Young men will continue to die.” 

He said one of his abiding memories of his time in Cayman would be the waste of young men’s lives over seemingly trivial disputes. 

“Mr. Yates mentioned a dispute over a boat engine – is that worth somebody’s life? The pettiness of what someone is willing to take a life over, many will find hard to imagine.” 

He acknowledged that those believed to be responsible for the Yates killing had been linked to other crimes and would likely be involved in violent crimes in the future unless something is done. 

“It is incumbent on all of us not to walk away. It still shocks me that when a young person has had their life snatched away, that people who clearly witnessed it – people who cared about that young man were there – that they can just accept it as the way it is.  

“If we accept that, life gets very cheap.” 

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Commissioner Baines
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  1. It is my belief that the people who might choose to come forward with information do not trust the protection they receive from Police and that is the problem in such a small community. With the family and friends of the accused so close by and perhaps threatening the potential witness and or their family people are hesitant to step out of the shadows.

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  2. I’m speaking as the loving father of two children.

    I’m ready for all the Disagrees but if anyone killed any member of my family and I knew who it was, I wouldn’t be waiting for the police to arrest them.

    I’m afraid this quiet and shy man would suddenly be acting like Liam Neeson in Taken.

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  3. The statement by an earlier post that people might not trust the protection they get is probably accurate.

    However, in any society, Freedom and Rights do not come without a price. If people are not willing to take the risk, ( and possibly pay the price), then we will never have Freedom and Security.

    We need to step forward and assist the police, if we want to stem the tide of violence. And yes, that may mean a sacrifice on our part.

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  4. Mr Baines if you have done a fully investigation into the shooting crimes, then you will find that some of the gun shells came from the same gun, and make it public and maybe the people that know about the crime may feel more compelling and come forward with information, but don’t leave it all to people to solve the cases.

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  5. @ Norman Linton – I am someone’s child as of course are you. I love my parents very very deeply and if I were to be murdered I would hate for my parents to allow that person to take their life away too. The only thing that vigilante justice will do in this situation is make the avenger a murderer and for them to have to face a life behind bars. Are you really in support of a member of the Yates family committing murder and potentially having to spend their life behind bars? Will that bring Victor back? Will that be justice for the Yates family? There is a far simpler solution here then more blood and that is for someone to be brave and put a stop to this now by coming forward with their testimony. If that person needs to be compensated through a witness protection scheme that will give them a secure and comfortable life then so be it. Money is just money – life is so much more precious.

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  6. I am surprised not to have heard any of Cayman’s many religious leaders speak out about this. Many of those who are keeping silent, and are known to be keeping silent, still regularly attend and are welcomed at church services. These people should be held to their professed faith, and they should be shunned if they continue to shelter murderers. But as this is Cayman, hypocrisy will continue unchallenged, and the people will shrug and move on

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  7. @Ron Clair Ebanks ….. I’ll bet the police will know if the bullets came from the same gun. The hard part is proving who pulled the trigger of said gun.

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  8. I think people might have more confidence in RCIPS if Commissioner Baines was making some tangible effort to recover all the documentation that was removed from Operation Tempura.

    According to the Commissioner himself these documents include – sensitive information from named sources who face personal danger and the risk of attack or death were such confidential information to be leaked or otherwise made public. That statement was made nearly a year ago but those documents have apparently still not been recovered nor has any action been taken against the person who removed them from the Cayman Islands.

    The fact that it took RCIPS nearly two years to even discover that loss, and then only with outside help, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in your concept of witness protection does it Commissioner? What happens if people do come forward? Will their witness statements and other details really be safe?

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  9. John Harris sounds like he knows who was there because he knew that they go to church so i think he should do the right thing and call the police and have a chat.

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  10. @ TT House
    Of course the ideal solution is for a witness to come forward. But this isn’t happening. And soon we will all forget about this young man. Until the next one.

    The only ones who will remember are his family.

    I am a law abiding person without even a speeding or unpaid parking ticket in over 40 years.

    But could I just stand by and let my child’s murderer walk free? Secure in his knowledge that no one will dare to bear witness against him.

    I think not. But we all have our personal moral compass and I respect it if you would let him walk free.

    As to whether a jury would convict a loving father distraught with grief. Another story.

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