Conviction upheld in Bise murder case

The Court of Appeal has upheld the conviction of Chad Anglin, 35, for the murder of Swiss banker Frederic Bise in February 2008.

Anglin had been questioned about the murder days after it occurred. He was released for lack of evidence, but the “cold case unit” of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service reopened the matter in 2013 and subsequently charged him. A jury found him guilty after trial in May 2014.

Lead defense counsel Jonathan Rees, instructed by attorney Fiona Robertson, argued the appeal earlier this month. Simon Russell Flint, who was the prosecution’s lead counsel for the trial, responded with the assistance of Crown counsel Alexander Upton.

The appeal court’s decision, along with full reasons, was handed down on Friday. It referred to Mr. Bise as an active homosexual, whose body was found in the back of his burning car outside the home he rented in Mount Pleasant, West Bay, on the morning of Feb. 8, 2005.

CCTV footage and live evidence demonstrated that he and Anglin had left a jerk stand together around 1 a.m. In 2008, Anglin denied this, but in 2013 he admitted it, saying he went with Mr. Bise in order to sell him ganja.

Anglin made other comments to police in 2008, but he had not been cautioned at the time. This formed the first ground of appeal – that Justice Alexander Henderson was wrong to admit this statement as evidence for the jury to hear.

The court said Justice Henderson’s approach to the question was not to be faulted. In a pre-trial hearing, he took evidence from police officers involved and found that nothing had been said or done that might amount to a threat or promise or inducement; there was no suggestion of an atmosphere of oppression. He found that the failure to administer a caution was not accidental but deliberate, and to that extent “can be stigmatized as the product of bad faith.”

Justice Henderson went on to consider whether admitting the statement would result in an unfair trial. He concluded it would not. He found that Anglin’s statement was voluntary. Anglin had made no admissions and, on the face of it, his statement exonerated him. It appeared to have been Anglin’s idea to give police clothing he said he was wearing the night of the murder; only after police viewed the CCTV footage could they know Anglin was in fact wearing something else. He had been arrested at least 43 times previously and was not in the position of a young or vulnerable suspect. When police came to his home, he had refused to go with them to the station and he had refused to sign their notes: “He was in full control,’ the judge commented.

He concluded, “The defendant wanted his statement to be taken into account and it would not be unfair now to do so.”

Another ground of appeal related to the evidence of an under-aged female who told the jury she had spent the night with Anglin several weeks after Mr. Bise’s murder. Questioned by Mr. Russell Flint, she said Anglin had told her he would burn her in a car as he had done to a gay man. Under cross-examination by Mr. Rees, she agreed she had told the first officer who interviewed her that Anglin had said he was accused of Bise’s murder.

Justice Henderson had told jurors they should consider which version was correct: Did Anglin say he was involved, or did he say no more than that he was accused? The judge described the difference as crucial.

The Court of Appeal agreed that this witness’s evidence was of great importance. The central issue for the jury was whether they were sure that Anglin had told her that he was involved in the murder of a gay man and had burned him in a car. The court was of the firm opinion that the jury would not have been concerned about Anglin’s failure to tell police that he had only told the girl he had been accused of the murder; they would have been concerned to decide whether the girl’s evidence was truthful and reliable.

A third ground of appeal was Justice Henderson’s alleged failure to remind the jury of aspects of the evidence the defense considered important, so that his summing up was skewed against Anglin. The court pointed out that jurors would have been well aware of various details because they were included in a written list of agreed facts which had been read to them and which they had copies of during their deliberations. Further, the judge had been asked to explain “adverse inference” to jurors, but he had not been asked to remind them of any of the matters complained of in the appeal as being left out of the summing up.

The court also pointed out that Justice Henderson had given the usual direction – if he did not mention something jurors thought important, they should give it such weight as they saw fit.

This appeal was heard and ruled on by Justices Elliott Mottley, Dennis Morrison and Sir Richard Field.