'Brilliant' civil servant, 60, found dead at home

Astley McLaughlin, a retired Cayman Islands government worker, was found dead in his Beach Bay home over the weekend by a family member.

Police said a postmortem was being conducted into death of Mr. McLaughlin, 60, who lived alone. The RCIPS said there was no reason to believe any suspicious circumstances led to the incident, but noted that officers would await autopsy results before officially confirming that.

Mr. McLaughlin’s brother, Clarence, said he became worried around Thursday last week when he could not reach Astley via text message, which was unusual. After attempts to contact his brother on Friday and Saturday failed, he found Astley dead at his home Sunday. Clarence said it appeared that his brother had been critically injured in a fall from a second floor balcony of the home.

Although there were no reports of any suspicious activity in relation to the death, Astley told the Cayman Compass in July 2014 that his home had been broken into at least three times during that year. The latest incident involved Astley catching two burglars in the act of taking a 50-inch plasma television from the Beach Bay Road home. No one was ever convicted in connection with the break-in.

Clarence McLaughlin said the family had no reason at this time to believe anything untoward had happened.

“He was a brilliant guy, and very generous,” he said of his brother. “I never heard him say anything bad about anyone.”

Astley McLaughlin was originally from Cayman Brac, but his family – including his four brothers – moved to the U.S. early on. He attended high school in New York City and university in upstate New York and later in Indiana. He returned to work for the Cayman Islands government after several years at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York.

His name became familiar in the Cayman Islands in the late 1990s and through the early 2000s due to a court challenge he brought against the government over his December 1998 firing.

Mr. McLaughlin, a chemist, was ruled to have been wrongfully fired by the Cayman Islands government in a court case that was eventually taken to the U.K. Privy Council. He had been on the public payroll since the council’s judgment, which was made effective as of the date of his official termination – April 1999 – up through the last government budget year, which ended June 30, 2015.

In 2007, the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee approved a supplemental appropriation for $766,345 for the settlement of a court order related to the Privy Council case. The funds represented compensation for what the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal found to be an unlawful dismissal from a “senior government position.” The case was ultimately decided following appeals to the Privy Council in July 2007.

Due to the Privy Council’s judgment, the government had to pay back salary due to Mr. McLaughlin since 1999. He had held a variety of government posts, but his job with the former Ministry of Agriculture, Environment, Communications and Works was made redundant in December 1998. The government tried to reassign him, but there was not another suitable post available, according to officials at the time.

He was never placed in another civil service post.