A woman who was killed by her abusive partner had reached out for help in the months before her death, the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre has revealed.
Nichelle Anna-Kay Thomas was offered a bed at the charity’s shelter for victims of abuse but ultimately opted not to take it. Staff at the shelter say they are “haunted” by that decision but anyone who comes to them must do so voluntarily.
They hope the case, a horrific example of the worst consequences of domestic violence, will encourage more abused women to seek help before it is too late.
On Feb. 9, 2014, Devon Roy Campbell, 39, hacked 21-year-old Ms. Thomas to death with a machete before hanging himself from a tree outside a home in Bodden Town, where she worked as a part-time helper.
During an inquest, held last week, it emerged that she had suffered mental and physical abuse at the hands of her partner and police had been called to the couple’s own home on at least three occasions.
Denise Gower, of the Cayman Crisis Centre, said the charity had received a call from Ms. Thomas, after a police officer has passed on the number.
Evidence at the inquest was that Ms. Thomas had said she did intend to come to the shelter and a neighbor had offered to take her.
Ms. Gower said, “We are terribly saddened that in the end she elected not to come. People who come to our shelter do so voluntarily and each woman makes this choice for herself.”
She said the Crisis Centre was there for women in abusive relationships and urged anyone who was suffering to call them before things escalated.
“Although Nichelle’s decision haunts us, we are comforted by the fact that last year 113 women and children sought and received safe shelter with us. This is 113 times the story did not end as tragically as Nichelle’s – 113 people were protected and safe.”
She said the volunteers and staff at the Crisis Centre had been following the inquest with “heavy hearts” and hoped it would lead to greater public awareness of the awful consequences of abuse and the role the community can play in stopping it.
“Domestic violence is a societal issue. We do have to work together to stop these horrible crimes committed every day by people that the victims love and trust.”
She said the neighbors who had offered shelter to Ms. Thomas and repeatedly called 911 because of their concerns deserved the sincere gratitude of the community.
“Although in this case, Nichelle was not saved by their efforts, it must be expressed that so many women are saved [by] people intervening – sometimes it is as simple as knocking on the door.”
She said there were a “myriad of reasons” why women stayed in abusive relationships.
On average, statistics show a woman is beaten 35 times by her partner before she leaves the first time and leaves seven times before she leaves for good, she said.
During the inquest, investigating officer Dennis Walkington testified that police had received five reports of incidents involving the couple prior to the murder. Police officers attended their home on three separate occasions, although Mr. Walkington said no reports of domestic violence were ever filed with the Central Referral Unit.
Ms. Gower said police had a “terribly tough job” when it came to domestic violence because victims often did not want to press charges or cause any more disruption.
“We do understand that the RCIPS has implemented a zero tolerance policy when it comes to domestic violence, which states that they do not leave a scene without taking some form of positive action, whether that means removing the abuser, finding safe shelter for the victim, or some other positive action that provides for the safety of the victim, and filing a report,” she added.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service declined to comment on the case.
The Crisis Centre’s 24-hour emergency hotline is 943-2422.