Three Cayman Islands fire service officers remain on paid leave two years after they were suspended for allegedly taking and distributing on social media graphic crime scene photos of a murder-suicide in Bodden Town.
A criminal investigation proceeded against the three men, but no charges were filed following an 18-month review by police and Crown prosecutors, officials with the government’s Ministry of Home Affairs said.
Sometime in September or October 2015, the case was passed to the ministry for an administrative review. However, at that time a permanent chief fire officer had not been named to lead the department, so the case languished.
“The police investigation superseded the disciplinary process,” said ministry chief officer Eric Bush. “It has concluded, so it can now be progressed by the chief fire officer.”
Fire Chief David Hails, who started work at the Cayman Islands Fire Service last month, said he has been made aware of the photo incident.
“I am reviewing all documentation related to it to ascertain if any disciplinary action is required under the Fire Brigade Law,” Mr. Hails said. “I will also review current procedures and policy to determine if any improvements are required to ensure incidents of this nature are not repeated in the future.” Why police and prosecutors spent 18 months reviewing what ministry officials had identified early on as an administrative issue was not clear. A police spokesperson said Friday that the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service would comment on the matter when the coroner’s inquest was complete.
According to a police statement released in February 2014, the three fire officers were the “subject of a report” to the chief fire officer and the chief officer of the Ministry of Home Affairs in relation to photographs of Devon Roy Campbell and Nichelle Anna-Kay Thomas, whose bodies were found on Feb. 9, 2014 on a property in the Lookout Gardens area of Bodden Town.
The photos of the crime scene depicted the remains of Ms. Thomas and the body of Mr. Campbell hanging from a tree in the side yard of the home where Ms. Thomas worked part-time as a caregiver to an elderly resident.
The police statement from 2014 indicated: “The police enquiry into the circulation of the images continues and the RCIPS is in close liaison with the [Director of Public Prosecutions’s] office who will ultimately decide what, if any offenses, have been committed in relation to the distribution of the images.”
The firefighters could face disciplinary action over the photos, up to and including losing their jobs, according to the terms of Cayman’s Public Service Management Law.
The images were spread via social media in the days following the murder-suicide. Ms. Thomas’s mother was hospitalized after seeing images of the crime scene.