A senior officer from the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency will conduct an independent review of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s response in a missing persons investigation at sea that occurred in early March.
The move was announced Thursday by Governor Helen Kilpatrick’s office, a few days before the Legislative Assembly is due to hear a private members’ motion concerning the need to hold an independent review of an incident in which a private boat carrying five Caymanians, including two children, vanished sometime on March 6.
The boat had been on a trip to 12 Mile Bank, west of Grand Cayman. The craft was recovered, but none of those aboard have been found. Three men, Gary Mullings, Edsell Haylock and Nicholas Watler and two children, Kamron and Kanyi Brown, ages 11 and nine respectively, were on board.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has faced criticism from surviving members of the boaters’ families for what they perceived as an initially delayed response to the missing persons report.
The RCIPS has since provided some detailed information regarding the investigation that has sought to disprove the families’ claims.
Governor Helen Kilpatrick announced Thursday that Coastguard Commander Andrew Jenkins will travel to Cayman next week to conduct an independent review of the incident. Ms. Kilpatrick said the findings of that review will be made public.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who brought the legislative motion seeking a review of the boaters’ incident, said Thursday that he had “no confidence” in such a review commissioned and controlled by the U.K.-appointed governor’s office and noted he would prefer an open judicial inquiry-type proceeding where witnesses could be called and questioned publicly.
“[The governor] has already said she has every confidence in the police commissioner and police management,” Mr. Bush said. “What do we expect to come out of this review?”
The governor’s office responded to Mr. Bush’s comments: “The decision on the type of review that is established is one for the governor to make. Her Excellency believes that the most appropriate way to review the case in hand is through an independent, expert body such as the U.K. Maritime & Coastguard Agency.”
The governor’s office touted Mr. Jenkins’s nearly 20 years at the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency, during which time he has coordinated thousands of marine searches. Mr. Jenkins spent 11 years as a coastguard watch manager and a search and rescue mission coordinator. One of those missions involved the salvage operation involving the MSC Napoli, which was grounded in the English Channel in January 2007.
“He has worked at an operational, tactical and strategic level within the agency and his current role as a maritime operations commander sees him working with strategic level oversight of U.K. search and rescue operations and the delivery of the U.K. Coastguard functions on a daily basis,” according to biographical information on Mr. Jenkins provided by the governor’s office. The operational work on search and rescues often involves reviewing incidents and making recommendations for improvements in response in the aftermath of those incidents.
Mr. Bush said he still intended to press on with his parliamentary motion next week, if allowed to do so by the Progressives-led government. Premier Alden McLaughlin has suggested that the opposition leader is “playing politics” with the boaters’ disappearance, but Mr. Bush has denied those allegations.
“These are lives lost, including children,” Mr. Bush said. “Police are saying one thing and the family is saying something else. I want to see what’s going to happen [with the review], how subjective or how objective this is going to be.”
Mr. Bush said he believes both the adult boaters aboard the craft and the police bear “equal responsibility” for what occurred on March 6. However, he questioned whether a more robust response from the police would have been seen if other individuals had been aboard the watercraft.
“If it was somebody from the governor’s office, or the police or their relatives, they would have turned over every stone,” he said.