After three years in a Kingston prison, wrongfully convicted of a line-of-duty murder, police officer Tyrone Findlay is attempting to rebuild his life, restore his reputation and win his job back in the Cayman Islands.
Mr. Findlay was released on Monday, his 39th birthday, after Jamaica’s Court of Appeal overturned his murder conviction.
It was a moment of redemption for the officer, who has always maintained his innocence. Married with three children, Mr. Findlay said he almost lost everything.
“Everything was falling apart,” he said. “My relationship was hanging by a thread, my children were strangers to me.
“It is hard to find the words to express or explain. You can only exist through such an ordeal if you are protected by the Almighty. There is no other way to survive it.
“Remember, now I am a law enforcement officer in a pool of persons who broke every law imaginable.
“It is horrific, terrible, awful. All the time I know I should not be there having to protect my life, keeping safe, trying to regain my integrity.”
Speaking about the incident, his arrest, incarceration and release for the first time in an interview with the Cayman Compass this week, he said he was thankful to be vindicated and looking forward to having his reputation restored.
“It feels good to know that what I have been saying all along has been investigated and declared true by the highest court in the land.
“It would be my greatest desire to continue my work there [in Cayman]. It is my intention in very short order to reach out, respectfully asking that I be allowed to continue. It would be my pleasure to serve in the Cayman Islands again,” he said.
Mr. Findlay was convicted in November 2014, along with fellow detective Leonard Lindsay, of shooting 27-year-old Anthony Richards, who was killed, and his friend Roshaine Dixon, who was injured, on a beach in the Manchester district of Jamaica in January 2010.
The detectives, who were investigating reports of an armed robbery, maintained they shot the men, who they said were armed with a gun and knife, in self defense. They were convicted, largely on the evidence of Dixon, who claimed they had robbed him and his friend and shot them both before planting the weapons.
The Court of Appeal considered the case last week and threw out the conviction, according to lawyers on both sides and Mr. Findlay himself. The written judgment has yet to be published.
Norman Godfrey, who represented Mr. Findlay, said he had asked for the conviction to be overturned on several grounds, including that Dixon, a suspect in the initial robbery was not a credible witness, and that the directions given by the trial judge on self defense were inadequate.
He said Mr. Findlay’s co-accused, Mr. Lindsay, would be reinstated in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
“I am not sure how they will treat Mr. Findlay. It will be a matter for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commission. He has been cleared by the Court of Appeal so he has no conviction and deserves to be treated as an innocent man,” he added.
Mr. Findlay was hired by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in the armed Uniform Support Group in May 2011, 17 months after the incident. He was suspended on full pay in July 2011 after prosecutors in Jamaica announced they were bringing murder charges. In March 2014, as the case dragged on without going to trial, then-Commissioner David Baines made a successful application to allow Mr. Findlay to return to work in Cayman, in a behind-the-scenes role.
After Mr. Findlay’s conviction, Mr. Baines maintained he had done the right thing. He told the Compass the officer had arrived with a clean bill of health from Jamaica’s anti-corruption unit and exemplary references from three senior officers and a sitting judge.
He also defended Mr. Findlay, saying his work and his attitude in Cayman had been excellent, describing him as a motivated and committed officer.
For Mr. Findlay, that support was a bright spot during a very dark period and something he will never forget.
“I am sure right now he feels vindicated too,” Mr. Findlay said. “Not many people would be willing to stand by someone in a situation like that; someone who they are not connected to, not family to. It is very rare that you find persons willing to do so.”
He said the shooting incident was investigated “internally and externally” before he left Jamaica and he had been cleared and returned to front-line duty. He was unaware, he said, when he took the job in Cayman that the case was being secretly investigated by a covert unit. “Nobody knew. When I came to the Cayman Islands, I went through a rigorous vetting process which includes being checked for anything pending – disciplinary, criminal, civil.
“All the agencies gave me a clean bill of health. That was part of what was so amazing; where did this come from?”
He believes corruption in Jamaica was behind his prosecution and subsequent conviction.
If anyone in Cayman has doubts about his integrity, he hopes they will reconsider their view now that he has been acquitted.
Mr. Baines, speaking to the Compass at the time of the original conviction, acknowledged that if an appeal were successful, it was possible that Mr. Findlay could return to work in Cayman. He has since retired as police commissioner and was replaced by Derek Byrne.
Asked for comment on Mr. Findlay’s release and the potential for him to be rehired, an RCIPS spokeswoman said the issue had not arisen and the police service had no comment at this point.