The family of missing Department of Environmental Health worker Anna Evans has been waiting nearly a decade for closure since the mother of five went missing in 2011 at the George Town landfill, and the COVID-19 crisis has further delayed the process.
Noreen Dixon, Evans’s sister, said the family has yet to obtain the letters of administration to give them access to her sibling’s estate. In January this year, the family granted a declaration of death, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent closures of government and judicial services delayed the application for the letters.
“We never got the information [to file at] the courthouse to move it forward,” Dixon told the Cayman Compass in an interview over the weekend.
“In a way it does [give us closure], but we haven’t got any death certificate yet to say she is dead,” she said.
The family, Dixon said, is hoping the process will soon be completed as it will help them move forward legally, if not emotionally.
“The children are still having issues and, as I say, we still want the paper in our hands to say we have to stop hoping … to say, ‘Yes, we can look forward,’ and not to put her behind us, but still have her in mind,” she said.
Dixon said there is no indication when the letters of administration will be issued. Until that happens, the family cannot proceed with any plans for Evans’ estate.
Evans was last seen alive at the landfill on 27 Jan. 2011.
Law changes bring hope
Last month, the Presumption of Death Law, which was piloted by Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, was passed in the Legislative Assembly.
The law sets out the conditions under which families can apply for and be granted declarations of death in cases where relatives have gone missing.
Following an amendment from George Town MLA Kenneth Bryan, government renamed the law for Evans as her family has been pushing to get legislative changes to assist others facing similar circumstances.
Dixon, who called her sister by the name Lovita, said, “We’re excited [it was named after her] because the fact is that Lovita would not have liked for this to happen to another family… that they have to wait so many years to have their family [member declared] dead and now that law can assist,” she said.
A declaration of death is effectively serves the same purpose as a death certificate.
Once the courts reopen, Dixon can apply for the letters of administration which will give the family legal standing to administer Evans’ estate, and her possessions and finances – frozen since she went missing – could then go to her family.
Dixon said there were many people involved in helping the family over the years, including her friends Lisa Prendergast, Linda McField and Shanna Bodden.
“Lisa has been with me [through] thick and thin. If I called her right now today, she would assist me in anything that I need,” she said.
Dixon said she was also grateful to Premier Alden McLaughlin, Bulgin and Bryan for pushing the issue forward and helping to bring some closure to families like hers. She also commended Walkers law firm and Shelley White for working with the family.
Waiting for answers
Dixon said the family is still working with Walkers on the next steps they can take.
She said having Evans declared dead does not bring much solace because the family still has many questions about the events surrounding her disappearance.
“Anger is not the answer to the problem at this stage because, I mean, like nine years gone, we don’t know where she is. We don’t know what happened. So, anger is not the answer. The solution is this, just to have focus and have faith,” she said.
Dixon extended words of comfort to families on island who are also waiting for some indication as to what happened to their missing relatives.
“They don’t know what happened to their families. They don’t have any closure either because they don’t know where they went to also. You have the five that went missing [at sea] five years ago. If someone knows something, they should say something to the families,” she said.
Dixon raised her sister’s children after Evans went missing. At the time, the children ranged in ages from 7 to 19.
She said she thinks about whether there were witnesses out there who know what happened to her sister.
“If you know something, just say something to the police,” adding that all the family wants is to know what happened to their sister and mother.