Exclusive: Police investigate 2016 cold case murder of Justin Manderson

As the five-year observance of Justin ‘Dilly’ Manderson’s murder approaches, his father, Jake Manderson, is praying that for this anniversary, when he visits his son’s grave, he can tell him justice has been served and his killers are off the street.

In this month’s instalment of the Cayman Compass Cold Case series, in partnership with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, we shine the light on Justin Manderson’s October 2016 murder and police efforts to provide his family with closure as they still struggle to cope with his killing.

Revenge, motive for murder

In a crowded nightclub back on 1 Oct. 2016, West Bay resident Justin Manderson came face-to-face with a person who would later become his killer.

Justin Manderson
Justin Manderson seen here with his baby son months before his murder in 2016.

That person stalked the 24-year-old father-of-one as he left what was then called Nectar nightclub, and gunned him down on the sidewalk on West Bay Road near Seven Mile Shops. Five years later his killer still eludes justice, but the head of the RCIPS Serious Crime Review Unit Peter Dean and his team are hoping, with the public’s help, they can crack Manderson’s case.

Dean acknowledged that Manderson was known to the police at the time and had been connected to a previous shooting, but this, the senior detective said, should not prevent his family from getting justice.

This fi le photo shows the scene of Justin Manderson’s murder back in 2016.

“It’s important that you don’t look at Dilly Manderson as a person who does not deserve justice. He does, everybody who dies as a result of a violent crime, they deserve justice. Dilly’s mum and dad deserve some closure on this,” Dean said, when he sat down with the Compass in a recent interview.

For months, the RCIPS team has been poring over volumes of case fi les in the Manderson murder, code-named Operation Iraq, in a bid to bring the case to a close.

“From inquiries that were made at the time and what inquiries we’ve also carried out within the review process, it would appear everything points towards this being a revenge attack for something that the perpetrators clearly thought Justin, who was also known as Dilly, had done previously,” Dean said.

RCIPS Serious Crime Review Unit leader Peter Dean with case fi les relating to Justin Manderson’s murder, code named Operation Iraq. – Photo: Alvaro Serey

Recounting the sequence of events in the early hours of the murder, Dean said Manderson was at the nightclub with friends and, at some stage during the night, he became afraid for his life.

“Not too long before he was shot, he was so concerned that he actually did phone 911 and complained that he had been threatened and he gave some information regarding the people who he was saying was threatening him.

He subsequently left,” Dean said. While walking along the entrance to Seven Mile Shops, Dean said, Manderson’s killer approached and shot him.

Have info Justin Manderson’s murder? Call the Serious Crime Review Team confidential tip line 649-2930.

“He didn’t die at that time,” Dean said. “He was sent to a hospital and subsequently died.”

Dean said, while Manderson was a “person of interest” for police, that does not mean his killing should be allowed to go unsolved.

“The fact of this matter is, we can’t – and never will – allow revenge attacks to take place. There’s a judicial process, a good, solid judicial process within the Cayman Islands, and people who are thought to be guilty of matters, they go through the judicial process and we can’t have a vigilante-type group taking the law into their own hands and carrying out murders,” he said.

The senior detective added, for the safety of the community, acts like Manderson’s murder should be brought to justice.

Cold Case Files

He said police had received several reports from witnesses at the time of the killing and there were individuals interviewed in relation to the murder.

However, he said he believes there are more people in the community who can help solve this case.

“At the time that Justin was shot, there were lots of people [who saw] what happened, and I believe there are several people who saw who actually carried out the shooting and I’m appealing to those people to also come forward,” he said.

He said while Manderson was only hit once, there were several shots discharged at the scene of the murder and “then it became quite a chaotic situation”. As the review team continued its investigation, Dean said, “We have identified a lot of the people that were there. We’ve identified the vehicles they were in, how they got away from the scene and we are now in the process, we have done the review… We are now at the time where we can move into the re[1]investigation stage,” he said.

Dean said various people have already given signed statements in the case that are “really helpful in our investigation”.

He said, with added support from the community, his team is confident that they may be able to bring this case to a successful conclusion.

This, he said, is a chance for closure for Manderson’s parents, who accept that Dilly had his faults and may have done some things that may require some form of justice. “But it doesn’t give anybody the right to actually execute him, to kill him and that is where we are at this moment,” he said.

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