About one month after celebrating his 32nd birthday, Courtney Delroy Spence’s life came to an untimely and violent end when the Jamaican national was gunned down in January 2010.
In this month’s Cayman Compass Cold Case series, in partnership with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, we take a closer look at the events leading up to Spence’s murder and the investigation that now spans more than a decade.
The Spence family declined to be interviewed for this article. However, his widow, who requested her name not be used, issued a short statement to the Compass, saying, “I just hope they catch whoever has done this.”
Pursuing a new life
Detective Constable Alan Sherwin, of the RCIPS Serious Crime Review Team, is heading up the investigation into the murder of Spence – codenamed Operation Convoy – who was originally from St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.
He offered some insight into the life of the father of two, who he said came to Grand Cayman in 2005 after being sponsored by his cousin, who was a serving police officer at the time. He started to build his new life in Cayman, initially picking up work as a gardener. Over 2006 and 2007, Spence worked for local security companies before getting hired by Progressive Distributors.
A premediated attack
Fast forward to 2010. By then, Spence had established a solid reputation at Progressive and would often take up split late shifts. However, that practice of working lengthy hours late into the night would set the stage for Spence’s murderer to ambush and kill the unsuspecting victim.
“I think a lot of planning went into this to know that he was working late. It’s not just an incident outside a bar or a nightclub where someone unfortunately got stabbed… And so, certainly there’d be more than one person involved in it,” Sherwin said in an interview with the Compass.
The 28 Jan. 2010 workday started as an ordinary one for Spence, but its end would leave his family shattered and a company grieving a valued employee.
Sherwin said Spence would generally work day shifts, but on Thursdays and Sundays he would take split shifts which meant he would work during the day, head home and then return at night to unpack containers.
Sherwin said, on the day in question, Spence’s wife dropped him to work at 7:30am and she came back later in the day where they had lunch at the eatery opposite his workplace. They then ran errands, after which he dropped her back to her work and returned to Progressive.
At the end of his day shift, he collected his wife and they headed home. Sherwin said later CCTV cameras showed Spence returning to work at 6:45pm.
“He interacts with various members of staff. He completes his work, but there was a delay in the shipping containers that were getting delivered that night. At approximately 10:50[pm]… he gets permission from the manager for him and other members of staff to leave early because they’re not required,” Sherwin said.
The killer lay in wait at 11:05pm, according to the CCTV footage. Sherwin said Spence was seen leaving with a co-worker; he then called his wife.
Both workers headed to their cars.
“Courtney gets into the vehicle. He starts the engine, turns his lights on and with that you see a figure emerging from [nearby] palm trees. The figure then runs towards Courtney’s vehicle. Courtney sat in the driver’s seat. There is a slight struggle to get the door open. The door is opened, and Courtney is then fatally shot in the head,” Sherwin said.
The killer then ran off into the darkness.
His co-worker, who was further down the carpark waiting for his car’s air-conditioning to kick in, then drove past to see Spence on the floor next to his vehicle.
The worker drove to the security office and an officer was sent to check.
He called “the police at 11 minutes past 11 that evening. And the police arrive about seven minutes later, and then the murder inquiry starts,” Spence said.
International connections explored
That inquiry involved analysis of cellphone records which showed Spence was in regular touch with a woman named Tracy in Jamaica, as well as Facebook contacts named Mike – an American previously resident in Cayman – Nadine and Delise.
“At the time, officers were preparing to go to Jamaica, but never got dispatched there. I think other things happened on island and, consequently, that line of inquiry went cold,” he said, adding when he took over the investigation in 2018, the police tried to contact those four people by phone and then email.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to make contact with either Tracy, Nadine or Delise,” Sherwin said.
Contact has been made with Mike, however, who Sherwin said is now in the US.
“If anyone does know those people, that would be fantastic for them to either make contact with us either via Crimestoppers, direct to the police or via the Serious Crime Review contact number, which, if you are calling from Jamaica, is 1 (345) 649-2930,” he said.
The motive for Spence’s killing remains unclear at this time, Sherwin said, though he noted the police are looking into several lines of inquiry.
He said after the murder, police received tips which were investigated, while others turned out to be crank calls. The CCTV footage and other evidence in the case, though now 12 years old, is being run through updated forensic technology which Detective Constable Russell These is involved in analysing.
In Spence’s case, These said there is no clear picture of what exactly was happening in the available footage. However, with some enhancement, “we’re able to corroborate other things that have been discovered in the investigation”, he said.
Anyone with information relating to Courtney Spence’s murder can call the Serious Crime Review Team confidential tip line at 649-2930.
These said with the additional work they have done, the team has been able to piece together the puzzle of how Spence was murdered. However, he said, they have progressed the investigation to the point where they have done all that they can as police officers.
“What we need now is for people to come forward with either direct evidence or any other kind of corroborating evidence that we are able to push the investigation even further to the point where we can charge the person, with the eventual aim of convicting them in court,” These said.