On the evening of Friday, April 25, fire personnel responded to a report from the Cap Estate area: a vehicle was on fire. They were busy trying to extinguish the flames when one fireman discovered a charred body in the vehicle’s front seat. By early Saturday morning reports were all over the internet, supplied by self-styled reporters with cell phones. They not only supplied the victim’s identity, but also the motive behind the murderous fire.
On Monday there was still no official statement from the local police, save to say that beleaguered Police Commissioner Vernon Francois was off island “on official business.” Meanwhile, ACP Frances Henry was down south at a “special meeting.”
The STAR has since learned about an autopsy on the body around 3pm on Monday, in the presence of a lawyer, a doctor, a police officer and family members, who confirmed the victim was Oliver Gobat, a well-known realtor and hotelier.
While the local press was reluctant to publish officially unconfirmed reports, the UK Daily Mail had already identified the victim as 38-year-old “millionaire British hotelier Oliver Gobat.” The Mail report also revealed that Gobat’s charred remains had been found in the front passenger seat of his burned-out Range Rover. Moreover, that he had twice been shot in the head “on the tropical island of Saint Lucia.”
Up to press time, the local police have neither denied nor confirmed the detailed reports on the internet.
Oliver Gobat operated the Cap Maison Resort and Spa at Cap Estate. He was also on the management team of The Landings at Pigeon Island.
Generally referred to as Ollie, Gobat was born in Saint Lucia to parents originally from England. He represented Surrey juniors at cricket and attended Leeds University, before moving to Australia to help launch a health and fitness club in Adelaide. In Saint Lucia he was considered an avid squash and golf player. We were informed that he played his final round at the Golf Club in Cap Estate mere hours before his grisly death—with a leading local politician.
We’ve been reliably informed that homeowners at The Landings have been formally informed of Gobat’s death.
Just last year The STAR conducted an interview with Gobat, following prime minister Kenny Anthony’s statement that The Landings was in receivership. Gobat denied the announcement and expressed fears that what the PM said would not only hurt staff morale, but adversely affect the hotel’s relationship with their suppliers.
“What such misleading information does is . . . affect our different vested interests and parties. So if the travel industry hears about that, [it affects] all the different relationships we have been building with operators around the world. If they hear that, they get particularly cautious. They get nervous, they stop selling us and this affects business.”
Oliver Gobat had also expressed concern about escalating crime on the tourism-driven island, as well as rising unemployment.
“We are doing everything in our power to keep our staff happy and to keep them working,” he said, “because we are aware of the unemployment figures. Whatever the level of crime, it not only affects one sector of the society it affects all of us.”
He said the authorities needed to invest more in the fight against crime and on efforts at job creation.
The homicide figure for 2014 now stands at thirteen. The details surrounding the three latest fatalities, including Oliver Gobat, remain shrouded in mystery. One body is yet to be identified. Another was discovered two weeks ago at Gros Islet, concidentally a few feet from The Landings.
Forensic scientist Louis Murray has also expressed his particular concerns, citing the burned body discovered in Bel Air last October, as well as Gobat’s murder on Friday night.
Speaking to HTS News on Monday, Murray underscored his past reluctance to speculate. He said: “I remember saying when the question was first put to me that we were not necessarily witnessing a trend. But now I can see it might well be just that, since it is one with a fair amount of success attached.
“If you cannot identify a body quickly your investigation suffers. If you have no idea who the victim is, where do you start? The police are placed at a disadvantage that the perpetrators welcome. It is a worrying trend.”
Murray said the pathologist, crime scene investigators and forensic scientists must work together. He said the latest case brought to the fore the importance of forensic science, which he has been reiterating for some time now, while the forensic lab remains the closest thing to a white elephant.
The STAR has written extensively about Saint Lucia’s forensic lab and its deficiencies. We’ve been informed that two Saint Lucians remain unemployed despite their forensic science qualifications.
With our dysfunctional forensic lab, and our under-manned and under-financed police force under investigation, it is small wonder that more and more Saint Lucians have lost confidence in our justice system.
It takes years before inquests get underway—as has been the case with Hannah Defoe, whose death by electrocution at a local hotel two years ago remains unresolved.
Few have any faith in the DPP’s office or in the man responsible for the police and crime-fighting in Saint Lucia. Indeed, many have been calling for the dismissal of Senator Philip La Corbiniere, the Justice Minister.