Throughout generations many would be familiar with the names Giselle Georges, Valerie Lorde, Verlinda Joseph, Cheryl Hunte, Trisha Dennis, Crystal St Omer, Mary Rackcliffe, and Chereece Benoit. Some of these women were murdered, the rest raped and then murdered, and for most, if not all, their families remain without closure concerning their forlorn fate. There was also the murder of Roger Pratt, and 12 alleged extra-judicial killings between 2011-2012, and others where families have likely given up the quest for justice.
Another is Simone Leandra Garnier, the first female murdered for the year 2013. Reports say that Garnier was last seen returning home from a Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) constituency council meeting after which she did not take her usual ride home. Her body was found on February 1, 2013, lifeless, the throat slashed, and lying facedown in her blood with her legs bound. The 47-year-old was loved by her peers, her family and all of the SLP, some of whom paid their respects at her funeral. Her death was a tragic shock to them all.
Now nearing five years since the still unwarranted loss, her family doesn’t wish for Simone Garnier’s death to wash away to abandonment by authorities and the public. A reminder was issued to the media this month, which began, “Today, the 8th of October, instead of celebrating the life of the late Simone Leandra Garnier, we are mourning her death.” Throughout the text were expressions of disappointment toward our justice system and complaints about its inefficiency and lack of communication.
Gariner’s niece, Leanna told the STAR: “To be quite honest I am disappointed with the justice system in Saint Lucia.” She continued, “They [criminal investigation department] always say they will call us [the family] back but they never do. I find it such a waste of time going down there.
“This is the second time this is happening to our family. The first time was when Trisha Dennis was raped and murdered. They arrested someone and then they let him go, because of insufficient evidence or something like that. The only rape and murder case they have been able to solve is the very first one, Valerie Lorde.”
Despite her frustration, she confessed that the justice department had improved since her experience during Trisha Dennis’ murder investigation. But Leanna also conveyed, “There is still so much more they can do that they do not.”
When asked, the police press relations office, on behalf of the criminal investigation department, was unable to disclose information about the training of investigating officers and requirements for working in the department; nor was it prepared to answer to public claims of inefficiency. From the police perspective, as it related to not relaying information to families: “If they are not the next of kin, we cannot give them that kind of information. Sometimes they are not entitled and they want information.”
However, Commissioner of Police, Severin Monchery, offered assurances concerning his department: “Given the constraints that we have, I think that my officers are doing very well in terms of investigating matters.”
Relating to the touchy incidents where murders such as Garnier’s seem to have been left unsolved, the Commissioner guaranteed that it is not something abnormal: “Sometimes, when it hits home, because the process is slow, people believe that the police is doing nothing. But you have investigations; even in the [United States], that would take between fifteen and twenty years.
“Our detection rate is normally in the region between 50 and 60 percent and that is quite commendable when you look at the number of reports we have.”
Some weeks ago, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet made comments concerning improvements in the justice department in general. Specifically concerning police investigations he said, “We’ve got to improve the ability of our policemen to begin to investigate. And so, the Canadians and the British have been huge supports in that area. Then there is now the DNA lab – we’ve got that back up and running – but we want to be able to improve the facilities in the DNA lab and to also do it at an affordable rate.”
The other unit with responsibility for criminal investigation and justice is the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP, Daarsrean Greene, has been unavailable for meetings with the media for some time. But, the Minister for Home Affairs, Justice and National Security two weeks ago stated, “I am perfectly happy with the DPP. I think that he has done a fantastic job so far. Some persons may want to focus on one aspect of his work but you must look at it in a holistic way.” Prime Minister Chastanet has also disclosed multiple times, his confidence in the DPP. Daarsrean Greene was granted a renewed contract to serve as DPP on Tuesday October 17, 2017.
The harsh reality is, however, that Saint Lucians do not feel the same. Through a simple and general questionnaire, the STAR learned that if a crime, especially a rape, would occur within a household, the majority of Saint Lucians would not go to the police. Others said they would do so, because “that’s what should be done”, but also expressed a lack of confidence in a conducive outcome.
Reeling back to the responsibilities of the criminal justice department; deterrence, incarceration and instituting certainty in the police force, it doesn’t seem that any are achieved, judging from the public’s response. Families, victims, and the general population are still imploring for justice and do not trust the police to do their job right.