Clearly surrounded by a flurry of international and Saint Lucian news reports referring to her husband’s murder, Margaret Pratt issued a statement on her popular blog, Justice for Roger, chastising Minister
for National Security Hermangild Francis for his claims at a press conference last week.
“Francis denied reports that the police force had refused a request from British police to assist in investigations of Roger Pratt who was killed by bandits who attacked him and his wife, Margaret, on board their yacht while anchored in Vieux Fort waters. The minister in fact identified Mrs Pratt as the source of these false claims.” This according to a published Voice report on January 24 this year, to which Pratt blogged: “While I have consistently expressed frustration with the on-going delays associated with bringing those accused to trial, I have at no point requested that the British police become involved. I have never claimed that the Royal St Lucia Police Force has rejected any assistance.”
Did Francis mix up the deaths of Roger Pratt and Oliver Gobat? The family of the last mentioned had indeed sought assistance from the UK government. At a recent press conference Francis had said: “Persons have mentioned the Gobat case and that we had turned down assistance from the British police. Mrs Pratt said so but that is not so.”
Referencing Pratt’s blog, Francis went on: “To say our justice system is not working is really unfair. Mrs Pratt has her issues and I respect everything she says. But we have kept in constant contact with Mrs Pratt. We have told her exactly what is happening.” He noted that investigations into the Pratt case had resulted in the arrest of five suspects but their confessions might not have been enough to secure guilty verdicts. Francis cited a Barbadian matter that had resulted in the incarceration of an individual for ten years, until he was declared innocent on appeal. “If in the Pratt case there was just one accused,” Francis said, “maybe we would have gone through.”
As reported several times by this newspaper, a major complaint of Margaret Pratt has centred on correspondence from local authorities. Last December she visited Saint Lucia for the first time since her husband’s death five years earlier. “When I left at the end of January 2014,” she said, “I was really reassured that progress was being made. Four people had confessed and there was really strong forensic evidence.”
Since then, according to Pratt, communication has not been very good and she has not been given explanations for the delay in taking the case to trial. “If someone tells me what’s going on and why, even though I may not entirely get it, at least I’ve got something to hold on to,” she told this reporter. “It’s when everyone goes quiet that there’s radio silence. I don’t get that at all and it’s very unhelpful.”
Pratt also found herself flustered over another article published in The Voice newspaper on January 22, titled “Investigative and Prosecutorial Competence”. The article highlighted the uproar generated when a non-local is murdered and how it affects local tourism. The part that Pratt found especially disturbing: “No tourist has been killed here — brutally murdered while on a one-day cruise call or while spending a week at a hotel — at least not recent enough for most to remember. Yes, non-nationals have been killed here. But they were not ‘visitors’, instead persons who had adopted Saint Lucia as their home. That’s precisely the case involving Roger Pratt, a yachtsman murdered in Vieux Fort several years ago.”
Margaret Pratt confirms that she and her husband sailed to the Caribbean to celebrate and, after coming from Martinique, they stopped in Saint Lucia for her 60th birthday a few days before they were scheduled to continue their sailing tour.
Like the parents of Oliver Gobat, Gloria Greenwood’s daughters, Jane Tipson’s sister and Robert Hathaway’s family, Margaret Pratt waits for justice. So do relatives of several murdered native Saint Lucians.
It is conjectural whether Francis sought to pass the buck last week when he said, referencing the local media: “We have to look at it. Maybe we should send the truth out there and tell persons in the wider world that Saint Lucia is not as dangerous as some are claiming. If you look at the list of the 25 most dangerous countries in the world, Saint Lucia is at number 19. There are several other Caribbean countries that are way ahead of Saint Lucia.”
Saint Lucia’s security minister certainly has a way with words!