Two Grenadian police officers have been detained in the death of a Toronto man, while the government turns down his family’s call for an outside official to investigate the case.
Oscar Bartholomew was arrested on Boxing Day – celebrated in the Caribbean on the day after Christmas – while vacationing in his native Grenada.
Reports indicate that he stopped at a police station in the parish of St. David’s so his wife, Dolette, could use the washroom.
His family said he thought he recognized an old friend standing outside, ran up behind and hugged her. It turned out that she was a plainclothes officer, and police beat the 39-year-old, they said. He died in hospital on Dec. 27.
The Royal Grenada Police Force has said only that Bartholomew was arrested for assaulting a police officer. It has launched an internal investigation into the matter.
But his family said this was not enough. Their lawyer, Derick Sylvester, said an investigator should be brought in from another jurisdiction to ensure the probe is unbiased.
Sylvester said finding someone without a conflict of interest in the case would be difficult since Grenada is a small country, with a population a little over 100,000.
“You can’t have the cat watching the cheese,” he said. “The investigation in this case must be clear, it must be fair, it must be unbiased, and it cannot be tainted by dirty hands.”
He also said a post-mortem showed Bartholomew suffered a severe beating to the head, including numerous fractures in his skull, a hemorrhage and pressure inside his brain.
But Prime Minister Tillman Thomas is satisfied with the police investigating themselves, his spokesman said.
“I don’t think he intends to have someone come into Grenada,” said Richard Simon.
He said the police findings would be reviewed by the director of public prosecutions to determine whether to lay charges in the case. Such a process is enough to ensure independence, he said.
Simon said two police officers have been detained for questioning in the case. No charges have been laid.
Grenada Police Commissioner Wilan Thompson said the head of the police station where the incident took place has been reassigned, along with a number of other officers who were in the station at the time.
“Everything has been done to quickly complete the investigation, and I will be intimately involved,” Thompson said. “We are determined to unearth the truth and anyone found to be culpable will find that justice will take its course.”
The death sparked a vigil on Dec. 28 outside the police station, an event that Sylvester said will likely be repeated in the coming days.
The small nation has no military and the 1,000-member Royal Grenada Police Force is the country’s sole law-enforcement presence.
Bartholomew grew up in Grenada, leaving a decade ago to marry his wife, who had previously immigrated to Canada.