Authorities in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) have dropped charges against two elderly American tourists who were arrested after a bullet was found in each of their luggage on separate occasions as they prepared to depart the British Overseas Territory.
“The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force have conducted a thorough investigation into this matter,” said JoAnn Meloche, director of public prosecutions in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), in a statement on May 17.
“After a review of the available evidence and taking into account all the circumstances, it is the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to discontinue the criminal proceedings pursuant to section 100(2)(c) of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order 2011,” she added.
Late last month, Turks and Caicos Royal Police charged Texas businesswoman Cathy Sulledge-Davis, 60, and retired neurosurgeon Horace Norrell, 80, of Sarasota, FL with carrying ammunition as they were departing the Providenciales International Airport.
The vacationing Americans said airport agents informed them that bullets and ammunition had been found in their luggage. A .38 caliber was found in Sulledge-Davis’ luggage and a 9mm bullet in Norrell’s.
The two were arrested and eventually allowed to return home after paying US$4,000 in cash bail.
But two American lawmakers, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), raised concerns about the arrest and charges.
Last week, they wrote the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas, which has responsibility for the Turks and Caicos, demanding a thorough investigation.
They also inquired whether any other Americans had been arrested under similar circumstances.
Earlier this week, Nelson said that he has learned of another case of an American tourist arrested in the Bahamas on charges of having a bullet in his luggage.
Nelson said the two-year-old incident involved a U.S. citizen arrested in Freeport, Bahamas.
He said the man, from Liberty, KS spent three days in a Bahamian jail after a bullet was found in his luggage at the airport.
“This raises further questions about whether there’s been a shakedown of some American tourists and about how long this might have been happening,” wrote Nelson in a letter to Amb. Janice Jacobs, the assistant secretary of state for U.S. consular affairs.
In reacting to the TCI’s decision to drop the charges against the elderly American tourists, Nelson said: “I hope we can still find out how a bullet they say was not theirs got into their luggage.”
The incidents had seriously threatened to undermine the TCI’s crucial but fragile tourism industry.