In the midst of rather peculiar, and in some instances, quite unwarranted criticism of the Royal Barbados police Force’s handling of the case involving the late Rasheeda Bascombe, we want to go on record as congratulating Acting Assistant Commissioner of police Lionel Mark Thompson and his combined team of investigators for bringing the case to the point where it currently sits.
It is perhaps indicative of the same “complain” mentality permeating Barbadian society of which we have previously spoken, that even when there is a success story to be told by an organisation, in this instance the police force, that some among us still seek to point an accusatorial finger.
It is a shortcoming that many will carry to their graves. There is no template in existence that guarantees the successful conclusion of all investigations. There is no legitimate template in existence that any police force in the world would dismiss as unworthy of aiding them in bringing a case to successful closure.
Over the past week we have heard many question why it took so long for the police to solve this murder. Some quasi-media practitioners and armchair sleuths even have sought to bring their untrained and uninformed “expertise” to an area with which they are totally ignorant.
For some, their initial premise was wrong. The police were not investigating a murder 11 years ago. They were searching for a missing girl and the Royal Barbados police Force could be the only entity to inform the public when they had the evidence to suggest that a murder had been committed. We now know that a murder has been committed.
But it gets even more ridiculous.
Some are saying that the accused in the matter turned himself into the police and his capture was not as a result of their initiatives. The police, through Thompson, have already emphatically stated that the accused in the matter did no such thing. Thompson has had a stellar career over the past 32 years and we have absolutely no reason to question the veracity of his statements.
But it should be pointed out to the uninformed that suspects turning themselves in to authorities is a common practice in all jurisdictions. When it occurs, it is no discredit to any police force and if it had occurred in the Barbados jurisdiction with the Bascombe case, it would similarly have not been a discredit to the Royal Barbados police Force.
To criticize the Royal Barbados police Force from a position of little or no information about the extent of their initial probe, is to trivialise and discount the hours of diligent searches, interrogations, interviews and statement recordings, which they would have undertaken at the time of and since the report of the missing Bascombe.
It must be pointed out that they would have had to do all of this while ensuring that they did not infringe on the rights of any person with whom they came into contact while carrying out the specific duties of looking into a case that was not established as murder initially.
The sore point for many seems to be the 11 years that have elapsed, along with the fact that the alleged perpetrator was extremely close to the victim. This proximity, supposedly, should have made the investigations a simple matter. Balderdash!
We do not suggest that Barbadians should take their cue from what happens outside our jurisdiction but we would be utterly brainless if we pretended that because of the technological and other advanced investigative tools at the disposal of organisations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Scotland Yard, that “cold cases” of this nature are to be found only in third-world police forces such as Barbados’.
The 1981 murder of Amy Hurst in North Carolina was solved 30 years later. The accused was her husband.
The 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen in Los Angeles was solved 23 years later. The accused was a female police officer, and friend, working out of the same precinct where the investigations were being conducted.
The 1970 murder of Lorraine Jacob in Liverpool was solved 39 years later via an unsolicited confession from an ailing suspect known to the deceased.
The 1957 abduction and murder of seven-year-old Maria Ridulph in Illinois was solved 54 years later. The accused was a next-door neighbour.
The initial investigations into these matters were reportedly exhaustive. Subsequently, in each instance, the importance of the identification of the suspects and the closure for families far outweighed the time that had elapsed, or the praise for the police for being part of that closure.
Not so in Barbados. We prefer to scoff at our law enforcement agency.
We have an almost innate desire to speculate. “They say that…” has been part of our lexical base asserting uninformed “facts” for eons. Then, when the “facts” are exposed for the misinformation that they really are, a quick apology by those who spoke folly is expected to make all wrongs right.
Unfortunately, though apologies are mostly accepted by the aggrieved, the damage to reputations and the undermining of public confidence in our institutions have already been done. We would suggest that speculation is safer when betting on horses at the Garrison Savannah, buying a Lotto quick-pick or predicting if Owen Arthur might return again to the helm of the Barbados Labour party in the next general election.
But where tragic death, family trauma, credibility of institutions and justice for all parties to a matter are concerned, we would hope that the uninformed take cognisance of their status and criticise only when fully apprised of all the relevant facts.
Yes, the Royal Barbados police Force deserve that courtesy.