Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith has dismissed reports that British national Natalie Crichlow died at the hands of an intruder when she was seriously burnt during a fire that broke out on July 28 at the Sargeant’s Village, Christ Church home of her brother Ashton Clarke where she was visiting.
“This matter is being treated as an unnatural death and intense investigations are ongoing. At this stage there is nothing to indicate that there was an intruder at such premises,” Griffith told reporters during a post-Cabinet press conference hosted by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and shared by other Ministers at Government Headquarters on Bay Street.
The woman, who was here to take care of her sick brother, succumbed to her burns on August 6.
The British newspaper The Independent reported yesterday that 44-year-old Crichlow was strangled, doused with a flammable substance and set alight while lying in bed.
The paper quoted her relatives as saying that she was visiting family members here in Barbados when she was attacked by an unknown intruder in her room.
But Commissioner Griffith revealed that closed circuit television footage from a nearby house showed that no one had entered the premises prior to the fire.
“Investigations to date have focused on closed circuit television from an adjacent house and this is of a very high quality. Examination of this footage has clearly demonstrated that no one entered those premises for hours prior to the fire taking place,” the top cop insisted.
He also rejected reports that the mother of three died after being strangled and was found while lying in her bed.
“The corrugated fence was fully in tact apart from the sheet that was removed to provide access to the victim. The footage showed that the fire originated in the area of the kitchen and was concentrated there. There were signs of a destroyed saucepan and burnt food. Though one gas bottle was unaffected, the top of the second bottle had melted away.
“About 13:43 hours, the house suddenly went up in flames with the seat of the fire being concentrated in the kitchen area. The fire rapidly engulfed the house and residents and workmen on a nearby house quickly sprang into action to assist. The deceased was found in the yard badly burnt,” the Police Commissioner reported.
He added: “The victim’s clothing was taken away to be examined forensically for any traces of accelerant. The . . . crime officers indicated that there was no smell of accelerant in the house or on the clothing of the victim.”
Griffith also disclosed that investigators have exonerated a former resident of the home amidst speculation he may have had a hand in the death.
“Rumours have been circulating to the effect that a man who once lived at the said house might be involved in the death. This man was identified and interviewed along with the brother of the deceased….and to date, there is nothing to suggest that he had any involvement in this matter. A post mortem was conducted and death was attributed to infections from the burns,” he announced.
Griffith recalled that during the period leading up to the fire, Crichlow was on a video call with a Linda Beaumont, a British health advisor who was supervising her children. Beaumont later stated that Crichlow was in the kitchen preparing meals.
The Commissioner said investigations were continuing including efforts to gather other information regarding the victimology, which is the study of victims of crime and the psychological effect on them of their experience.
At today’s press conference, the Commissioner was asked by a reporter why information regarding the death was not being provided to the media days after the victim had passed.
He said he was not aware that was the case.
At this point, Prime Minister Mottley interjected and declared: “But now that you are aware…”
“Certainly I will speak to the PRO in that regard and make sure that things like that don’t recur,” Griffith responded.
The Prime Minister intervened again and said: “Certainly it is a little more than that. I think that the people want to know that there is a sense of accountability…there is nothing to gain by us holding onto information when the information is immediately available. You have come here this evening to share; and if we have information we ought to share it at the appropriate level. And I think that’s the position of the Government and I hope it is the position of the Royal Barbados Police Force too.”
The Commissioner responded: “It certainly is my position.”