A St Philip man who is allegedly responsible for a house fire that killed his daughter’s grandmother and left the little girl and her mother hospitalized with severe burns is tonight behind bars.
Brian O’neal Browne, a resident of Eastbourne No. 1, was remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison at Dodds, when he appeared in the No. 1 District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court charged with murdering 58-year-old Janice Mitchell on July 13.
Mitchell died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) three days after the July 10 blaze that destroyed her Chapman Lane, St Michael home.
Browne was not allowed to plead to the indictable charge of murder.
The 33-year-old mason is also charged with damaging Mitchell’s house by fire; and doing serious bodily harm to his one-year-old daughter, Haylee Mitchell, and her mother, Keisha Mitchell, with intent to maim, disfigure or disable them or to do some serious bodily harm to them.
According to Sergeant Victoria Taitt, the mother and daughter remain in critical condition. Keisha had to be airlifted to Miami, Florida for treatment on July 15, while the baby remains at the QEH.
The arson and serious bodily harm charges are matters for which the District ‘A’ Magistrate Court has jurisdiction to grant bail.
However, Sergeant Taitt objected to Browne being released on several grounds, including that of the medical status of the two survivors of the fire.
“These are serious allegations. They touch a home, a one-year-old baby – the accused’s child –, a mother and grandmother,” the prosecutor said, adding that bail should be denied for the protection of society as well as for the accused’s own protection.
“He is not known, but based on the allegations he started at the highest,” the Taitt continued, noting that the accused had one pending case before the court regarding Keisha Mitchell. “This shows a propensity to reoffend.”
In his application for bail for the accused, attorney Michael Lashley Q.C., who represents the accused with his associates, argued that his client had no prior convictions and a person who had such a record “is a good candidate for bail”.
The defence attorney further argued that the primary consideration for bail was whether an accused person would show up for court on the dates given and the prosecution had put forward no such submission to state otherwise.
“With respect to these offences, we would submit that they are bailable and are offences that the courts in Barbados grant bail for. He is a good candidate for bail with respect to these matters that you can exercise your discretion for,” the Queen’s Counsel submitted.
But describing the allegations as grave, Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes said he could not exercise his discretion in favour of the accused at this time.
Browne was therefore remanded to prison until August 16.