Customs officers say they’re living in fear after colleague’s murder

Picketers took to the streets outside Police Headquarters yesterday (Photos by Theresa Goodwin)
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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

Customs workers say they remain fearful for their lives as police continue to probe the kidnapping and execution of their coworker Nigel Christian.

The 44-year-old’s body was found riddled with bullets last month an hour after being forcibly taken from his McKinnons home in an incident that shocked the nation.

Meanwhile, government officials confirmed to Observer yesterday that local police are in contact with the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) which is lending assistance with ongoing investigations.

A well-placed source, who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals, told Observer that days after Christian’s gruesome killing, a meeting was held with Customs workers of all levels to discuss what had happened, allay fears and assure staff that their safety would be prioritised.

Christian had previously been involved in probing an alleged multi-million dollar scam by Customs brokers – as had fellow officer Cornell Benjamin who was shot in the legs last October.

The source explained that after the meeting, which was held in the presence of two counsellors, workers had left feeling comforted.

However, several weeks later – and with information pertaining to the murder investigation still sparse – many remain very afraid, the individual revealed. And some are asking, who might be the next target?

“We thought by now we would have heard something,” the source explained. “We got some news from listening to the news on Tuesday and I do not know if there is some form of disconnect, but we have not heard anything official from our bosses.

“It is less than a year since our first colleague Cornell Benjamin was shot and he is now in therapy and after that Nigel was killed. We don’t know the motive and we don’t know where and what will happen next.”

The comments came hours after Christian’s colleagues and relatives joined the Concerned Citizens activist group to stage a silent picket outside Police Headquarters on American Road yesterday as residents continue to demand answers from the authorities.

The picketers, like many others, have complained about the pace of the investigation and the lack of information from police.

“The heartless Mafia-style abduction and assassination of inspector of Customs Nigel Christian on July 10 2020 appears to be a part of a huge cover-up. The family and Concerned Citizens are demanding an external investigation,” said local activist and group member Mary John.

Another protester said, “If this continues, it is going to get worse. At this point in time, we have to stand up and we have to say to the public that we need your help to fight for justice because this could have been anyone.”

The mother of Dave Anthony, the 45-year-old gunned down in his Potters home in March, was also among the protestors, telling Observer she too is demanding justice for her son while standing in solidarity with the Christian family.

The activist group has penned another letter to Legal Affairs Minister Steadroy Benjamin urging him to make a formal request for assistance from London’s Scotland Yard, the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) – and to make the request and responses public.

The two-page letter dated August 5 was copied to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Minister within the Ministry of Legal Affairs Maria Bird-Browne, and Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney.

This followed an initial missive that was hand delivered to all parties on July 14.

Former MP, Dr Jacqui Quinn, one of the signatories to the letter, told Observer yesterday that the authorities were yet to reply.

Meanwhile, Minister Benjamin is again appealing to the public for patience in the matter, saying law enforcement officers are making progress with the case.

He also disclosed that local police have had virtual meetings with the FBI which is lending technical assistance.

 “Very shortly an officer will be flying off to the States to Virginia with certain specimens to get them tested to assist our case,” Benjamin revealed.

He added that the government was still awaiting word from Scotland Yard as to whether the department would agree to help. The UK had previously expressed concern that the death penalty remains on Antigua and Barbuda’s statute books.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the British government told Observer, “This is an ongoing police investigation and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment.”

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