Family of prisoner who died on remand for policeman’s murder threatens legal action

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Verel Simon was found unresponsive in his cell on December 22 (Observer file photo)
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The family of the late Verel Simon is threatening to take legal action against police, the prison and others over what they consider to be the apparent lackadaisical and disinterested manner in which the investigation into Simon’s death is being carried out.

According to one of Simon’s relatives, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the family has been left in the dark since the news of his death seven weeks ago, and to date they have little information on the investigation’s progress.

Simon, who was on remand after he was charged with the murder of Corporal Clifton Common in February 2021, was found unresponsive in his cell by prison officers on December 22. The cause of his death has still not been released.

“The justice system in Antigua and Barbuda is being very prejudicial and very unbalanced. People don’t understand until this happens to them and their family. We don’t want vengeance; we just want justice,” the relative said.

In a letter dated January 8, the family urged Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin and Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney to ensure the correct and proper procedures be followed.

In it, the family outlined specific sections of the Coroner’s Act which stipulate that an inquest should be done when an individual dies in prison.

“Verel was in the state’s hands at the time of his incarceration and subsequent death and the said state was and still is accountable for him even after the fact,” the letter said.

It also requested that all relevant information be brought forward and shared with the deceased’s family.

However, there has been no response to the letter thus far, the relative claimed.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that the last word they received from law enforcement apparently suggested that an autopsy would be carried out as they suspected that no foul play occurred. But the family said they cannot understand why an autopsy was on the cards before an inquest had been done.

“We were told they never needed to do one because they don’t suspect anything. The letter was asking certain pertinent information in order for an inquest to be done.

“We never even identified the body,” the distraught family member continued.

“To this day, we have not seen his body. They barred the mother. The grandparents didn’t get to see him either; no relative identified the body. We don’t even know if the body is at Barnes or where it is.

“Please do an inquest. We want an inquest done,” they implored.

When Observer media reached out to the Acting Superintendent of Prisons, Jermaine Anthony, for a comment, he said “the prison would not like to speak on the matter while there is an ongoing investigation”.

Meanwhile, police spokesman Frankie Thomas sought to dispel the accusation that the matter was not being dealt with adequately.

He added that the police force is doing all in its power to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the matter.

Calls to Attorney General Benjamin were unsuccessful up to press time.

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