He is famous for his light brown suit, his omnipresent cigar and his seeming absentmindedness. He is also known for his annoying habit of showing up at unexpected places to ask his suspects seemingly trite questions, and upon leaving, he’d turn and preface another apparently innocuous one with the words, “Uh, . . . one more thing . . . . ” By now, you may have guessed that we are talking about Peter Falk, better known as Lieutenant Columbo, he of arguably the most popular television detective series of all time. The unusual thing about the Columbo mysteries was that they were not a mystery in the regular sense of the word; they were not the traditional whodunit where the killer is not revealed until the end of the story. No, the Columbo series revealed the means, the motive, the opportunity and the identity of the killer at the very beginning of the story. The thrill and the intrigue in the Columbo series lay in the cat-and-mouse game that Columbo played with his suspects; he delighted in stringing them along with his charming, simpleton, star-struck manner of being, as he gathered the incontrovertible evidence against them.
Of course, what was so gripping about the stories was that the killers were all men and women of high society – political candidates, famous movie actresses, art moguls, authors, ranking military men, medical doctors and so on and so forth. Just take another peek at Abigail Mitchell in TRY AND CATCH ME, Ken Franklin, MURDER BY THE BOOK, DALE KINGSTON in SUITABLE FOR FRAMING and Dr. Barry Mayfield in A STITCH IN CRIME. They were all revered, but evil lurked in their hearts, unbeknownst to the adoring public, including the enigmatic and never-seen, Mrs. Columbo. They clearly had a great deal to lose if they were ever caught. It is this pas de deux between Murder and Justice that makes the series so very compelling.
Here in our fair Antigua and Barbuda, the heartless murder of Nigel Christian is evoking thoughts of Columbo in the minds of some. For example, there is a thinking that our detectives MUST already know the motive for this execution – to obstruct an investigation into shenanigans at the port; to silence/neutralise someone with damning knowledge of that hanky-panky. Think, DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. The means are also manifest – by way of a brazen daylight kidnapping and gunshot execution. The thing is that, whoever ordered the shooting of Cornell Benjamin, and the killing of Nigel Christian must be a person or persons in high society with a helluva a lot to lose a la the Columbo killers. Good grief! But to take a life? For a few measly million dollars? Especially after Ambassador Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst had already made it clear that the administration is not interested in prosecuting any of those who engaged in the alleged hanky-panky? According to the good ambassador, the administration merely wanted the money repaid. Which begs the obvious question: are the shenanigans at the Port considerably bigger than at first thought? Or at first suggested?
Interestingly, in January of this year, some three months after the shooting of Cornell Benjamin, our Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Raju Boddu, had indicated that he’d received death threats. [See DAILY OBSERVER, January 31, 2020]. According to the good Comptroller, “They won’t hesitate to even physically kill, if needed, because there were threats that they are going to finish me and my family if I say a word. I am not worried about these threats, but I am talking about the hatred that is in the human . . . .” Seems, the job of a Customs officer is now fraught with grave danger. And it ought not to be so. An assault on a Customs officer, a limb of the law, is an egregious assault on society. It must never be treated lightly.
Sadly, many have opined that the shooting of Cornell Benjamin was not investigated robustly when the exigencies of an assault on law enforcement demanded it. That initial failure is being blamed by some as emboldening those with a deadly agenda, and that resulted in the brazen kidnapping and execution of Nigel Christian. Sigh!
To the relief of many here in our fair, yet troubled, State, entreaties have been made to the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Scotland Yard for assistance. Seems, the political and law enforcement directorates are now responding to the calls of the people. Remember, there was a picket in front of the attorney general’s office a little over a week ago by concerned citizens demanding that outside expertise be brought to bear on the Christian killing. With that in mind, we believe that this whodunit will be revealed in short order. Our Prime Minister shares our confidence that the killers will be brought to justice. He has also offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to their arrest, never mind that some have ‘pooh-poohed’ that offer with less than flattering words.
Folks, as much as we are fond of the lovable Lieutenant Columbo, let us not beat around the bush in suspense-building cat-and-mouse games. We already know enough. Let’s get on with it!
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