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New evidence could help to crack ‘cold case' murders

Detectives have uncovered new evidence which could help them solve some of Bermuda's “cold case” murders.

Before the recent spate of gun killings began in May 2009, the Island had seven murders considered by police to be unsolved, dating back to 1975. Three of them involved firearms.

Now police say they are close to cracking “some” of the cases and bringing those responsible to justice.

Detective Chief Inspector Nicholas Pedro, the officer in charge of special investigations at the Serious Crime Division, told

The Royal Gazette: “I can say there is movement in some of those cold cases. Some of them are at very sensitive stages. At this stage, I'd like to leave it at that.”

The victim in the oldest cold case, dating back to March 1975, was schoolteacher Margery Wade, who was sexually assaulted and killed with a blow to the head from a wooden plank (see separate story).

The other six victims, slain between 1994 and 2007, were all men and their ages ranged from 18 to 43. They were Brian Simmons, Gleen (Bugsy) Wolffe, Shaundae Jones, Jason Lightbourne, Marcus Gibbings and Shaki Crockwell.

Det Chief Insp Pedro insisted even the “coldest” of those cases could be solved if new evidence came to light and said all the murders were periodically reviewed by officers.

“If evidence comes in that enables us to take something forward, that's what we do,” he said. “We go where the evidence takes us at the time but we also review cases fairly regularly.

“All of those cases have been reviewed to see if there is anything that takes us forward and there is some movement in some of them.

“In any of them, there could be someone comes forward or a piece of evidence that comes to our attention that makes it a 'warm' or live case.”

Between January 2010 and March this year, a team of retired British detectives was here to assist Bermuda Police Service review its cold cases, as well as help investigate more recent murders. This newspaper reported in March that their jobs had been discontinued.

Assistant Commissioner of Police David Mirfield said resources had since been increased “exponentially” in the Serious Crime Division.

“We have transferred officers from elsewhere to bolster the Special Investigations Department, within the Serious Crime Division,” he said.

“We have now doubled the size [of the department], making four investigative teams. We can now provide far greater coverage across the service, including weekends.”

The number of murders classified as unsolved by police now stands at 19, compared to seven in May 2009, when the latest spate of gun killings began.

Det Chief Insp Pedro said: “There are definitely challenges to being able to investigate that many murders. At any given time we are working on a number of cases, but not all 19 cases at the same time.

“We have had a number of crimes which have taken up all our attention. Between February and May this year we had six murders, including five fatal shootings.”

Det Chief Insp Pedro said the assistance received from overseas investigators was “extremely valuable” and allowed his investigators the time to concentrate on ongoing inquiries, as well as providing peer analysis of cold cases.

Despite the heavy caseload of the special investigations team, both officers said they were confident all 19 murders would eventually be solved, particularly now Bermuda has its own DNA database, created in 2008, and a witness protection programme.

Mr Mirfield said: “The Bermuda Police Service is totally committed to bringing these offenders to justice. We will not stop until every person responsible for these murders is caught and convicted.”

Det Chief Insp Pedro said: “In these particular [cold] cases, the DNA database hasn't assisted us at this time but that's not to say it won't in the future.

“The DNA database is a growing entity, almost on a daily basis. As the database grows, obviously the potential to identify suspects grows.

“There's always material left at a crime scene. There's always the potential for forensic evidence to bring up a result.

“More often than not, it's forensic evidence that takes us back to someone. Any samples that are received from the scene of a murder are preserved and will now have been entered into the database.

“It may be that someone gets arrested on a simple matter in current times and there's a hit on the DNA database from evidence that was gathered at the time [of the murder], a fingerprint or something that links back to that murder.

“Evidence is always collected and it can be used later. A suspect can come to light just based on a chance encounter with the police. It could be a simple traffic matter or an arrest for something more significant.”

The senior detective said witnesses or others with critical information often contacted police years after a murder.

“You have people that come forward that were either there or know something about it. Something happens in their life that prompts them to come forward. They may be arrested themselves or their conscience may be such that they want to come forward and talk to police.

“We have seen that in the recent [solved] case of [2009 murder victim] Kumi Harford: people who came forward after the fact because they simply couldn't stay silent.

“People mature over time from their youth. They can have a different mindset when they get older. They have children. They may know someone who is close or linked to the person and they may decide they want to do the right thing.

“In recent months, we have seen people that came forward that merely want to assist; sometimes, the most unlikely people. There's always the potential that things can be done.”

Since police spoke to this newspaper, a 36-year-old man has been charged in court with the murder of footballer Mr Crockwell, who was shot dead on August 24, 2007.

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Special report on pages 8 & 9

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f you have information about any murder call the Serious Crime Unit on 299-8106 or the confidential and anonymous Crime Stoppers line on 800-8477.

Tashay Minks, daughter of murder victim Brian Simmons, with the tattoo she has of his face on her back.

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Published August 26, 2011 at 11:00 am (Updated August 26, 2011 at 11:20 am)

New evidence could help to crack ‘cold case' murders

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