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Police make fresh Chavelle appeal

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Missing since April, 2020: Chavelle Dillon-Burgess

A leading investigator remained hopeful yesterday that the remains of a young mother could still be found even though two years have passed since she went missing.

Acting Detective Inspector Jason Smith said that officers took part in special training following the disappearance of Chavelle Dillon-Burgess, where they learnt about breakthroughs in cases up to two decades after the incident.

He appealed to the conscience of anyone who might have information about the whereabouts of the 26-year-old’s remains.

Mr Smith highlighted that a man has been charged in court in connection with the case and but a trial date had not yet been set.

Acting Detective Inspector Jason Smith (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The detective said: “This is the first case of its kind in Bermuda history, where there has been a no-body homicide investigation but it’s certainly not anything new to other jurisdictions.

“In fact, myself and some other colleagues have participated in a no-body homicide investigators course where we learned some very useful information on how we can continue to conduct this investigation.

“In other jurisdictions, in particular in the UK, they have had cases of no-body homicides where persons have been prosecuted successfully.”

He added that police took part in the course as a direct result of inquiries related to Ms Dillon-Burgess’s disappearance to “broaden our investigative horizons”.

Mr Smith said: “There were cases where 15 to 20 years had passed and remains were found so it is hopeful, it is very hopeful.

“I think even as we studied and looked at a couple of the case studies during the course, there was always the element of the community, somebody within the community that knew something, that came forward and that provided information to investigators.”

He added: “So we are hopeful that with the support and information from the community that we can recover some of her remains.”

Ms Dillon-Burgess was last known to be in contact with close associates or friends on April 11, 2020. Her son was 18 months old at the time.

She was reported missing by her mother on April 30, 2020, about two weeks before her 27th birthday.

Members of the public then joined police and soldiers from the Royal Bermuda Regiment – where Ms Dillon-Burgess was a new recruit – in a series of searches.

Mr Smith said yesterday: “In my career, 30 years of investigating, we have seen a lot of cases where there has been the passage of time, but despite the passage of time, someone’s conscience was pricked.

“That made them come forward and assist the police in investigations.

“We have been able to successfully prosecute cases that were, in some cases, cold cases that were years outstanding but with the support of the public we have been able to advance.

“So yes, despite the passage of time, there’s still hope.”

Mr Smith said that a dedicated search officer was assigned to the case and that police acted on new information whenever it was provided.

He added: “We just want to remind and appeal to the public that despite the fact that a person has been charged, does not mean that an investigation has ended.

“We still need to find her remains so that we can bring closure to her family and also complete the investigation.”

Mr Smith said: “There is no doubt in our minds that there are members of our community who do know exactly what happened to Chavelle.

“This is why it’s good for us to make these appeals because we are appealing to those persons’ conscience.

“Listen, there’s a young man who’s going to grow up without his mother.

“She has a mother, she has a grandmother that are still living. She has other relatives and friends that are still grieving.

“Imagine that you go through a lifetime really not knowing what has happened to your daughter, your mother.

“Imagine the tragedy and the angst that that will bring to any person.”

Mr Smith highlighted that the island went through a "lockdown“ period in April 2020, which meant that movement and traffic were restricted.

He added: “If there’s anybody that saw anything suspicious, please make contact with us.

“What does that look like? We know that vehicles might be in certain areas that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see a vehicle.

“It might be at a particular time of the day – night or daytime.

“Or even if you just see people acting suspiciously, digging something in the ground.”

He asked if a piece of clothing might have been seen during a walk on the trails or in a park, or whether people who fish off rocks or docks might have seen something unusual.

Mr Smith said: “These things are critically important to bring to our attention because as insignificant as you may think that what you’ve seen is, it could be really, really important to our investigation and that helps to bridge some of those gaps.”

A man has been charged with the killing of Ms Dillon-Burgess on an unknown date between April 10 and June 11, 2020.

His case is expected to call on Thursday for a hearing about what will happen next.

Anyone with information can contact Mr Smith on 717-0864 or call the police on 211 or 295-0011.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.