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Middleton murder film praised by campaigner

Campaigner and author: Carol Shuman

Justice campaigner Carol Shuman has praised a recent television documentary about the murder in Bermuda of Canadian teenager Rebecca Middleton.

Dr Shuman, who has written a book about the case and supported Becky’s family in their campaign for justice, told The Royal Gazette: “I found the film to be accurate and meaningful and it most definitely captured the poignancy of Rebecca’s murder and its aftermath.”

Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy controversially denied permission for the show’s production crew to film on the Island earlier this year.

That decision, justified by Senator Fahy on the basis of “reputational risks” to Bermuda, was included in the 45-minute production, created as part of the Murder in Paradise series by Investigation Discovery.

Dr Shuman, who was interviewed in New York for the programme, said: “Bermuda Government’s failure to allow the production company to film on the Island simply served as another example of the pathology surrounding management of this case.

“The production company faced one roadblock after another. First, the refusal to allow on-island presence and then the refusal by a majority of those involved in the case to speak on camera — with such transparent excuses.

“However, in my opinion, all of that resulted in a better project. The case becomes so legally complicated that its implications can get lost in detail.

“Becky’s story being told by her parents and Rick and Jasmine Meens [with whom she was staying here], as well as the specific portrayal of the events of Becky’s death, brings the impact of the murder and its handling to the viewer far more effectively than arguments by the many politicians or litigators who refused to assist would have done.”

The murder has been the focus of lengthy judicial proceedings, including appeals to the British Privy Council, but no one has ever been convicted.

Government said in April it was examining the Island’s Constitution in relation to the case, with the One Bermuda Alliance having suggested in 2012 that Bermuda adopt a UK precedent allowing for old cases like the Middleton murder to be reopened.

The Murder in Paradise film includes interviews with former Police Commissioner Colin Coxall and locals Dana Rawlins and Dean Lottimore. Mr Rawlins was one of the group of friends who discovered Ms Middleton’s badly injured body on Ferry Road, St George’s in July 1996.

“Dana Rawlins and Dean Lottimore’s moving words demonstrated the enduring pain of so many victimised by these events,” said Dr Shuman. “Their participation in this project, in my opinion, was good for them and good for Bermuda.”

She said the limitations of television made it impossible to “clarify the specifics of what caused the prosecutorial failures’ in Becky’s case or explore the legal options still available.

“But the programme does what it should do,” she added. “It tells Becky’s story, provides a forum for those who have been hurt so deeply by her murder and it’s judicial handling, and generates appropriate interest in learning more for advocating for Becky and others who are victimised in such horrific ways.”

Referring to Becky’s mother, Dr Shuman added: “Cindy said that was her last interview. She is amazing. A truly inspiring woman who stood up so well for her daughter.”

The episode, which features harrowing re-enactments of what happened to the 17-year-old, was carried on Saturday night by North American broadcasters and has since been available to view online on YouTube.

It has prompted debate on local social media, with former Police Commissioner and PLP Senator Jonathan Smith writing on Facebook: “The interviews of the Middletons [and] Rick and Jasmine Meens add raw emotion to what is a horrific case.

“The decision to prosecute [accused Kirk] Mundy in the absence of the DNA evidence is the critical error in the case and the documentary draws that point out well.”

A second edition of Dr Shuman’s book on the Middleton case, with the new title Kill Me Goodbye, is due out later this year.