De­foe In­quiry Un­der­way!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Toni Ni­cholas to hos­pi­tal. Giv­ing ev­i­dence via a video

In March of this year the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia de­nied al­le­ga­tions it was im­ped­ing an in­quest into the death of Han­nah De­foe. Two years ago the 20-year-old cousin of Bri­tish foot­baller Jer­maine De­foe was

elec­tro­cuted in the swimming pool of a Vieux Fort ho­tel. One year af­ter­ward the gov­ern­ment

ini­ti­ated a one-man in­quiry into the in­ci­dent. But months after the re­port was com­pleted and handed to the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties, the case seemed to go cold.

After sev­eral re­lated ar­ti­cles and count­less calls to phone-in ra­dio pro­grammes by

STAR pub­lisher Rick Wayne the gov­ern­ment con­firmed it had re­ceived the re­sult of its in­quiry, at which point Wayne started cam­paign­ing for the find­ings

to be made pub­lic. Deputy prime min­is­ter Phillip J. Pierre, whose of­fice had or­dered the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, fi­nally broke the of­fi­cial si­lence.

“I wish to clar­ify the

steps taken thus far . . . and to up­date the pub­lic on the sta­tus

of the re­port. Im­me­di­ately

after the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent, the gov­ern­ment launched an in­quiry un­der the chair­man­ship

of Everis­tus Jn. Marie, to ful­fill

the obli­ga­tions un­der the

Elec­tric­ity and Reg­u­la­tions

Act, Cap 9.02. which states that se­ri­ous ac­ci­dents must be

re­ported to the Chief Elec­tri­cal In­spec­tor and that the Min­is­ter

may or­der an in­quiry.”

Ad­di­tion­ally: “This in­quiry is com­plete and the find­ings have been pre­sented in the form of a re­port to the Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties, con­trary to what has been sug­gested. The records of the at­tor­ney

gen­eral’s cham­bers in­di­cate the re­port was sub­mit­ted on Oc­to­ber 23, 2013. This is a ju­di­cial mat­ter over which the gov­ern­ment has no con­trol. It is er­ro­neous to sug­gest

the gov­ern­ment is im­ped­ing jus­tice or has not ful­filled its re­spon­si­bil­ity in this case.”

This week the in­quiry

into Han­nah De­foe’s death re-opened in Vieux Fort

with­out a sin­gle lo­cal press re­port. Mean­while the Bri­tish re­ported on Wed­nes­day that the in­quiry heard from an aunt of the de­ceased, who had also suf­fered sev­eral elec­tric shocks when she leapt into the pool in an at­tempt to res­cue Han­nah. She had to be rushed

link at a West London Coro­ner’s Court, Janet De­foe re­lived her

ex­pe­ri­ence for the pur­poses of Saint Lu­cia mag­is­trate Robert

In­no­cent.

She re­called ar­riv­ing on 24 July 2012, the day be­fore the in­ci­dent, and stay­ing with

her 17-year-old daugh­ter and Han­nah at Juli­ette’s Lodge.

Read­ing from the wit­ness state­ment she had made in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the

tragedy, Ms De­foe re­called a

fam­ily friend had rushed to find her and then told her the bad news.

“I ran to the pool and when I got there I saw Han­nah’s body

stretched out at the bot­tom

of the pool. I jumped into the pool to res­cue her. As soon as I jumped in I felt a fuzzy feel­ing

over my whole body.” She said she was able to reach a hand out of the wa­ter and some­one pulled her from the pool.

“I saw a metal pole on the floor. I took the pole and tried to move her. But when I put the pole inside the pool I got an elec­tric shock. When I put my hand into the wa­ter I also got a

shock.”

She could not re­mem­ber who had called the am­bu­lance, only that she was trans­ported to hos­pi­tal along­side a man who had also tried to res­cue her niece, and who had also suf­fered elec­tric shocks.

Han­nah’s mother Hope De­foe also gave ev­i­dence via

vide­olink. Although she was not on the is­land at the time of

nev­er­the­less re­quired to read out her wit­ness state­ment given when she ar­rived in Saint Lu­cia days after her daugh­ter’s death.

Over­come with emo­tion at the mem­ory she wept as she read:

“I iden­ti­fied the dead body of

my daugh­ter.”

As with sev­eral oth­ers

here, the De­foe in­quest has

been plagued by de­lays since it first opened ear­lier this year.

Since the Vieux Fort in­ci­dent there have been two other ma­jor in­ci­dents here in­volv­ing elec­tri­cal works at pub­lic places. One of them re­sulted in the death of an in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­ble for the

py­rotech­nics at last year’s

in­au­gu­ral CPL T20 Cricket at Beause­jour. There have since been sev­eral pub­lic ap­peals for an of­fi­cial re­view of the op­er­a­tions of the chief elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer, which fall un­der

Phillip J. Pierre’s min­istry, so far

to no avail.

Dev­as­tated: Matthew and Hope De­foe are still wait­ing for an­swers as to why their daugh­ter

Han­nah, 20, was elec­tro­cuted when she dived into a pool here in

St Lu­cia.

Han­nah De­foe: Will the de­tails of how she met her death fi­nally be re­vealed?

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