GO­BAT

DID PETER FOSTER SPEAK TOO MUCH?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE -

QC and House Speaker Peter Foster.

By

LToni Ni­cholas ast week the Go­bat fam­ily sum­moned the me­dia to a press con­fer­ence at their plush Cap Mai­son Ho­tel at Cap Es­tate. A mem­ber of the Bri­tish press was also in attendance when a re­ward of EC$250,000 for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to the con­vic­tion of Ol­lie Go­bat’s killer or killers was an­nounced.

Ol­lie was mur­dered some time dur­ing the night on April 26. His badly charred re­mains were dis­cov­ered in his flaming ve­hi­cle after fire­men had put out the fire. It would take lo­cal po­lice sev­eral months be­fore they of­fi­cially iden­ti­fied the re­mains. In­deed, po­lice were ret­i­cent even after his fam­ily had held a memo­rial in his hon­our, at­tended by the is­land’s prime min­is­ter. Ol­lie’s re­mains were cre­mated on Novem­ber 17—his birth­day.

Also House Speaker, Peter Foster QC chaired the Go­bat press con­fer­ence. Dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion, he cited the spe­cial fund set up by the fam­ily and friends of the de­ceased son, which Foster named the “Jus­tice for Ol­lie fund to as­sist the po­lice with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and to em­ploy the use of mod­ern in­ves­tiga­tive pro­cesses never be­fore used in Saint Lu­cia.”

If suc­cess­ful, he added, the in­ves­tiga­tive pro­cesses could “well lead to the per­ma­nent use of such fa­cil­i­ties on the is­land.” Ad­di­tion­ally: “The fund will also pay out to any­one EC$250,000 for the con­vic­tion of any per­son or per­sons re­spon­si­ble for Ol­lie Go­bat’s mur­der.”

He re­leased a hot­line num­ber and an email ad­dress for use by in­for­mants. “This tele­phone num­ber and email ad­dress are in­de­pen­dent of the po­lice but en­dorsed by them,” he stated.

More­over: “Any­one pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion, and who may have been as­so­ci­ated with those re­spon­si­ble, and who may have played a mi­nor role may be granted im­mu­nity by the pros­e­cu­tion.”

I put to the lawyer the fol­low­ing ques­tion: “The in­ves­tiga­tive pro­cesses you men­tioned, how re­cep­tive have the po­lice been and what sort of di­a­logue have you had with them?”

Foster: “Umm, ob­vi­ously in Saint Lu­cia, we do face some chal­lenges. I think we all rec­og­nize that and with the as­sis­tance of the Go­bat fam­ily and, as we said, the friends that have put some funds to­gether, there are tech­niques new to Saint Lu­cia that are be­ing em­ployed at this time.”

I pressed on: “Are you say­ing the po­lice have ac­cepted this as­sis­tance?”

Foster: “Yes, the po­lice are re­cep­tive to that as­sis­tance.”

Another re­porter asked him to ex­plain what the “in­ves­tiga­tive pro­cesses” were. Foster said that he could not go into de­tail.

In­ci­den­tally, no one from the RSLPF was in­vited to last Wed­nes­day’s press con­fer­ence, con­vened un­der heavy pri­vate se­cu­rity.

Two days af­ter­ward, po­lice com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois was quizzed by a Choice news re­porter on the mat­ter. “I’m not aware of any spe­cial in­ves­tiga­tive mea­sures,” he said. “We are open to any­thing that will con­trib­ute to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion but I am not sure what the spe­cial in­ves­tiga­tive pro­cesses are that he is re­fer­ring to.”

As far as the re­ward goes, he said that was the fam­ily’s op­tion, that “the po­lice do not get di­rectly in­volved in such mat­ters.”

This week Jus­tice Min­is­ter Philip La Cor­binere was asked to com­ment on Foster’s prom­ise that “any­one pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion and who may have been as­so­ci­ated with those re­spon­si­ble . . . may be granted im­mu­nity by the pros­e­cu­tion.” Typ­i­cally, LaCorbiniere was eva­sive: “I was not privy to that state­ment di­rectly and so I am re­ally not go­ing to want to at­tribute a state­ment to any­one. What I can say to you is that in terms of the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and mat­ters in progress, the di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions is the con­sti­tu­tional en­tity that is go­ing to de­cide whether the mat­ter pro­ceeds or whether a crim­i­nal mat­ter should not pro­ceed.

“In ad­di­tion both of th­ese en­ti­ties, the DPP and the Court, are very in­de­pen­dent in what they do and they will want at all times to pre­serve that in­de­pen­dence. You can­not pur­port to pro­tect an in­di­vid­ual with­out the cor­rect en­tity hav­ing a proper eval­u­a­tion and go­ing through the process as pro­vided by law.”

So the new ques­tion is: Did Foster QC mis­s­peak last week? How will his state­ment af­fect the Go­bat in­ves­ti­ga­tion?

The Go­bat fam­ily last week stated that they would have liked to have had things hap­pen faster. Mis­takes were made, they said. The crime scene was not cor­doned off, for one, al­low­ing for con­tam­i­na­tion of ev­i­dence.

Then there was the mat­ter of the early re­moval of Go­bat’s ve­hi­cle from the scene of the crime. They said they were fully aware of the lim­i­ta­tions of the lo­cal po­lice but are hope­ful that with out­side as­sis­tance their son’s mur­der will be solved.

Speaker of the House and QC Peter Foster speak­ing

at a news con­fer­ence last week.

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