Inadequate Child Death Investigations in the Cayman Islands.

Inadequate child death investigations

The most vulnerable in our society and those we should protect the most. In any civil society there are measures to protect children from abuse. Yet in the Cayman Islands the local Police are failing to protect children through ineptitude and incompetence.

The below report has been made by three whistleblowers who report a lack of professional curiousity by local officers when dealing with the sensitive investigations into child death. It appears RCIPS (Royal Cayman Islands Police Service) lack experience, knowledge and simple curiosity around this specific and sensitive policing Inquiry.

Through Aranea Encrypted (download the app below if you want to tell us something anonymusly) the reports highlight significant failures by officers charged with investigating death. It is always difficult to manage a scene where a child has died, especially if it is in the home. But there is no quarter available to be given for failure when the ‘red flags’ alerting the police to possible misdeed; there is an absolute requirement to follow that suspicion and confirm there is no foulplay. There are glaring holes in all three child death investigations.

The Report

Whistleblowers report inept investigations in the Cayman Islands is putting children at significant risk of harm.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) are much like the UK police in terms of policing with the consent of the public and being unarmed. But this is where the similarities end. They are ill-equipped, have very poor to non-existent training and are not funded adequately enough.

Aranea have received three whistleblowing reports from the Cayman Islands indicating the police and social services on the Islands are failing to protect children from significant harm. The three reports all relate to three separate child deaths where the investigation into the deaths is substantially below recognised standards.

The first child who died, known as child ‘A’ , did so in unexplained circumstances while in the care of family members. The police were notified and uniformed officers attended the scene. The bedclothes the child had been sleeping in had been disposed of and were therefore not seized. No detectives were dispatched and no scene examination took place.

Police attendance at any child death is always very sensitive. But there are well-known and obvious lines of inquiry that must be conducted to ensure there is no foul play. A child’s body could be x-rayed to ensure there are no recent or historic injuries that could be caused by non-accidental injury.

The child’s medical records should be examined to ascertain any visits to hospital or the Doctor, that again could suggest non-accidental injury.

Sensitive questioning to establish the movements of family members could be made at the scene with notes taken to establish the people who had access to the child prior to the child’s death.

A scene examination could establish neglect or scene upheaval indicating a possible disturbance.

What makes matters worse in relation to the death of child ‘A’ is the history of domestic violence in the home of the child. Including reported incidents of violence against children living there, including putting a pillowcase over the head of a child and choking it. This should have been picked up by the police in the very early stages of the scene attendance. Early inquiries ought to have been made into previous attendance by the police at the address and connected addresses the child stayed at. When reports of harm are made, the police should become professionally curious and start to inquire, still with compassion but more thoroughly, to ensure the scene is examined and any evidence recovered.

Any suspicion of foul play should result in the body undergoing a full forensic paediatric postmortem to establish cause of death. This didn’t take place.

The death of child ‘A’ and the surrounding poor investigation were reported to senior RCIPS detectives but no follow up was made and no forensic examination of the body was ever made. The mother avoided police contact for approaching two years before the police got an account of what happened. That is significantly wrong in any child death investigation, even accounting for the distress and grief the parents go through.

The report sent to the Senior detective was also sent to the Islands Child Safeguarding Board but due to the Covid lockdowns it was never addressed properly.

Since then, there have been a further two child deaths of children under two years of age. There are remarkable similarities in both deaths.

Child ‘B’ died because of a reported drowning in the sea. The child, at eighteen months, was said to have left the family home barefoot and walked approximately a mile to the shoreline. To get to the water’s edge, the child had to cross a busy main road at around 5pm, and traverse through Mangrove. No injuries were reported on the body of the child, indicating this journey had been taken. The child’s body was found by family members while the police were in attendance at the home.

Again, no detectives attended the scene, no forensic inquiries were conducted, no report from the parents was taken, no postmortem, no full skeletal x-ray and no examination of medical notes was undertaken. No adequate House to House or surrounding witness search was conducted, when considering the child crossed a major road during rush hour is inexcusable.

The lack of professional curiosity in this death is outstandingly incompetent.

The same lack of diligence occurred in the death of child ‘C’. Except in this case the child walked to the sea at 4am in the morning during a tropical storm.  The death of child ‘C’ occurred in Cayman Brac, a small island about 70 miles from the main Grand Cayman Island. The mother of the child has been very vocal on social media and in the press criticising RCIPS for their lack of investigation. She has alleged her child had been murdered and recounted a domestic incident days before the death during which she was hospitalised by a person whom she states had access to her house.

The three whistleblowers are all ex-police officers and collectively believe a full review should be conducted in the Cayman Islands to ensure lessons are learned from the deaths in how to conduct thorough investigations in child death incidents. Aranea support that view and have forwarded the report to the UK’s HMICFRS (His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire & Rescue Services).

It is clear to protect the vulnerable, a full thematic review is needed in the Cayman Islands to enforce a standard of investigation that doesn’t leave children at risk of significant harm and even death.

Aranea is aware that after another botched investigation pre-2019, RCIPS had UK experts come and work with the police Family Support Unit – a team of Police and Social Workers co-located to enhance child protection work. Yet that UK expert support has dwindled and the legacy put in place has been eroded back to a position of incompetence.

Even with the support the UK offered back in 2018, it is not the FSU that investigate child death. It is the local RCIPS CID. This team are inadequately trained and lacking in inexperience that comes from having no real CID training unit and too little work to gain experience at the pace a UK officer would. Additionally, even had those officers had the experience to deal with a child death adequately, when they don’t get summoned to attend the scene of a child death there are always going to be evidential difficulties afterwards.

The most worrying aspect of these cases relate to senior police management. Aranea has been informed the most senior detective on the island, who is British, was informed about child ‘A’ yet has put nothing meaningful in place to prevent further occurrences of poor investigation and this has resulted in two further cases of potential foulplay.

What can’t be evidenced is the children met their death because of foulplay. But this is precisely because the investigations have been so incompetent. What is clearly evident is the extremely poor investigation by the police. There is plenty of evidence of that.

At the very least the island’s Governor should cause a review and should engage HMICFRS to conduct that review to reassure herself that children are safe in the Cayman Islands.

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