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Call for answers on Crockwell death

  • Feeling betrayed: Juanae Crockwell believes a police officer shared the news of the death of her brother on WhatsApp (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • The late MP Shawn Crockwell

The sister of the late MP Shawn Crockwell demanded answers yesterday on how his sudden death was leaked to the public before his family were told.

Juanae Crockwell complained to the Bermuda Police Service about the disclosure almost 2˝ years ago, but remains in the dark over who released the information on social media.

She alleged, in a letter to the Commissioner of Police, that a police officer shared the news on WhatsApp hours before the family were notified and that she and other close relatives found out he had died after they saw messages posted in chat groups.

Ms Crockwell said: “The complaints are so important because the police need the trust of the community in order to be effective, in order to solve crimes, in order to perform their duties.

“I felt betrayed because the information was leaked. It has been two years and nothing.”

Former One Bermuda Alliance tourism minister Mr Crockwell, 47, died in June 2017 and Ms Crockwell lodged her formal complaint on August 17 that year.

But she has been told nothing since about the results of the investigation or the outcome of an earlier complaint she made about the leak of photographs of documents found in Mr Crockwell’s briefcase and an e-mail on his mobile phone while both items were in police custody.

Late last night, police responded to a request from The Royal Gazette for comment.

Acting deputy police commissioner Antoine Daniels said investigations into both complaints found “absolutely no evidence to support her allegations that police officers provided any information via WhatsApp or shared confidential documents with anyone”.

He said those findings were submitted to the chairman of the Police Complaints Authority in May this year.

Ms Crockwell said: “It’s deplorable that they haven’t communicated it to me. I’m going to read about it in the newspaper instead.”

She said the PCA, an independent body set up to investigate allegations of misconduct by the police, had not contacted the family about either complaint.

The PCA did not respond to questions yesterday.

Ms Crockwell said the alleged police leak, and a separate leak from a Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service employee, led to speculation over her brother’s death.

She added that it made it hard at first for her to accept the cause of death given after a private coroner’s inquest was held.

Ms Crockwell said she was at her house and about to head to the supermarket with her mother on the Saturday afternoon that Mr Crockwell’s body was discovered at his Hamilton Parish home.

She answered a call from a friend who asked if she was OK and told her to contact her parents immediately.

Ms Crockwell said: “I was so perplexed. They said ‘there’s an MP that was found dead’.”

Seconds later, her best friend and cousin alerted her to a post in a WhatsApp chat group for Crockwell family members.

A relative offered condolences to “friends and family of Shawn Crockwell” at 4.55pm.

The man wrote: “Heard he passed away. This cop in my football chat just told us.”

The relative added: “This cop told me this s***.”

Ms Crockwell said: “My mom was outside. I didn’t believe it was true. I called Shawn — it rang. I left a message saying ‘there’s this silly rumour’.”

She managed to reach a close friend of her brother’s minutes later, who confirmed the news.

Ms Crockwell said: “I just lost it. Of course, my mom heard me. I was in the living room. I remember falling to the ground. I was like ‘I can’t breathe’. I ran outside. That’s when my mom heard. I didn’t want to tell her.”

Ms Crockwell, who has another brother, Mark, added that she was unable to break the news to her mother.

She said: “My mom called my dad. I remember her saying ‘call the boys’. I couldn’t tell her, I just couldn’t.

“We ended up going to my parents’ house. The unfortunate part was the rest of my immediate family was having similar experiences. My brother Mark was going through the same thing.”

Ms Crockwell added that the news circulated so fast that her parents’ landline was flooded with calls and friends and relatives rushed to the house to offer support.

She said: “Bermuda knows that Shawn is dead but we haven’t had any official communication from anyone.

“Not only were we robbed of that proper communication but then we didn’t even have any time to ourselves to just be ourselves.”

Ms Crockwell recalled Wayne Caines, a Progressive Labour Party politician and good friend of her brother’s, arriving at the house.

She added: “I saw him walk up the steps. I flipped. I said ‘the only reason you are here is because Shawn is dead’. I didn’t want to let him in because this makes it real.”

The relative who posted the condolences on WhatsApp refused to tell Ms Crockwell the name of the police officer who allegedly revealed her brother’s death in the football chat group.

She passed the relative’s name and his contact details to police.

Ms Crockwell said she made her complaint so the officer would be identified and disciplined if they were found to have breached the service’s code of conduct, which requires officers to only disclose information in the course of their duties.

She added: “We never wanted people to lose their jobs; we just felt this was wrong and it should be addressed.

“If I had known who the officer was, I wouldn’t have had to go through a complaint. The only way I could rest about it was to make a complaint and hope that the Police Complaints Authority would do sufficient investigation to see what happened.”

The family also complained to the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service about a voice note on Mr Crockwell’s death, recorded by a firefighter and posted on WhatsApp.

The BFRS at the time confirmed it had launched an investigation but has not responded to several requests for comment on the outcome.

Ms Crockwell said she had not heard back from the fire service but understood the officer, as a first responder, was investigated and disciplined by the Council for Allied Health Professionals.

She added that she believed that message was recorded and posted after 6pm.

Ms Crockwell said: “It was so hurtful.

“I get it — he was a public figure and the public probably had an interest in it.

“But ... four hours hadn’t even passed. We hadn’t even come to grips with it. It was so hurtful that his death was immediately made into this conspiracy theory.

“People were saying that he was murdered. It made it really hard for me to believe the cause of death because of all the speculation.”

Anyone with information regarding Ms Crockwell’s allegations should call police on 295-0011 or the Crime Stoppers confidential hotline on 800-8477

Public have duty to respect mourning families