Kidnap victim reveals ordeal

| 28/02/2011

(CNS): Tyson Tatum revealed how he was beaten, gagged and bound by three men, when he gave evidence last week in the Grand Court trial of two of the four men accused of kidnapping him for a ransom of $500k last year. Tatum said he was lured to an address in North Side on the pretence of repairing wave-runners but on arrival he was set upon by three men who beat him into submission as he struggled to escape. The victim said he fought with the men for more than five minutes before they threatened to kill him and he gave up the fight to save his life. He revealed how the men had kicked him in the head and face, tied his arms and feet, put duct tape over his eyes and mouth and left him lying on bathroom floor for several hours.

The twenty-three-year-old, who works in his family’s construction business, told the court that a man who called himself Robert, whom he identified as the defendant Charles Webster, met him at Driftwood on the morning of the incident, which took place in March 2010.

He followed the man to a house on the beach side between Driftwood and Rum Point, where he was told the wave-runners were. As he stepped inside the property, Tatum said, he was pushed inside and jumped by the two other men as the three of them kicked, choked and punched him until he was subdued by the largest of the abductors, who, he said, was around 300lbs. He identified this man as the defendant Allen Kelly.

The kidnappers took his jewellery as they bound and gagged him and he began to beg for his life. He described how he was dragged to a bathroom, where he lay on the floor for several hours. Although blindfolded with the duct tape, Tatum said he could peer under it slightly, giving him an idea of his surroundings but with the tape over his mouth he could do no more than mumble. Eventually, he said, Kelly came and picked him up from the floor and placed him on a chair. He retied his hands from behind Tatum’s back in front of him and gave him some water.

Tatum described how he lost track of time but believes he was left alone with Kelly for several hours, the first person to offer some indication as to why he had been abducted. Tatum was told that it had something to do with a deal which had gone wrong between his father, his brother-in-law Richard Hurlstone and Hurlstone’s brother, and the kidnapper’s “big boss” was not happy.

“I asked him if they were going to kill me,” Tatum told the court and he said Kelly told him he didn’t know but believed everything would be all right.

Soon after the two other men returned and it was then the ransom calls to Tatum’s mother began. He said that Webster told him what to say and held a knife to his throat as he made the call, holding the phone to the kidnap victim’s head. Tatum said he was instructed to tell his mother he had been abducted and that the kidnappers wanted US$500,000 and that she was not to go the police, otherwise they would kill him. After the call the kidnappers told Tatum that all they had to do now was wait.

Tatum described how, as the evening drew near, he was taken to a bedroom and placed on a bed. He was given some food and the kidnappers came into the room to talk to him. He said that they were smoking ganja together and he did his best to try and find out who the kidnappers were and what was really going on.

He learned that the kidnapping was connected to this deal with the man the kidnappers called "the big boss" who had sent the men to take care of him. Tatum revealed how he pressed for more information but they would not reveal more details. He said they talked about how they would let him go once they had the money but if he ever talked they would take him on a boat and feed him to the sharks. He said the men also threatened to kill his daughter, and while he considered their talk of sharks foolishness, he took the threat against his child seriously.

Tatum described how the kidnappers knew a lot about him and his family and how they told him how they had connections with the local police, so he should not try to involve them. Eventually, he said, the men left him in the room alone, still tied up, and checked on him periodically throughout the night. Sometime early the next morning the kidnappers came in the room and said that hopefully things would go as planned that day.

The kidnappers again forced Tatum to call his mother to find out if she had got the cash and was told what to say as the knife was held to his throat and the phone to his ear. His mother said she was getting the money but had to wait for the bank to find the notes.

After a few more ransom calls with his mother as she continued to try and get the money, Tatum said the men then tied him to a chair in the bathroom before he heard someone leave. Sometime in the afternoon he realized that all three had gone and he was left alone. It was then that he began to try and work his hands free from the ties and managed eventually to pull out one hand and remove his duct tape blindfold. He immediately saw a box of matches on the side which he used to melt the plastic ties and was able to remove the rest of the duct tape before he fled from the house.

Tatum described how he ran along the beach in North Side until he found a house where a family was home who let him use their phone. He called his mother to tell her he had escaped and would be heading back to his house in Newlands. He told the court that the man at the house where he used thephone then gave him a ride to his home, where he hid until the police came.

The trial continues with the crown’s case against Kelly and Webster Monday. Although the crown has been granted an application to try Richard Hurlstone in his absence after he absconded to Honduras while on bail, the prosecutors were unable to try Hurlstone alongside Kelly and Webster, who had requested a judge alone trial, after a ruling by the judge last week.

Although all defendants in the Cayman Islands judicial system have the right to request a judge alone trial, in the case of multiple defendants it must be unanimous. With the prosecution given the right by the court to try Hurlstone in his absence but who was not present to offer an election, Hurlstone’s trial would automatically have to be with a jury.

The defenceattorneys for both Webster and Kelly, therefore, made an application to sever as they pointed out that their clients’ right to a judge alone trial was being undermined by the one defendant in the case that had absconded, and that couldn’t be fair. In what is believed to be the first ruling of its kind in the jurisdiction, Justice Harrison agreed with the defence and split the trials.

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