Coroner probes suspected suicide of cop

| 10/09/2014

(CNS): A police officer who was believed to have taken his own life after his body was found hanging from a tree in East End had been arrested by anti-corruption cops just days before his suspected suicide for allegedly soliciting sexual favours from a woman at a traffic stop. An inquest which opened on Tuesday began hearing from several police witnesses and will examine statements and other relevant evidence relating to the events that led up to the discovery of Raphael Anthony Williams, (45) but it will not be looking at a still secret independent report undertaken by police from Bermuda. The coroner presiding over the case has dismissed submissions by the lawyer representing Williams’ wife about this document being admitted.

In a statement to CNS several months ago the governor’s office had stated that the currently secret report would become public as a result of the hearing into Williams death. The report was the result of an enquiry directed by David Baines the police commissioner to get an independent review of the circumstances surrounding the arrest, and the subsequent death, of Williams by officers from the Bermuda Police Service.

At the time Baines said it was normal practice in other jurisdictions that such a chain of events would be subject to independent review. “I felt it was important to ensure that the RCIPS also adopts this approach to ensure that all aspects of the arrest and death are reviewed in an open, transparent and independent way,” Baines stated as he announced the probe. “The enquiry team will outline their findings in a report to the Commissioner of the Bermuda Police Service, who will in then make the findings available to Governor Helen Kilpatrick. It is anticipated that the report will be made public shortly thereafter.”

However, the coroner has stated the inquest is not a trial seeking to apportion blame but an enquiry to establish the facts leading up to the deceased’s death and the circumstances surrounding it. The jury’s role is to establish whether the death was accidental, a result of natural causes, or asuicide. If there is insufficient evidence to decide any of those they would return an open verdict. Given that the coroner said the findings of any other report were not relevant to the case.

According to the background of the case and statements from witnesses Williams was arrested on 9 January this year after a woman driver complained that a police officer had asked for sexual favours in the early hours of the morning during a traffic stop. The evidence given by the female driver led officers from the police professional standards unit and the anti-corruption unit to believe the officer was PC Williams and they set up a controlled call with the complainant.

Shortly after he was arrested at his home in Newlands where he immediately denied the allegations and told the officers from ACU that he had heard of this happening before where police were set up. He volunteered his police phones and note books and continued to deny the allegaitons when he was questioned by the police while accompanied by his attorney Charles Clifford.

He was released on bail immediately after the interview and police stated that he was both cooperative and a low welfare risk while in their custody. However, having been bailed on Friday 10 January, William’s wife reported her husband missing on Saturday. A search by the police helicopter located His car in the East End area on Sunday and his body was found hanging from a tree in the bush in the Colliers area of the district.

The inquest continues this week in courtroom 4

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