ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – A coroner’s inquest is expected to begin today into the death of a Canadian man who prosecutors say was fatally beaten by Grenada police officers.
The lawyer for one of five officers accused in the death of Oscar Bartholomew says the inquest in the Caribbean island nation should start as planned with the selection of the jury.
Anselm Clouden says the inquest may start hearing from witnesses by the afternoon.
He says Bartholomew’s widow, Dolette Cyr, and several other police officers and witnesses are expected to testify during the inquest, which could take up to eight weeks.
Clouden says he wants to make sure the inquest proceeds quickly given the international interest in the case.
The officers are accused of beating Bartholomew into a fatal coma on Boxing Day 2011 while he was in a cell in the hamlet of St. David’s.
Relatives said the altercation occurred after he bear-hugged a plainclothes policewoman he had mistaken for a friend and she yelled, “Rape!”
Bartholomew lived in Toronto but was in his native Grenada to visit family with Cyr, his wife of 10 years.
The officers were initially charged with manslaughter but the charges were quashed in March after a judge ruled the coroner’s inquest must take precedence.
The judge also ordered the officers reinstated and paid back the wages they missed as a result of being suspended due to the charges. They had been suspended with half-pay while on bail.
The Coroner’s Act mandates an inquest when someone dies in a public facility, such as a prison.
Unlike inquests in Canada, however, those in Grenada can return a verdict of murder or manslaughter, leading to criminal charges.
The inquest was originally scheduled to begin this summer but was put off to today.
“Already there seems to be some inordinate delay in proceeding,” Clouden said in a phone interview from St. George’s.
“This process ought to be expedited because there are other interested parties looking in and we must give the world assurance that we are proceeding.”
© 2013 The Canadian Press