POLICE Commissioner Vernon Francois has taken the parents of the late Oliver Gobat to task over the claims reported in the British press that St Lucia Police corruption might be hindering the investigation into their son’s death.
Francois also challenged the Gobat family to provide evidence of such corruption, or retract the statements and apologise to the Force..
The Gobat family claims were made in an article this week published in the online Daily MAIL.
The dead body of Oliver Gobat was found in his burnt out vehicle at Cap Estate in April last year. He had been shot in the head and the vehicle set on fire in what is believed to have been an attempt to destroy forensic evidence.
According to the MAIL, Theo and Helen Gobat, from Esher, Surrey, insist there is a ‘probability’ that corrupt police officers in St Lucia could be involved in the murder of their son or part of a cover up to prevent his killers being caught.
Speaking for the first time about possible collusion between the killers and police, his parents claimed vital forensic evidence was destroyed in the hours after his death nine months ago.
They have also speculated that 38-year-old Oliver was ambushed after being forced to stop his car by a police barricade.
‘There is a probability corrupt police officers were involved,’ said Helen Gobat. ‘Of course we do not have the proof, it is just our opinion but we feel that very strongly that this is the case. When we talked with the Commissioner of Police he said it was ineptitude on the police that meant forensic evidence was lost.”
‘We feel it was corruption. It is well known that corruption is rife within the police force.’
Her husband Theo, 75, added: ‘The Prime Minister has admitted to us that corruption is a problem. We do not know who we can trust.’
The MAIL said Prime Minister Kenny Anthony publicly admitted there were problems within the Force in an interview in November 2014.
The US Government has also expressed its own concern about corruption and in 2013 suspended all aid to the local police.
But Francois said Thursday in responding to the MAIL article local investigators had diligently investigated this matter and continued to pursue all possible leads.
He added: “On Wednesday, January 7, 2015, members of the investigative team and the Commissioner of Police convened a meeting with the Gobat family. At that meeting, which was considered by all the parties to have been cordial and fruitful, the family was updated on the investigation. There was absolutely no suggestion from the family of the “probability” of corruption on the part of the Police or Police having played a role in the commissioning of this crime”.
The Commissioner of Police categorically denied any suggestion of “ineptitude” on the part of police officers, as it relates to the movement of the burnt out vehicle. He asserts that it was a judgment call on the part of the investigators on the crime scene.
“Notwithstanding the pronouncements from the Gobat family, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force proposes to fulfil its legal responsibility to diligently investigate and pursue every possible lead in the matter”, Francois said.
The Gobats point to their son’s body and burnt out car being removed from the crime scene within hours “with no real attempt to preserve the site for forensic analysis”.
Instead of being taken away for detailed forensic examination the Range Rover car was taken to a police yard where it was left out in the open.
They also speculate that Oliver could have been stopped by police as part of a carefully planned ambush by his killers.
‘Something made Ollie stop his car on the night he died,’ said Helen, 67. ‘The doors on his car lock automatically as soon as he drives off. He would only have stopped for someone he knows or if the police had a barricade up. We don’t know what happened, but he was bundled out of the driver’s seat and into the passenger seat.
‘We have since found out that he was worried about his safety. If that was the case if he suspected something was wrong he would have driven away.’
A close friend of the murdered hotelier, who asked to remain anonymous, told MailOnline that they are convinced police corruption played a part.
He said: ‘Corruption within the St Lucian police force may in fact be the bigger problem. My confidential sources, who at this point demand anonymity, suggest that police involvement cannot be ruled out.
‘Problems with a certain degree of police corruption have previously been acknowledged by government officials in St Lucia, but complicity in the homicide of a prominent British citizen begs the assistance that only the British police can provide.’
Oliver ran the luxury Cap Maison hotel with his brothers Adam and Rufus and was a popular figure on the island where he was born.
“Ollie was one of life’s special people. He was a friend of mine and my family for more than seven years. He would light up a room”
He grew up in Surrey, where he played cricket for his county junior team, and also lived in Adelaide, Australia, before settling back in St Lucia – an independent state of the Commonwealth – to concentrate on the family business.
Many celebrities, including the late singer Amy Winehouse and model Kelly Brook, frequented the boutique hotel in the north of the island.
The five star hotel was founded by former travel executive Theo who with his wife Helen has been associated with St Lucia for over 40 years.
Oliver’s death stunned his close circle of friends on the island and the UK where he was a frequent visitor.
TV star Carole Voderman was among those left devastated by the charismatic hotelier’s death.
She had been friends with the Gobat family for seven years and bought one of the luxury homes at The Landings in St Lucia where Oliver was sales director.
Vorderman told Best magazine: ‘Ollie was one of life’s special people. He was a friend of mine and my family for more than seven years. He would light up a room. In that time I met his family and cannot imagine the scale of the grief they are going through.’
Ollie, a keen Chelsea fan, had cheated death twice before his family revealed.
When he was 13 he underwent a year long course of treatment for cancer and three years ago he sustained serious head injuries after being run over by a speedboat while swimming in the sea in St Lucia.
Last year, the Gobats announced a half million reward for information about their son’s death. When that failed to produce results, they doubled the reward, but the result was the same.