Anguilla releases new details in US tourist murder case
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Authorities in Anguilla released new details Tuesday in an investigation involving a U.S. financial adviser charged with killing a hotel worker during a family vacation, a case that has caused racial tensions on a Caribbean island that caters to wealthy vacationers.
Police spokesman Randy Dick told The Associated Press that the young daughters of U.S. tourist Gavin Hapgood were in the hotel room when worker Kenny Mitchel was killed April 13.
Hapgood, 44, faces manslaughter charges and is currently in the U.S. after being released on a $74,000 bond that sparked anger among Anguillans, who are demanding that he return to face justice in the British territory of nearly 15,000 people.
“It’s clear that people are angry over this situation,” Dick said. “They are very emotional about it. The police continue to perform in a very professional manner, and they allow the law to take its course.”
He said Hapgood was originally held at Her Majesty’s Prison in Anguilla after he was denied bail, but he was later released on bond after his attorney appealed to the High Court. Hapgood’s release prompted a flurry of comments on social media both from Anguillans demanding justice for Mitchel and from foreigners who regularly visit the island, with some saying the general anger directed at tourists frightened them.
Dick said police don’t yet have a motive for the killing. It is unclear how the 27-year-old Mitchel ended up in Hapgood’s hotel room at the upscale Malliouhana resort where he worked.
“There are only two persons who actually know what happened,” Dick said, adding that police still don’t have any definitive answers.
He said an autopsy report shows Mitchel died of positional asphyxia and received blunt force injuries to his torso and other areas.
Dick declined to say whether Mitchel, who is from Dominica, had a criminal background. U.S. public records show Hapgood, a Connecticut resident, had never been previously charged with a crime.
Hotel staff did not return a message for comment, and neither did Hapgood nor his lawyer, Thomas Astaphan.
Dick said Hapgood is expected to return to Anguilla for an Aug. 22 hearing and rejected speculation among Anguillans that he might not appear.
“We will have to wait until that time to see what happens,” Dick said.