More Damning Evidence that Arch Cot Inquest is a last-minute sham

UPDATED: February 15, 2011

The Arch Cot Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of the Codrington family is set to resume on Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 2pm. With a 2pm start it looks like it will be a short day with little accomplished.

The inquest needs to be important to Barbadians and not only because an entire family of five innocent people died. The inquest shows how things work ’bout hey and the elites don’t like that. The inquest could have been an important moment in history for all Barbadians – but so far it is turning out just the way we expected. Staged theatre with a bit of fireworks to make it look like something will be done.

And when it’s all over, no one will be held accountable. The report will be filed away and years from now someone will say, “Oh, Codringtons? Terrible tragedy and the inquest led to some important changes”. But that statement will be a lie.

Original article first published December 5, 2010…

Coroner slaps Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins for submitting incomplete report.

“The most damning piece of information appearing in the regular news media is that as of today – almost three and a half years after the deaths of five sleeping Bajans – Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins has neither secured the entire records associated with the history of the disaster site, nor searched for any records prior to his arbitrarily-chosen date of 1979.”

… BFP’s Robert comments on new revelations at the Arch Cot Inquest

In August 2007, five of Codrington family were killed when their home fell into a huge collapsing cave at Arch Cot, Barbados. Inquest or not, everybody on this island knew at least two years ago that Donavere and Cassandra Codrington and the children, Yashiro, Shaquanda and Shaquille, died because other persons made a series of decisions that ended up killing them.

For over three years, relatives, friends, Barbados Free Press and others in the new media called for an inquest. The answer was silence from the Coroner and the Government. Along the way, readers of Barbados Free Press heard from Professor Hans Machel that Arch Cott witnesses were being intimidated and feared arson, bodily harm and loss of employment if they told the truth.

Regular Barbados news outlets held their silence like the obedient dogs they are. Almost two years after the deaths, the Nation and The Barbados Advocate still refused to publish well researched independent news articles that called for an inquest. That was until Barbados Free Press started to publish Professor Machel’s reports and shamed the news media into covering the story instead of covering up.

But it still took over three years for Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris to make a surprise announcement of an inquest.

Staged Theatre? You be the judge…

When the inquest started in October, 2010, we learned that the Coroner had not summonsed Canadian professor and geological expert Hans Machel despite his published research on Arch Cot, public accusations of gross negligence and his calls for an inquest. Codrington family members told BFP “This inquest is being stage-managed like a play with only certain actors allowed to take part.”

The Coroner responded to our articles by musing that she would “explore the possibility” of summonsing Professor Machel to the inquest.

Nobody in the regular Barbados news media questioned why Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris had not already summonsed Professor Machel considering that it was his published reports and investigations that broke the scandal wide open.

Is the Coroner in charge of the inquest?

The inquest resumed on Friday December 3, 2010 with an abortive visit to the Arch Cot disaster site. According to the papers, the Coroner laid on the visit weeks ago, but yesterday the brush wasn’t cleared sufficiently for the Coroner’s jury to fully examine everything.

That’s funny, because over a week ago The Nation reported that there were labour problems getting the disaster site de-bushed for the Inquest. I guess Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris couldn’t be bothered to send someone to inspect the site a few days in advance before she wasted the jury’s time. Now they will have to return to see the full site, or maybe there won’t be time to visit again when the inquest resumes on January 14, 2011.

Five people dead, big names involved, public allegations of negligence, witness intimidation – and three and a half years later we are told that the entire power of government and force of law behind the inquest couldn’t get some brush cleared from the disaster site in time for an inspection.

Does the Coroner realize how weak and ineffective that makes her look? Does the government realize how this is just one more thing that shows the lack of commitment to get at the truth? I guess we should feel lucky we’re even getting an inquest as staged as it is.

It’s all a last-minute show – staged theatre

The most damning piece of information appearing in the regular news media is that as of today – almost three and a half years after the deaths of five sleeping Bajans – Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins has neither secured the entire records associated with the history of the disaster site, nor searched for any records prior to his arbitrarily-chosen date of 1979.

My friends, please allow me to explain how this revelation damns Mark Cummins, the police investigators, the Coroner’s office and our government.

It has been over three years since the disaster. Within hours of the cave-in, even before it was known if any of the family survived, there were rumours of building restrictions broken. These rumours soon became credible as various people in the community talked about what they knew. Then in January 2009 both the Barbados Advocate and The Nation refused to print articles written by Professor Hans G. Machel where he revealed there was a covenant on title going back to at least 1961 that prevented building on the land “because of the cave underneath.”

That information was published on Barbados Free Press and a few weeks later in the island newspapers. Once that happened, the “rumour” was publicly confirmed as having factual basis.

But long before that, many folks knew of the existence of the building restrictions.

Within days if not hours of the disaster in 2007 any competent government or police investigator would have moved immediately to secure the land transfer, title and building permissions records because it is important evidence that some people might want to destroy.

Now we discover in December, 2010 that the official records about the land were not seized and protected. We read nonsense that the Chief Town Planner’s report only goes back to 1979.

That, my friends, shows exactly how little effort went into this piece of staged theatre. It’s a show with a script designed to protect certain people and limit the damage.

Why did it take over three years to call an inquest into the deaths of five innocent Bajans? The delay obviously wasn’t due to the fact that government needed time to investigate the deaths. As of December 3, 2010, our glorious leaders hadn’t even begun to gather the full documentary evidence from the government records.

I have no words to describe how much I hate the corruption, class-based cover-ups and lack of respect for the Rule of Law that has long weighed upon the shoulders of each citizen and keeps Barbados from achieving what she could.

This inquest is but one more example.

Further Reading

December 4, 2010 – The Nation – Make it clear

December 3, 2010 – Barbados Today – ‘No building at Arch Cot Terrace’

October 9, 2010 – BFP – Surprise Inquest called into Barbados Arch Cot cave deaths

March 17, 2009 – BFP – Expert: Arch Cot Cave-In Victims May Have Been Killed By Wrong Decisions, Actions and Inaction By Barbados Emergency Officials

March 1, 2009 – Barbados Advocate – Hans G. Machel, Caves of Barbados – Wonders and Dangers underground (PDF)

February 1, 2009 – BFP – Barbados Newspapers Refuse To Print Letter Revealing Secret Government Report Into Cave-In Deaths. Professor Machel Will Name Names

(Photo of Town Planner and Coroner courtesy of The Barbados Advocate)


Filed under Barbados, Building Collapse, Corruption, Crime & Law, Disaster, Freedom Of Information, Freedom Of The Press

16 responses to “More Damning Evidence that Arch Cot Inquest is a last-minute sham


    Verily I say unto you …!

    Is it not a good thing that the Coroner is a woman? Would SHE not be less likely to rock the hand that feeds HER?

  2. rasta man

    Mark Cummins and the whole T&CP are a waste of time. A friend of mine has been waiting on acertificate of compliance for two years now and all they can hear is that it is sitting on someone’s desk.This is efficiency

  3. Gift of Justice

    Well January 14th is Donavere’s birthday, can we expect a gift of justice on this day or will the inquest continue as usual with very little testimony and most of the time spent planning who to call to testify next.

    Representatives from all the firms involved have been in court still no testimony, Lemuel Rollins who purchased and built all the neighbouring houses was in court, still no testimony. Sir Richard Cheltenham added COWilliams to Mahy, Ridley and Hazzard, comes into court with an assistant lawyer and and an assistant for the assistant, but no testimony. Dr. Jerry Emtage called the names of the surveyors and persons who mapped the cave and submitted a report, there were in court, still no testimony. Lemuel Benn who talked to Donavere after the first cave in was in court, no testimony. The soldier and firemen who removed the bodies were in court, still no testimony.

    Sir Richard came to court with the official report which was commissioned and paid for by the Government of Barbados, he was the only one who had a copy… but thank God he said he would photocopy at his own expense and make copies available to the court and other lawyers… still no testimony. Sir (Mr. Emtage’s lawyer) said he will pay for the transcripts of the previous sittings to be transcribed and photocopied, why thank.

    Here’s a humble suggestion, interview who in court.

    And why the france the Coroners Court don’t have they own copy of a government report? And why lawyers for the Codrington family had to give the Chief Town Planner the reference number for documents in his own office?


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  6. Johnny Postle

    So what else is new folks.

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  8. Gift of Justice

    Your honour your honour Prof. Hans Machel is only in Barbados till January 09th…. we adjourn till January 14th…but …but…but….

  9. 51

    Mark Cummins spent a long time doing nothing and blaming other public servants. He got away with it for 14 years. It is hard for him to change.

  10. Diagenesis

    Be that as it may, Mr. Cummings is a public Servant, and if this inquest shows that he is a negligent one, then it is incumbent on the public to get rid of him. And, if his negligence or omissions rises to the level of criminal behavior, then he should be prosecuted. In addition, the Coroner, if I’m not mistaken, is also a public servant. She has to show the impartiality of her position, if not she be removed. Let me remind, this is not about Mr. Cummings, but about every individual, regardless of stage, who because of either their ignorance or negligence, caused the death of five Barbadians.

  11. 252

    The system in Barbados is simple, cozy up to the politicians and talk shite, do no work and blame others for a lack of productivity. When you have the ears of a PM and other ministers you can do no wrong and choose to do no work.

  12. I want to be an Emtage

    Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins stated in his testimony at the Coroner’s Inquest on FridayJan. 14th that Dr. Jerry Emtage’s application to the Town and Country Planning Department is still being held in abeyance (my spelling might be wrong). But what he basically explained is that Emtage had no permission to be doing any work on the site behind the Shalom Apartments where the Codrington family lived. His application submitted in 2007 has not been approved. When his attorney contended that the previous application by Chelston Investments Ltd (Ricardo Garcia and Paul Bailey) was still valid, Cummins pointed out that 9 conditions were attached to that permit and 2 were broken #3 no sediment sample submitted and #5 no start of work notification.

    I want to be an Emtage that way I can build on land I don’t own, submit an application to the Town and Country Planning in my name, then go ahead and do work under the name of the people I didn’t buy the land from.

  13. I want to be an Emtage

    And none of this in the local media wow

  14. bajandave

    Two o’clock in the afternoon? They really are treating this thing as a joke.

  15. Wily Coyote

    Corruption, Negligence, Cover-ups, Incompetence, Pocket Lining, Criminal Behavior and the list goes on….

    As the United Nations(UN) states “Third World Underdeveloped”

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