Police defending their handling of Harris case
As the investigation continues into Friday’s disappearance of 49-year-old Karen Harris, lawmen were today withholding the name of a Moonshine, St George resident, who reportedly came to Harris’ rescue before she was safely reunited with her family last night.
When contacted by Barbados TODAY for an update, Public Relations Officer, acting Assistant Superintendent of Police David Welch was tightlipped on the overall investigation, which he said was still at a “sensitive” stage.
Harris left her home at Rowan’s Park, St George around 3p.m. Friday for a jog and was last picked up by security cameras outside of the Gun Hill Signal Station over an hour later before she went missing.
At this stage, Welch said he could only confirm that statements had been made to police to the effect that Harris had spent the night in a canefield before she was able to find her way to a house in Moonshine late on Saturday evening.
However, the police spokesman said he was not in a position at this stage to confirm the identity of the person who helped her or to say whether that person was “known to her or her family”.
“Our investigation needs to be done and done without interference. As soon as we have cleared and interviewed that person then we would be prepared to release that information,” said Welch, while pointing out that police were yet to establish the reason Harris went missing in the first place.
However, the police spokesman has strongly refuted suggestions that lawmen had gone above and beyond the norm in trying to locate the missing Caucasian woman.
“We are impartial, in terms of our investigations, to colour, creed etc,” said Welch, while arguing that the level of resource deployment in cases where persons had been reported missing depended on the information received by lawmen and how the investigation was driven.
He said the magnitude of the response was also driven by the efforts of the family to search for their loved ones, while pointing out that in a recent case involving 31-year-old Sidneato Alpha Holford of 3rd Avenue Licorish Village, My Lords Hill, St Michael, who went missing in the area of Belle Gully, “not once, but twice we [police] went into that area with the same make up of deployment [as the one used in Harris’ case] to search for that person.
“What is interesting also, is that the last time we did go in [to search for Holford], we were supported by relatives and neighbours who were concerned for his welfare,” said Welch, while insisting that sniffer dogs, and army personnel with weapons, were all brought in play.
However, when pressed even further on the issue, Welch said he could not speak to the response in terms of numbers, but he was still adamant that the same level of police deployment was used.
The police public relations officer also pointed out that the areas lawmen had to search in the Belle Gully were quite different from the ones searched yesterday during the Harris investigation, which stretched from St George to St Joseph.
“You realize that we were set up in three teams [yesterday] and that would have called for a lot of assistance,” he said, adding, “we are grateful for the assistance of the general public that came out to help us search those areas”.
In the face of strong criticizms from certain sections of the public, Welch also said it was a widely held “myth” that police generally waited 24 hours before launching a search for missing persons.
“We do not wait 24 hours nor have we given that information about 24 hours to the public.
“That is clearly for a different jurisdiction. Whenever we receive the information about someone who is missing, we start the investigation right away, whether it be from the phone call, statement taking or whatever. We start the investigation right away, “ he stressed.
However, he acknowledged that there could be a difference in timeline in terms of when persons went missing and when actual reports were made.
“That is something outside of our purview and it might be from the family, or the loved ones, or the person concerned,” he said, adding that all missing persons reports were taken seriously until proven otherwise.