By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ASSISTANT Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander said the Royal Bahamas Police Force has launched a full-scale investigation into the whereabouts of Marvin Pratt, 40, a Gambier Village resident whose family believes he is in police custody.
Mr Pratt’s family said he was arrested 13 days ago and has not been heard from since.
The matter has been picked up by Rights Bahamas who said it will launch judicial review proceedings on behalf of Mr Pratt if police don’t reveal his whereabouts shortly.
The group said in a statement over the weekend: “As far as his family knows, Pratt has not been charged with any crime, meaning that if he is still in police custody, his detention is illegal and a contravention of his fundamental rights under the Bahamas Constitution.
“Acquaintances of the family who have seen Pratt in detention say he appears to have been beaten while in custody. Despite trying several times to find out what has happened to Marvin, the family have been repeatedly stonewalled by police. As far as they know, he has not been given the opportunity to consult with an attorney and has not been allowed to apply for bail – further gross violations of his constitutional rights.
“Our law enforcement officials must learn that they cannot arbitrarily detain and hold people for extended periods of time. These repressive thug-like tactics are illegal and should not be tolerated in any democratic society. If no answers are forthcoming in the very short term, Rights Bahamas will launch judicial review proceedings on behalf of Marvin Pratt immediately.”
A neighbour, Rose Francis, 55, told The Tribune she saw four police officers chase Mr Pratt and arrest him around 10am on December 4 on Holly Hock Road.
She claimed: “I was cleaning a man’s bathroom and when I was going home that morning I saw the police coming and I saw Marvin, so I said ‘Marvin run, run, run, the man, the man,’ and they ran behind him, put him in a jeep, and the officer told me if I open my (expletive) mouth he gon’ kill me.”
Nonetheless, ACP Fernander was careful not to definitively say whether Mr Pratt was arrested and taken into custody.
“The investigation started when we got information from the family,” he told this newspaper, adding the investigation will determine if Mr Pratt was arrested. “We should have something sometime this week. Officers have already met the family. There is a lot of hearsay going on, this one telling them that, but we are doing our background to see if he was picked up.”
ACP Fernander said determining whether someone is in police custody can sometimes be challenging because people may give fake names.
However, Mr Pratt’s mother, Barbara Saunders, said her son is too well-known to police to have his identity mistaken. She said her son has served time in prison on drug related matters.
“He bad and he good,” she said.
She said police have visited her home in recent days, asking for a picture of Mr Pratt’s room and for a picture of him.
“Superintendent Rahming, homicide detective, came (Saturday) night saying he came for a picture,” she said. “I ain’ give the man no picture. They get my child. They want a picture so they could say if he dead or alive. Who does come in the night? They came the night before too. Sergeant Major came on Friday to take a picture of Marvin’s room but my kids ain’ let him take no picture. Marvin been locked up a few times and I know they have his picture.”
Ms Saunders said she is worried.
“If he right or wrong, I just need to see him and know where he is,” she said. “Someone who know him who was in the cell told one of my nieces they saw him in there and his face was beaten and bruised. I don’t care if you good or you bad, you need rights.”
She said she and her granddaughter went looking for Mr Pratt at the Drug Enforcement Unit after he went missing.
“I went and said ‘do y’all have a Marvin Saunders or a Marvin Pratt,’ because I know sometimes these fellas does change their names,” she said. “But they know him good. The DEU man said, ‘y’all come to sign his bail hey?’ I said ‘yes’ and he went in the back and when he come back he had a face only a mother could love and we had to get out of there. When I ask him if they had Marvin there and he asked if y’all come to sign for him, that means they had him right? So why he change his tone after checking in the back? Every station we call, nothing, the hospital, the prison, nothing.”