By Ava Turnquest
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE government’s repeated promise of a deeper investigation into a 2013 traffic fatality has left a man convinced his wife was not at fault in the crash that claimed her life.
In his dogged pursuit of justice for his wife, who left behind three young daughters and a son, Leroy Bowe has elicited stunning admissions from law enforcement concerning the conduct of traffic investigations in Grand Bahama.
Mr Bowe has spent the last five years examining Grand Bahama Traffic Department’s investigation into the deadly crash between a silver 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix, driven by Latoya Williamson, and a brown 2001 Chevy Venture van driven by his wife, Camille Williams-Bowe.
The case was reportedly sent to Coroner’s Court in 2014 but was not heard until nearly four years later in 2017.
The case file is now under review by the Department of Public Prosecutions, the Tribune can confirm; but this does not represent a formal investigation.
On Father’s Day in 2013, Camille Williams-Bowe and three of her kids - one of whom was a two-month-old baby girl - were headed to the airport to pick up her husband. Mr Bowe’s flight from Nassau was due to arrive at 12.30pm but it was around that time, according to police, when his loved ones were all ejected from their vehicle as it flipped over in the air in a traffic accident that would claim Mrs Bowe’s life due to sustained injuries two days later. She was 32-years-old.
“She loved her kids, family and life itself,” Mr Bowe said. “She gave her life to Christ way before she died. Her children were her world and I couldn’t have been more blessed with such a beautiful and loving person as her if it wasn’t my destiny to be together.
Mr Bowe said: “She might be gone but her spirit is always here, guiding and watching over us.”
Based on their investigation, traffic police found Mrs Bowe was at fault, and travelling north on East Mall Drive when she ran through a red light at its intersection with Pioneers Way. Mrs Williamson was travelling east on Pioneers Way and had proceeded across East Mall Drive when the collision occurred.
It is a version of events that Mr Bowe told The Tribune he will never accept.
He’s dedicated his life to combing through inconsistencies and alleged procedural errors, gathering a dossier of recorded interviews with public officials who, he believes, not only validate his concerns but insist they are working to help him right perceived wrongs.
Most salient of these are from a meeting with then-Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade in the summer of 2015, which was recorded by Mr Bowe.
The meeting came after repeated attempts by Mr Bowe to seek an audience with Mr Greenslade, who acknowledged those past attempts in the audio recording and assures Mr Bowe that everything happens in the right time.
Mr Greenslade can be heard going over the details of the case with Mr Bowe, in the presence of two senior officers and a police attorney, and validating the widower’s belief the matter warranted a deeper investigation.
Mr Greenslade, in the 2015 recording said: “I see two things happening here that (Bowe) he’s not saying so I will say for him: one he wants a resolution. I need to know that you’re not lying on my wife. Ok if she’s wrong, she’s wrong but let me know she’s wrong having done the due diligence. Having done the due diligence I’ll be satisfied but don’t just rush to judgement, if you’re wrong you’ve killed her twice.
“Need to remove this issue of potential corruption in the system that covers this whole thing,” he continued, “that’s a heavy burden to him. To my mind, had (OFFICER NAME) and those met with him, sat him down, and were honest in saying ‘yes, she is a relative’. As a matter of fact, I take this position that when (OFFICER NAME) showed up there and realized that girl driving the car was a relative, he should have recused himself. He should have backed away from that and said ‘I cannot investigate this’.”
In the 2015 recording, Mr Greenslade continued: “If my detectives could do half this work that (Bowe) doing we’d be on our game. Believe me, let me tell you what this brings into focus and I don’t want to speak out of turn so I want you gentlemen to listen very carefully. We’ve had several really bad accidents in GB on this same Mall Drive and a number of those persons have complained.
“Not as loudly as you (Bowe), have complained but I’ve heard talks that something has not been done right that we may have not investigated this properly, the same group of officers you’re talking about. Y’all always ask me what my legacy is, I don’t know working progress.
Mr Greenslade continued: “If you believe in God, if you truly believe in God, now what I need you to do for me is, don’t run on with (OFFICER NAME) no more. Listen to me carefully, if I’m going to help you, don’t run on with (OFFICER NAME). Let this work for you, now I’m going to do what I have to do with (SECOND OFFICER NAME).
“I’m going to put my thinking cap on, I already know what direction I’m going in and I may be able to give you and your children a little break in life. I may be able to give you ahouse that you can live in where you don’t have to pay no rent.” It is impossible to know what Mr Greenslade was suggesting in his comments, and attempts by the Tribune to contact him on the topic have proved unsuccessful.
But it is unmistakable that the encounter only fuelled Mr Bowe’s resolve that he was on the correct course to obtaining justice for his family. One of the officers present at that 2015 meeting spoke to The Tribune on the condition of anonymity. He explained the matter was ultimately left up to the Coroner’s Court to adjudicate.
“I think with this matter, Mr Greenslade saw that Bowe was very set on his path and felt it was better to put this all to Coroner’s Court. The Coroner’s Court has always been independent of the police, we have no say whatsoever. So you say you don’t trust the police fine, but now you don’t trust the Coroner’s Court? I don’t know what to tell you, what’s left for you to do?”
An inquest into Camille’s death would not come until two years later.
The inquest took place in Eight Mile Rock under Magistrate Gwendolyn Clarke, who in summing up cautioned the jury to assess the evidence without prejudice or sympathy to establish the facts.
Mr Bowe’s wavering faith in the process, developed into disbelief, and later anger, he said, during the 2017 inquest. It was held from March to June 2017.
His stepson, Montase Armbrister, was 11-years-old at the time of the accident and was seated in the backseat with his two-month old sister Moriah. At the inquest, he testified that his mother was making a turn when the car hit them but did not remember anything after the initial impact. He also recalled his mother saying that a car was coming so fast.
On the stand, Mrs Williamson testified she was on the light at Pioneer’s Way and proceeded to cross after the light turned green when someone hit her. As for her injuries, her hair was cut and she had a bruise on her leg.
She further stated she was interviewed by officers two days after the accident; however, her police report is dated and signed in August. She also stated she was asked by a senior officer at the scene to come to his office on Monday morning; however, the officer denied this occurred during his testimony.
Most of the 16 witnesses called for the inquest were motorists in the vicinity of the crash, and supported the findings of the investigation by traffic police that Mrs Bowe had run the red light. Their testimonies held minor inconsistencies, with two witnesses giving contradicting testimony while others could not recall details clearly. However, two witnesses presented an alternative series of events: phone card vendor Franklyn Strachan and Bridgette Burrows.
Mr Strachan said the van had the green light when the Pontiac ran the light and slid into the van.
For her part, Ms Burrows said she was close to the intersection with only two cars in front of her. She claimed the light was on red and when it changed, the van proceeded to turn when the silver car came up with a lot of speed and hit the van. Ms Burrows further claimed that someone came out of the car and started to run to the back of the KFC area. She said the Pontiac was driving in the same direction as the van but the van made a right turn.
The jury found Mrs Bowe died as a result of misadventure due to running the traffic light. Mr Bowe refuses to accept the ruling and vowed to continue searching for what he believes is the truth.
Months later an official attached to the Ministry of National Security tells Mr Bowe that after reviewing his claims, he does not know what can be done.
The meeting was recorded and the official tells Mr Bowe: “They need to get with the Commissioner of Police and get a resolution. I don’t know at what level but it’s far above me. When I read it I said, boy it implicates so much more. Not that I don’t want to touch it but it’s like it should be dealt with at the highest level and not at the bottom.
“Everything what you said matched up.
“I can’t deal with it at my level. What I see Lord knows somebody have to sit down, you need to get a lawyer to represent your interests.”
Mr Bowe filed a civil suit for negligence on June 16, 2016, and named a senior Grand Bahamas officer, the police force, the coroner, Attorney General, Mrs Williamson, and her son Aaron Stubbs as defendants. He has also submitted an application to appeal the coroner’s ruling. However, he needs a lawyer to move things forward. It’s hard to solicit legal representation with sparse resources as a single parent.
“Well, I used to drive a taxi but things have been so slow in Grand Bahama,” Mr Bowe said, “I just do odd jobs. I get spousal benefits, it’s nothing much but, it’s a challenge. Day to day dealing with three young girls. The baby is six now, she was two months old when it happened.
He continued: “They always ask for their mom, especially the baby. The second one, she still sees the incident. Some days her mind goes so far, and she acts out every now and then.
He added: “I can’t let this go, I’m never going to give up. I’m going to keep fighting this.”
“For now, the files sit on the desk of Eucal Bonaby, chief counsel in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“We’re doing a review,” Mr Bonaby said, “not to determine whether anyone should be charged but to determine if anything went wrong that would require an investigation.
“I want to be clear because people may get the impression we’re investigating,” Mr Bonaby continued. We’re not making that determination because the matter didn’t come to us from police. After (Mr Bowe) came to us, we requested the file from our office in Freeport.
“I got the files early last year, sometime last year. Still trying to go through it. We are reviewing the matter.”
In the interim, Mr Bowe’s social media crusade has managed to sneak just under the viral radar - making its rounds in local Facebook groups, where heretics, academics and denizens of every socio-economic strata find common ground over a multiplicity of issues - real or imagined.
Mr Bowe said: “The judicial system over here is failing the average citizen, when you don’t have the funds to keep pursuing it. I’m trying to get public awareness that this could happen to anyone of us, anyone in our family. I want people to start speaking out, to stop being afraid and start speaking out.”
He challenged the government, or anyone, to sue him for defamation of character as he believes it’s the only way he’ll get a chance to air his claims in court.
“Only my kids have me going from not doing nothing stupid,” he added.
“It’s too much to see where the judicial system is failing us.”