By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AS Italian officials downplay the possibility of foul play in the deaths of two Bahamians, the men’s mothers find it difficult to believe their deaths could have been accidental.
The women spoke to The Tribune yesterday as officials scramble to piece together the mystery of how two men with promising prospects died.
Firefighters retrieved the remains of diplomat Alrae Ramsey, 29, from the Po River in Turin, Italy, on Tuesday. Blair John’s corpse was recovered yesterday from the same river.
Cathleen Rahming, 52, John’s mother, said: “It’s difficult to believe it was an accident because of what my person on the ground said they saw when they went to look at my son. They were very guarded, they were very careful about what they told me because they wanted to protect me. But my son is very, very fit. He’s a strong swimmer and I know him well enough to know that no, he had no reason to go out this way.”
Ms Rahming’s daughter travelled from London to Turin on represent the family.
However, Turin’s police chief, Giuseppi de Matheis found it difficult to believe the men were victims of crime.
“Given the seriousness of the situation,” he said, “the outcome of the autopsy is crucial, therefore it will be carried out as soon as possible. Currently, it can be ruled out that apparent injuries may have been the cause of death. If (the autopsy) does not clarify the doubts on the death dynamic, the Italian police team in charge of the case will examine phone records, credit cards and debit card records.”
Ramsey, a foreign service officer on study leave in Vienna, was reportedly in Turin on a break. He and his friend, John, were staying at a bed and breakfast establishment at Via la Loggia 2 in Turin.
John, a 28-year-old Saint Mary’s University graduate student, was there to attend a psychology conference.
“What happened was it was a competition that started with speeches and information on psychology and after winning the competition he went to Italy to represent the university to present his research and findings in psychology,” his mother said.
John, however, never presented his research last week Friday as was expected.
“He attended day one of the conference which was Thursday but he didn’t show up on Friday or Saturday and his whole purpose was for that,” Ms Rahming said.
John had spent two days in London visiting his sister before travelling to Italy. His mother discovered something was wrong last week when Ramsey’s mother called her.
“Alrae’s mom called me asking whether or not I had heard from Blair,” she said. “We knew they would be together and it was very out of character for them not to keep in touch with their moms in particular, especially when they’re travelling so that was a red flag.”
Ms Rahming’s last communication with her son was last week Wednesday at 5.11am. “He texted me to let me know he was waiting on the train to go into Turin. I told him, ‘I plead the blood of Jesus over you, I pray that God gives you great success in your endeavours and I love you my son.’
“He was home for the Christmas holidays,” she said. “He was looking forward to the day when he would officially become a doctor. I remember him saying this a long time being in school, ‘I can’t wait to be finished with this.’ In fact, he was very excited about going on this trip because he did a countdown. ‘Monday I have x amount of days, y amount of days,’ he would say.”
John was the oldest of his mother’s three children.
“My son was a very loving, a very, very focused, a very aggressive, a very affectionate, magnetic person who only wanted to do good and eventually come back home and do good for his country. That was his plan. He studied psychology for more than one reason, one of the main reasons was he realised the importance of getting into the mind so he wanted to be in a position where he could improve people mentally because most things begin in the mind and then trickle down to the other areas so he was very concerned about the way the human being functioned mentally. He was done with all his classes. His sister was studying in London and he went there. He then went to Rome and took photos. He was doing selfies and sending them to me from the different landmarks.”
Ms Rahming said she has relatives in Italy trying to uncover what happened.
“I’m really not looking forward to anything, not excited about even knowing what happened but I want to know as much details about what may have happened as possible,” she said. “I need that. Not just for my son but for anybody who may even be travelling in that area, they need to know what is going on so we can send out a clarion sound for Bahamians or even people of colour to be careful going in that area. Two ideas I have in my head are robbery or their colour or maybe even to get their documents to travel because their bags are still missing.”
For her part, Anita Ramsey, Alrae Ramsey’s mother, said she is trying to piece together what happened as well. “I don’t know for sure but I’m working with the government to see what happened,” she said. “Everybody who knows my son knows he was a gem. He was a people’s person and educated. Obviously something went amiss because he’s not a boy to get involved with anything untoward. The minister came to my house, the permanent secretary came to my house, they’re all working with me.”
In the House of Assembly yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said Ramsey had been employed at the ministry since December 9, 2013. He was posted at the Bahamas Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as the third secretary/vice-consul in 2016-2017.
“Then, last year, he was granted an in-service award to pursue a one-year postgraduate diploma programme in diplomacy/international relations and languages at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna in Austria for the period September 2018 - June 2019,” he said.