Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2019. 12:27 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Executive Director of the National Forensic Science Service (NFSS), Gian Cho, has defended his department’s actions in the case of missing person Anisha Young, 22, who disappeared a year ago last week.
Speaking to Channel 5 News, Cho confirmed that after the first sample from the hair extension which family members found last December was determined to be too degraded for a conclusive DNA identification at a lab in Mona, Jamaica, the NFSS sent a second sample to Cayman Islands Health Services Authority lab, for which preliminary and unconfirmed reports have been returned.
Cho stated, “If [the family] don’t feel that the two laboratories that we have sent the samples to, maintaining of course all our chain of custody requirements, if they still are not satisfied with our result they have the option to send it out to whichever lab they so choose. But I just want to make it clear that the NFSS, the forensic lab, that we, and we alone, in consultation with our partner agencies, the Belize Police Department, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, along with the Ministry of National Security, we decide where we send exhibits for police cases because they are police cases. We don’t need to seek approval from any private citizen whether it’s the victim or the accused. We decide because the forensic testing should be as objective as possible. We shouldn’t choose a lab because there is an affiliation to any one side, victim or accused.”
He also confirmed the discussion between the family, Police Commissioner Chester Williams and himself about sending the sample to a lab contacted in Los Angeles, California.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner said on Thursday that he was not aware of the recent situation with the DNA testing, except to say that Forensics, not Police, handles DNA testing.
Nevertheless, none of this resolves the family’s anguish. As stated at their press conference on Tuesday night through private investigator and activist Jose Luis Espat, they have reason to believe that Anisha is dead; they believe she was murdered; and they believe police know who did it.
However, can they prove it?
The family doesn’t think so for two reasons: 1) the handling of the case so far and the main suspect’s alleged “connections” in political and law enforcement circles; and 2) what they consider the mishandling of a sample of remains alleged to be Young’s, obtained from a shallow grave in the Maskall area last year.
Espat contends that the family should have been told of the decision to send the sample to the Cayman Islands lab. He said they had gone for a meeting this week after not hearing anything back for a few months and that was when they learned the sample had been sent out, without the family being informed.
“This is about closure for a family that has been grieving, who one year later, the entire country of Belize – this whole system, forensics, police, the justice system – cannot deliver closure and justice,” Espat said.
Espat also reviewed other potential evidence at the family press conference. Young and her partner had been out for the evening and she was last seen with him. According to Espat, their investigation uncovered a hair extension with traces of actual human hair identified by a hairdresser as similar to a style she did for Young, recovered from the Maskall grave. They believe that the killer or killers initially buried Young there, then removed her remains after the grave was discovered by Espat and other searchers.
Espat added that camera footage from establishments along the George Price Highway shows a particular vehicle, a black Nissan Altima, and another vehicle traveling up toward Maskall, and the owner of that vehicle has explained how it was involved.
With the DNA issue, the family has serious doubt as to whether the case will eventually be solved.
But, we asked Espat, why would police interfere in the investigation of the case, and what would the authorities have to gain? He responded that there is “probable cause” that they may be trying to protect the main suspect, who supposedly has high connections in the Government and Police.
Espat compared the case to the similar high-profile case of William “Danny” Mason, saying justice may be “selective” in that that case was impeccably handled and a conviction secured, but this one appears to have fallen by the wayside. He called for interference from on high to stop, the police to be allowed to investigate, and the courts to prosecute, for both Belizeans and tourists.
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