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Integrity of Coroner’s Court Questioned

A Coroner’s Court jury yesterday was seemingly swayed by Coroner William Campbell into an open verdict in the probe into the fire death of Nicola Gibson, who was romantically involved with a dirty Catholic priest.

Gibson was found dead following a fire at her Faith Avenue apartment sometime around 5:00am on July 21, 2006.

It is not understood why there is even a jury in a court where the Coroner is going to tell them how to decide the case.

The jury was only given two options in the case – suicide and an open verdict. They chose an open verdict because they believed that the woman did not commit suicide but they were unable to make a determination as to the real cause of the woman’s death.  That, of course, is what the Coroner’s Court is supposed to do.

The jury took only one hour to decide that there was something suspicious about Ms Gibson’s death, but they were only given the two options and therefore were denied the opportunity to reach any of the 6 other verdicts that should have been open to them.

It is also reported by the Nassau Guardian that the jury “decided” that the police investigation into the matter was “not as thorough to aid in a verdict of suicide.”

In other words the cops were incompetent in investigating the case.

But even that decision wasn’t really decided by the jury at all.

In his summation to the jury, Coroner Campbell decided for them that there was no evidence to link Father Cooper to the fire at Gibson’s apartment.

He explained to the jury, that at the time of that incident, evidence clearly revealed that Father Cooper was in the hospital.

That doesn’t exactly mean that he wasn’t involved, it only means he had, or created, an alibi.

Coroner Campbell said that he was amazed that the police overlooked such detail. “They were barking up the wrong tree, not looking at circumstances that caused her death,” Campbell said. “I don’t see any evidence pointing to him.”

Shouldn’t that be something the jury decides on their own, rather than being told how to decide?

If Mr Campbell criticises the police for sloppy invetigative work, how can he then be so sure that their investigation was thorough enough to exonerate the priest?

Catholic priest Father David Cooper was indeed the interested party in the matter. He was represented by attorneys Alfred Sears and Jeffrey Lloyd.

The dirty priest admitted in court that he had an intimate relationship with the deceased.

According to evidence given in court, the fire was intentionally set. Ms Gibson suffered from first-degree burns and had carbon monoxide poisoning. A pathologist report revealed that she was drug free and she suffered no trauma to the body.

More mysteriously, her body was found in an upstairs bedroom, yet only certain portions of that room had fire damage. Clearly her body had been moved to that room after she was unconscious or dead. A fire was also set at the bedroom door of her son’s room.

Most telling, the evidence revealed that there was no forced entry into the home.

Conveniently, Father Cooper, who admitted to police that he had visited Ms Gibson the night of her death, was found unconscious at the rectory of Holy Family Church on Robinson and Claridge roads almost two hours before, sometime around 3:00am. The church had also been set on fire.

There was no forced entry into the rather secure church building either.  In fact, police officers had to use special tools to enter the area. Father Cooper was then taken to the hospital.

Curiously, Coroner Campbell asserted that the police investigation did not “bear fruit or the kind of fruit that would tell us this is the cause of death.”

Then how can be so sure that the priest was not involved?  No one is suggesting that he was involved, but it would seem that there might need to be further investigation before coming to that conclusion.

After the Coroner’s Court decision, Father Cooper and his attorney did not speak with the media.

This is not the first time that the proceedings of a Coroner’s Court in The Bahamas have gone awry. A  most notable occassion was the detah of Anna Nicole Smith’s son, Daniel.  Then, the government of The Bahamas was terribly concerned that a Coroners Court might expose that government employees may have helped supply illegal drugs to Howard Stern and young Daniel.

They were also concerned that the whole affair was having a negative effect on the island chain’s image.

The Coroner at that time, Linda Virgill, was admonished for even suggesting that there was anything suspicious about Daniel’s death. She was stripped of her exclusive designation of coroner and the government abolished the special Coroner’s Court.

In this most recent case of Nicola Gibson, the government brought back a pliable old ally in William Campbell.  Campbell has been accused of “toeing the line” – allegedly rendering, or convincing a jury to render, decisions that appear to be in line with the government’s official view.

And Mr Campbell certainly did not disappoint in the case of Ms Gibson.

Of all the competent people in The Bahamas available for this assignment, why did the government drag Mr Campbell from retirement just to handle this case?

The entire exercise was a waste of time, as was the faux police investigation.  Of course, the woman was murdered.  It did not take the time and expense of a Coroner’s Court charade to determine that.

Who killed her, or exactly how she was killed should have been the focus of both the police investigation and the Coroners Court.

The Catholic Church spends millions of dollars every year covering up the henious crimes of their priests, from child molestation to murder.  It is not a stretch to wonder if pressure was put on people in government to make sure that a Catholic priest does not get implicated in a murder in The Bahamas.  That type of international news would not bode well for the Church or the Bahamas.

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