CORONER’S FILE: Death after secret trip
This new series expands on some of the verdicts delivered by Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris following hearings into unnatural deaths across the island.
A day after an attempted drug smuggling, Ryan Antonio Gibson’s body mysteriously washed ashore in St Lucy on January 22, 2005.
While investigators associated Gibson with the drug trade and noted his frequent to St Vincent, Trinidad, Colombia, St Lucia, Jamaica, Venezuela and St Maarten, the court did not make a definite link between him and the wrecked drug landing. The following is an edited version of the verdict delivered by Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris into Gibson’s death.
Ryan Antonio Gibson, 28, aka “Bears” of Advent Avenue, Bank Hall, St Michael, was found floating about 150 feet north of the Arawak Cement Plant jetty in St Lucy on January 22, 2005.
He was last seen by relatives on December 17, and at that time, without going into any details, Gibson informed them he was going overseas.
All they knew was that he subsequently telephoned his sister Chandra Gibson informing her he was in St Vincent. Although the two were very close, as she said, he did not tell her where he was staying.
Ryan had no steady job and only accompanied his father, who was a painter, on the odd occasion, but he possessed several items of gold jewellery and dressed very well.
In addition he travelled quite often to St Vincent.
Records from the Immigration Department showed he had also made several trips to Trinidad, St Lucia, Jamaica, Venezuela, St Maarten as well as Colombia. In some cases there were departures dates, but no record of return.
Gibson’s father, Roy Small, with whom he resided, as well as Chandra, both spoke of the deceased’s close association with a well known drug lord with which they heartily disapproved.
Indeed Gibson’s father had threatened to evict him from his home if he continued to associate with this man who it was alleged dealt in marijuana and cocaine. He also forbade him from associating with his followers and having them around his house.
Although the group no longer visited or made contact with Ryan at home, the family was well aware that he still remained in close contact with these people. Small and Chandra were also concerned about his frequent trips to St Vincent and that he would travel there by plane and return by boat. They suspected illegal drug activity.
Chandra spoke of one occasion, during September 2000, when Ryan went missing on a boat at sea. He later recounted that he was on his way back
to Barbados with some other men when the boat’s engine failed and they were rescued by a Colombian ship which took them to Colombia and he had to wait there until he could get papers to get back to Barbados.
Efforts to verify this were unsuccessful.
However, Immigration records revealed that Gibson flew to Colombia on February 11, 2000, and returned from there on February 21.
As a result of the family’s profound disapproval of his activities, he ceased to give them any details of his movements.
The family suspected, but could not confirm his activities, and Ryan’s girlfriend Michelle Harding who had a daughter for him would only confirm that he smoked marijuana and that he did have a close association with the known drug lord.
Ryan left Barbados on December 17, 2004, for St Vincent, his fourth trip for the year 2004. He called Harding on Christmas Eve to enquire about his daughter.
Harding got no details as they exchanged angry words and she hung up on him. Ryan Gibson also phoned his sister Chandra on December 26 informing her that he was in St Vincent and would return to Barbados in the New Year.
On January 21, the night before Gibson’s body was found, there was a drug landing at North Point, St Lucy, not far from the location of his body.
Because of extremely rough seas the drug vessel was wrecked and several bales of marijuana were recovered by the Drug Squad.
Two Vincentians nationals were taken into custody and charged with drug trafficking.
Body in water
The following night a young man who was fishing off the jetty of the Arawak Cement Plant spotted a body in the water and police were called in. The body had several lacerations and one major wound to the head. This body was positively identified as Ryan Gibson by his brother Gilbert Gibson and girlfriend Michelle.
The post mortem report revealed that he died as a result of drowning. However, although there was no empirical evidence linking him to the drug landing and the two Vincentians denied any knowledge of the circumstances of his death, ongoing police investigations at the time did link Gibson with the illegal drug trade and indeed the manner of his movements in and out of the island as well as his associates did suggest such a link.
Nevertheless, there is insufficient evidence to link his demise with the actions of any people who were aboard the drug-laden vessel wrecked at North Point, St Lucy, the night before discovery of Gibson’s body.
Verdict: accidental death by drowning.