This island paradise has a violent secret

It’s the sort of detail tourist brochures leave out and the last thing the locals want visitors to know.

The Caribbean island of St Lucia is blessed with sandy white beaches, beautiful crystal clear waters and a tranquil atmosphere that tens of thousands of tourists flock to each year to wind down and escape their busy lives.

But this slice of heaven is in fact one of the most violent places in the world with a murder rate of 19 per 100,000 people. That is 20 times that of the UK, while the Australian rate is just under 1 per 100,000.

Last year, 34 homicides were recorded. Most of the victims are locals, but ex-pats and tourists are also regularly caught up in the violence.

Much of it is fuelled by the drug trade. St Lucia is a transit point for cocaine heading from South America to the US or Europe and drug gangs are blamed for everything from carjackings, kidnappings, armed robberies and murders.

Robert Hathaway and wife Marquena James, who was sent a picture of his dead body.Source:Supplied

Marquena James and Robert Hathaway on their wedding day.Source:Supplied

Mr Hathaway died violently.Source:Supplied

The problem is intensified by the fact police continually fail to meet their own crime reduction targets and fewer than half of the recent murders have been solved. But the situation is even more grim in the courts system.

Trials have been delayed so long that families of victims and defendants wait years for them to go ahead, while the only criminal court has been shut down because staff believed security was substandard.

Meanwhile, the prison is bursting at the seams while the confidence locals have in law and their security drops further.

The St Lucia Government understands the need to separate stories about murder and violence away from the lucrative tourism industry which accounts for about 15 per cent of the island’s wealth.

It insists people are safe — but already in 2019 there has been a violent murder that has transfixed the island’s 179,000 residents and shone a light onto the criminal elements of St Lucia which are never too far away.

THE KILLING OF ROBERT HATHAWAY

Robert Hathaway was a well-known and colourful St Lucia identity. The tourism consultant had lived on the island since 2001. He had connections with local politicians, and was well known for his love of younger women.

At the time of his death on January 13, the 66-year-old was living with two women, known locally as Kim and Liz, who he variously told friends were his carers, or “bisexual” housemates.

Mr Hathaway wrote in a Facebook message to a friend of the unusual arrangement.

“One young gf (girlfriend) living with me alone would be bored witless, so this arrangement seems logical and two months in seems to work.

“It helps that they don’t like wearing clothes.”

St Lucia is a popular holiday destination for many.Source:Supplied

Few would realise the beautiful island had a crime problem.Source:Supplied

An island with a secret.Source:Supplied

A close friend told local media he was “infatuated with young girls; he loved them”.

“I think they brought him a lot of joy and comfort. It was just what he was into.”

Mr Hathaway’s estranged wife, Marquena James, 23, lived on another island and told UK newspaper The Times: “His weakness was always women.”

It’s believed the two young women found his body and ran from the home screaming and hysterical. But between then and the time police arrived, something strange happened — someone went into the home and took a picture of Mr Hathaway’s corpse.

It was sent to Ms James, who described its contents to The Times. It showed his naked body lying on blood-soaked sheets, a pillow over his face, a pair of boxer shorts lying across one leg.

Mr Hathaway and Ms James were married for a short time.Source:Supplied

Some jars and a spatula were beside him. Police believe the scene looked staged.

“The crime scene looks a fair bit staged from what has been seen and the pillow was placed on his face. We are trying to ascertain how it got there,” the spokesman said.

His 4×4 was found a 20-minute drive away and there was no sign of forced entry to the home.

A police spokesman told the UK Daily Telegraph they wanted to speak to the two bisexual women. But they were careful not to call them suspects.

“We are not accusing anyone at this stage, but we need to talk to these two, as they frequented the property.”

It was clear they believed there was a link between his brutal death and his complicated private family life.

“Bob Hathaway had many female friends, and we are looking at the possibility that one of their boyfriends could have killed him and set things up.”

A police spokeswoman said in a separate interview: “We are looking at every possibility, and Mr Hathaway’s relationship with local women is something we are investigating as a possible motive.”

Friends said he was a “great campaigner” who loved discussing politics. But police have zeroed in on his personal life.

The spokesman for the Royal St Lucia Police said: “Right now everyone is a suspect. We will pursue everybody connected with the deceased as is the case with all investigations. We will not relent until we find closure for the family.”

Roger and Margaret Pratt were attacked in 2014. Only Margaret survived.Source:Supplied

DEATH ISLAND

Mr Hathaway is the sixth British ex-pat to be killed on St Lucia in recent years.

Among other deaths were Roger Pratt, 63, who was battered to death, and Australian-British citizen Ollie Gobat, 38, who was gunned down with a bullet to the head in what is believed to have been a contract killing.

Mr Pratt had just arrived on St Lucia in January 2014, recently retired and on the trip of a lifetime with his wife Margaret.

Within days, he was dead.

The retired businessman was attacked by thieves who crept onto his yacht Magnetic Attraction and beat him so badly he was brain damaged. They left his body floating in the water.

Margaret Pratt was also badly beaten, but survived.

She told The Sunday Telegraph the latest murder of Robert Hathaway revived bad memories.

“There are great parallels in their lives and, seemingly, now their deaths. For them to share a similar fate, both murdered on this violent ‘paradise’ island shortly after taking their respective retirements, is hard to take.”

Mr Gobat, whose family had close ties to South Australia, was thought to have been targeted by organised crime. Homicide detectives believe a legitimate business deal threatened organised criminals who wanted real estate to launder money — so they had him removed.

Oliver Gobat pictured off the coast of St Lucia.Source:Supplied

The burnt out car in St Lucia linked to the murder of Oliver Gobat. Picture: 4 newsSource:Supplied

He was lured to a remote track and ambushed. It is probable someone he knew was involved. The exact chain of events is unknown, but what has been confirmed is the awful way he died.

Mr Gobat was doused in aviation fuel and set on fire in his luxury Range Rover and left to burn “beyond recognition”.

His body was found propped on the front passenger seat and the car locked from the outside. A post mortem found evidence of a “head trauma” — either a bashing or gunshot. His body was found in such bad condition he was only identified through DNA.

An inquest in 2015 later heard he had been worried about death threats and considered buying a gun, The Advertiser reported.

The killer or killers have never been found.

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