By Angela Levin
Sitting in her immaculate three-bedroom bungalow on Anglesey, Diane Davies thinks every day of her holiday in Barbados last winter. But she wishes she could forget it.
For this 62-year-old grandmother of nine, holiday memories don’t mean happy images of a paradise island with palm trees, white sand and warm seas.
Instead, she relives over and over the brutal rape she suffered in broad daylight in one of the island’s most exclusive areas.
Bruised and swollen: Diane Davies the day after her attack
Her anguish over this horrific attack is compounded by her treatment by the local police and victim-support personnel, which, at best, could be characterised as breathtakingly incompetent and, at worst, as callously indifferent.
Indeed, Diane, a widow, believes that the island’s authorities are more concerned about protecting the lucrative tourist industry than they are about seeking justice. It is for this reason, one year on, she has decided to break her silence and talk about her ordeal.
‘Initially I was utterly devastated and humiliated by what happened to me,’ she says. ‘But with the passing of time, I am now just very angry.
‘The Barbados police are totally inept at dealing with this sort of crime in both practical and pastoral ways.
More...British actress attacked by serial rapist in Barbados says island's police were 'only concerned with image for tourists'
‘Despite the fact that there had been a rape two days earlier in the exact location where I was attacked, there were no officers about or any warnings. I believe they try to brush the rapes under the carpet so as not to damage the overseas tourist market, which includes 250,000 British holidaymakers a year.
‘It works because many women feel too ashamed to talk about what happened to them.
But I want to speak out because people should be aware of the dangers.
‘The truth is that if a woman is raped in Barbados, she is unlikely to get the support she needs. There are almost no procedures in place and the police are way behind in how they tackle crime. I am also very disappointed with the British High Commission, which has done almost nothing to help me.
Ordeal: Diane was grabbed as she walked to this beach in Barbados
‘The police claimed they had arrested the man in May but, for reasons they refuse to reveal, they won’t let me identify him. So how does anyone know it is him? Instead he has been taken to court once a month ever since and the case is then adjourned. I believe it is just for show.’
Diane, originally from Manchester, has lived on Anglesey for 11 years. Her husband, Trevor, a pensions manager, died from pancreatic cancer in 2005 after 24 years of marriage. A year later she moved into her bungalow.
Two years ago, as her 60th birthday approached, Diane, a primary school teacher, decided to treat herself to a holiday. ‘I decided on Barbados not least because everything I read said how safe it was,’ she says. ‘I didn’t mind going on my own – I have always been independent. I rented a flat in a condominium for two weeks. It was very luxurious with the biggest swimming pool on site in Barbados.
‘It was in the Holetown district, near where the rich and famous, including Simon Cowell and Tony Blair, come to stay and close to the Sandy Lane Hotel. I made friends with couples at the condominium and enjoyed myself so much I decided to go back again last year and flew out on October 17.
‘I used to get up at 6am, go for a jog and then come back and swim in the pool. After lunch I’d walk to the beach, which was ten minutes away, and swim in the sea. I’d then usually meet a couple from Jersey for a drink on the beach and then walk back with them so I was home before 7pm. I stayed in every evening because that was the sensible thing to do.
‘On Monday, October 25, I was walking to the beach as usual at about 2pm in bright sunshine. I turned down a short pathway and at the end stood for a few moments, wondering whether to go to the left and swim with the turtles or to the right, when I suddenly felt a powerful arm grab me around the neck from behind and drag me backwards. I started to scream but the man put his hand over my mouth to stop me. I bit him.
‘He continued to drag me backwards over bits of glass and other debris until we got to what was a derelict hotel. He threw me on an old mattress and I started fighting him with all my strength because I was terrified he would kill me. He then grabbed the beach towel I had been carrying and held it over my face so I couldn’t breathe, which forced me to stop struggling. He was also holding down my shoulder so hard that I later discovered he had broken my collarbone. He suddenly picked me up and carried me to another empty room.
‘I am 5ft 4in and weigh just under 9st. He was black, tall and muscular in his mid-30s with a shaved head, a chubby, baby face and dressed only in white shorts. I was overpowered.
‘He then took off my sarong and bikini and raped me. I felt sure he would kill me because I had seen his face but suddenly remembered reading that it can help if you talk to a rapist so that they see you as a person rather than an object.
‘So I told him I was a 61-year-old grandmother with four children and nine grandchildren and felt he slightly softened. I think talking to him saved my life. When he had finished he said, “Make yourself decent but if you tell anyone about this I will kill you.” He then walked away.
‘I grabbed my clothes and staggered about 50 yards, where I came across an exclusive beach club and saw families happily swimming in a pool. It may sound silly but at that moment I felt so relieved that I was alive that I was strangely euphoric.
‘Many of them stared, shocked, at my face, which I hadn’t realised was bruised and swollen. Someone called the police and I sat waiting in a daze, unaware of any of my injuries.
‘Three police officers arrived shortly afterwards. They told me to get in the car and they would drive me around to see if I could see the rapist. Their attitude was totally clinical and not one said any word of sympathy. I didn’t see him, and after about an hour I was taken to the local police station where I waited another hour before being driven to see the female police doctor.
‘The doctor dressed the wounds on my legs from being dragged over glass, took a DNA swab and told me I was very bruised internally. I was then driven back to the station and, to my horror, left sitting outside in the back of the police car on my own for 45 minutes. I was so terrified that the rapist, who had threatened to kill me if I went to the police, might walk by and see me that I didn’t dare get out and walk into the police station. Lots of people peered into the window to look at me, which was awful. The insensitivity of the police was breathtaking.
‘Eventually I was driven back to my apartment for half an hour to have a bath, but my shoulder was hurting so badly I couldn’t wash or even brush my hair. The police then took me to the local hospital, where an X-ray showed I had a broken collarbone and two cracked ribs. I was also given anti-viral tablets in case the rapist was HIV-positive and a hepatitis B injection.’ (Diane subsequently tested negative for HIV.)
‘While I was there, Joanne Carey from the British Consulate came to see me. She told me that the police had only just told her that another British woman, who was in her 20s, had been raped at the same spot two days earlier. I later discovered there are at least 55 known rapes on the island a year – 13 in the past year in the spot where I was attacked.’
Diane have bravely waived her anonymity to expose her treatment after the attack which left her fearing for her life
In fact, according to the Royal Barbados Police Force website, there were 169 incidents of rape, indecent assault and assault with intent to rape in 2010.
‘The next day at 5.30pm I was driven to the police station to give a statement,’ Diane continues. ‘I was questioned for five-and-a-half hours without being offered any food or drink in 86F [30C] heat. My questioner was a female police officer who plainly didn’t know what she was doing and kept asking me the same questions over and over again while she constantly checked a police manual.
‘By 11pm I was in agony with my shoulder and asked if I could go home, not least to take a painkiller. The officer turned to me and said, “It’s not easy for me, you know. I have to do my tour of duty after I have finished with you.” I was speechless at her lack of compassion.
‘Later on, I was again taken to the police station, this time for an identity parade. The rapist wasn’t there, which was lucky in one way as all the men were led right past me as they went out and could identify me.’
On another visit to the hospital, she was left in the casualty department while a victim-support officer went off to chat to her friends.
‘I was absolutely terrified and totally vulnerable about what might happen to me.’ She catches her breath. ‘Please put this in. People need to know how they treat their visitors in Barbados.’
She was being taken back to her condominium by police when they stopped at a shopping mall where she had to sit waiting while a female police officer went to buy a T-shirt.
Diane flew home on Sunday, October 31. ‘My sister and youngest son Gary came to Manchester Airport to meet me and when I saw them I burst into tears. It is very unlike me but I was so relieved to get home.’
She was told by the police tourism officer and the British Consulate that she would be kept up-to-date with her case, but Diane says that unless she pesters the individuals concerned, she hears nothing.
Her experiences chime with those of another British woman whose story was made public earlier this year. Former actress Hilary Heath was the victim of a rape in Barbados in 2004 and said that police had seemed more interested in protecting the island’s reputation.
‘Both the police and the Consulate are inept,’ Diane says. ‘I am so angry that no one has taken what happened to me seriously or realises the impact it has had on my life. My collarbone has never healed and living with it is a terrible reminder. I will no longer go abroad or go out in the evening, and wherever I walk during the day I am constantly looking anxiously over my shoulder.
‘I have submitted a complaint to the Police Complaints Authority in Barbados. Last week, after months, I received a reply from the chairman saying they can’t investigate my complaint because my case is pending before the courts. What nonsense. I was complaining about procedure, not the case itself. I’m going to keep on. I want justice and to know they haven’t dragged anyone off the street just to make a charge.
‘It is also hard to believe that throughout my experience no police officer or victim-support worker asked me if I was all right or showed any sympathy. All I was doing was walking to the sea at 2pm on a beautiful day. It never occurred to me that I could be raped close to a luxury estate on a paradise island yards from where celebrities stay. But if a 61-year-old can be raped, it is a dangerous place for women of any age.’
A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘We updated our travel advice at the time to warn British nationals that attacks had taken place in the area. We continue to monitor levels of crime in Barbados, in line with our global policy in order to ensure that travel advice remains accurate and up-to-date.’
Paul Brummell, British High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said: ‘In July, we organised and sponsored a conference in Barbados for some 34 police officers across the Caribbean on Supporting Victims Of Sexual Assault, with participation from four Barbadian officers. We are supporting a programme in the UK later this month for ten Caribbean police officers to deepen their understanding of UK practice in the support of victims of sexual assault.’
The police in Barbados were not available for comment.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
I was viciously raped on this Barbados beach but local police cared more about protecting tourism, says brave British grandmother
By Angela Levin