The Trinidad and Tobago police service (TTPS) today issued a statement that they would be investigating the deaths of two suspects, Andrew Morris and Joel Belcon, while in police custody. The two men were held in connection with the kidnapping and death of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt, whose body was found on 4 February in the Heights of Aripo.
The Police Complaints Authority is also conducting its own probe into the death of the two men.
In a statement on 3 February 2021, posted to the official Facebook page of the commissioner of police Gary Griffith, the police announced that one of the suspects, Andrew Morris, had died after more than 18 hours in police custody on 31 January.
Morris had first been apprehended from his home at 3.30am on 31 January and later taken to the Arima hospital at 10pm the same day, police said. The statement also claimed that Morris had refused medical attention and all meals while in custody. He drank only juice and water during the day, TTPS said.
According to the TTPS, at his home, Morris resisted arrest and fell while officers attempted to subdue him. He would later fall two more times while at hospital, according to police.
“[…] While being attended to at the hospital, Morris who was seated on a chair, fell over and had to be assisted. He later went to another room to give a urine sample and again fell and had to be assisted. He was subsequently taken to the emergency room for treatment where he was pronounced dead around 12:45 am on February 1st by Dr Chunie Singh.”
In the statement on 15 February, Griffith denied that either he or any officer had linked Morris’ death to falling off a chair.
“I have heard comments about a prisoner dying after falling from a chair. At no time did any police officer or myself, say that an individual died because he fell from a chair. That never took place,” he said.
Two autopsies have been conducted on Morris’ body: the first on 8 February by the Forensic Science Centre and a second private postmortem performed at the Simpson’s funeral home on 9 February.
Pathologist Professor Hubert Daisley completed the second examination and wrote that there were multiple injuries due to blunt force trauma on Morris’ face, skull, chest, back, abdomen and limbs.
He also noted several fractured ribs, bruising and haemorrhaging of the lungs and abdomen and acute failure of the kidneys.
Daisley concluded that the blunt force trauma Morris sustained would have caused a flail chest, which occurs when a segment of the rib cage breaks detaches from the rest of the chest wall, haemorrhaging of the lungs and bruising of the heart. These injuries, he said, were fatal if not treated promptly.
He added the skull injuries Morris sustained were also fatal.
“He would have promptly gone into unconsciousness, aspirated and died,” Daisley wrote. “He could not have survived for more than 20 minutes with these multiple injuries.”
(Full Statement from the TTPS on 3 February 2021)
Andrew Morris, 35, one of the suspects in the kidnapping of Andrea Bharrat (sic), died at the Arima Hospital around 12.45 am on 1st February 2021.
According to investigators, members of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) went to Morris’ home at Tumpuna Road, Arima, around 3.30 am on 31st January where they informed him of the kidnapping report and that he was under arrest.
Investigators said that Morris immediately began to act violently when the attempt was made to arrest him. During his attempt to resist arrest, Morris reportedly fell on the ground and in so doing also caused an officer to fall.
Morris continued to struggle with the officers and resisted efforts to subdue him. Morris was eventually subdued and was allowed to put on clothing by his wife. He was offered medical attention however he responded, ‘I is a big man I good’.
Morris remained in police custody during that day while he assisted with the investigation. During this time, he was offered meals including lunch and dinner to which he refused. He however accepted only water and juice which he consumed.
Morris was offered to see a doctor at the hospital again during the day, however, he again refused stating that he was ok. He was allowed to use the toilet and washroom facility.
In accordance with the standard operating procedure of the TTPS, before he could be lodged at the station pending further enquiries, Morris had to be taken to the hospital in order to obtain a medical report. He was taken to the Arima Hospital around 10 pm on the said day. The other officers who sustained injuries were also taken to the hospital.
While being attended to at the hospital, Morris who was seated on a chair, fell over and had to be assisted. He later went to another room to give a urine sample and again fell and had to be assisted.
He was subsequently taken to the emergency room for treatment where he was pronounced dead around 12:45 am on 1 February 2021. Investigators were informed that Morris was hypertensive and diabetic.
Four other suspects remain in custody. Investigations are continuing.