Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rhode Island man guilty in British Virgin Islands scuba death of wife

A Rhode Island man who killed his wife in the British Virgin Islands while scuba diving was convicted of murder by a BVI court Tuesday, October 27. After a three week trial and only a few hours of deliberation, David Swain, now 53, was convicted in the murder of Shelly Tyre on March 12, 1999. Swain and Tyre had been married for 6 years before Tyre's murder, but Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Terrence Williams said that the defendant wanted to kill Tyre to be with his mistress Mary Basler.

“He liked her body, mind and face…You saw Mary, she is not short of looks…Mary and Shelley knew each other as they dived together. So it was too close for comfort…This was no man looking for only physical intimacy, but to move on with a new life partner…But he wanted the money too…So if he divorced Shelley he get nothing.”

Williams, in his closing arguments Monday, said that Swain knew that their was an issue with his wife's mask, and did not do everything in his power to save her after she was in trouble - particulary when he failed to perform CPR or call "Mayday."

“Her struggle that day was a fatal struggle after she was attacked by Swain when he deprived her of air and hold her down…He (Swain) thought that he could have held the truth under the blanket of the ocean, like he held down her body, but you cannot hold down the truth. This is a case where someone thought they committed the perfect murder but the truth always benefits from good fortunes and one such good fortune is a slip of tongue by Mr. Swain himself.”

“Until this day I cannot understand what Mr. Swain was saying - how if he had continued to do more CPR he would have put the occupants of the boat at danger. I cannot understand that until now….Others who were not related to Shelley tried…and there is the husband who is a trained EMT, saying no further use she is dead and Pan Pan…taking his own time.”

Pan-pan is a term stating that there is a safety or medical issue at sea which does not pose an immediate threat to life or vessels, but which needs to be monitored.

Meanwhile, Swain’s Lawyer Hayden Sinclair Douglas during his closing arguments earlier on Monday said that while the letters sent to Basler by Swain does not paint him in a flattering light, the jurors need to ask themselves if they get from it that he wanted to be with Basler at any cost including killing his wife.

Douglas said that there was a determination by both Tyre and Swain to fix their marriage since they were having problems with Tyre’s job which resulted in them not seeing much of each other. He said a resolution was made by Tyre getting a job closer to home. “The point I want you to get is that Swain said that there was a move in the right direction to rectify the void taking place…Was there any evidence that Swain was given an ultimatum which would caused him desperation on his financial things…Swain said they would find way to fix the marriage and they did.”

He also said that the autopsy was inadequately done which left it open to various possibilities which could have led to Tyre’s death under the water, and could have included her getting a heart attack or stroke which led her to panic and drown. Douglas said they were not eliminated.

The victim's father, Richard Tyre, made his victim impact report, showing how Swain betrayed their trust when he killed their daughter. After the murder, when their daughter's death seemed to be an accident, the Tyre's still suported their former son-in-law. After the verdict, he made this statement.

 The intelligence, concern, integrity and the efficiency, the way the court behaved impressed us immensely. And the second thing is that we watched the jury for these 21 days and the intensity of their attention and the way they listened carefully to the evidence made us feel very good. The third thing is that we feel extremely good that people like David Swain won’t be able to hurt anymore women…We are just happy with how the court and jury behaved and with the BVI justice system.

Swain's sentencing will be November 4. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, but the presiding Judge, Justice Indra Hariprashad Charles, has the authority to set a minimum term before parole eligibility.

(Update 11-12-09) Swain was sentenced to 25 years minimum in prison two days ago. WIth time served, this means the earliest he can go before a parole board is in 23 years. This minimum sentence was what Principal Crown Counsel Mrs. Grace Henry-McKenzie asked for.

Last Wednesday during a hearing, his Lawyer Hayden St. Clair-Douglas told the court that Swain who will be 54 on November 20, served four years as a Council person in his hometown, Jamestown. He said that he can anticipate that his client will not have any behavioural infraction during his time in prison and will turn out to be a model prisoner.

Douglas had requested of the court to allow his client to go before the Parole Board in the next 17 years where he can request to be paroled.

The Lawyer also presented to the Judge some 40 character statements on behalf of Swain which were sent via emails and letters describing him as a kind and giving person. Statements were also submitted from his two children who also expressed hope that the court would allow him to go before the Parole Board at an early stage.

Judge Charles' explanation for her decision is as follows:

  Mr. Swain I could have sentenced you to a sentence of life imprisonment with eligibility for parole in 30 years in keeping with the UK laws.” However, the Judge said that when she took all matters into consideration, she decided to sentence him to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole in 25 years. The Judge added “because of your good behavior, I will less the time spent on remand. It is the best I can do in this situation. I am bond by the jury’s decision.

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