A lonely death in paradise

Bermuda's crime- free good life has been shattered by the death of Liz Cadell. Now friends are asking: did her boyfriend ignore her cries for help? And could he have saved her?
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The Independent Culture
Among those who know, or believe they know, Bermuda is shorthand for the good life. Sun. Crystal blue water. Vanilla-coloured sand. Tax haven. Sixty thousand residents, and barely a crime. A slice of paradise colonised by Britain, complete with Marks & Spencer, red letter boxes, and a pub called the Robin Hood.

Talk about Bermuda with any one of her 8,000 British expatriates and you will also hear nothing but enthusiasm. For ambitious bankers, journalists, and businessmen prepared to work hard, there are glistening rewards. The career trajectory can be rapid, particularly for British journalists, a successful stint on Bermuda's daily newspaper The Royal Gazette is often viewed as a stepping stone to Fleet Street.

Berkshire-born Liz Cadell knew this when she arrived in Bermuda in 1988 to work on the Gazette and its sister weekly, The Mid Ocean News. Regarded as bright, smart and ebullient, Cadell, a keen sportswoman, was also considered a sharp reporter and sub-editor. "She was very down to earth, pragmatic, a lot of fun," said a colleague who asked not to be identified. "I sat next to Liz for a few years. She was a very vivacious girl. I never saw a darker side, and in the newspaper business you work very closely."

She appeared that way to everyone who knew her. And yet on May 31 last year Liz Cadell, aged 33, took 150 aspirin and died of an overdose.

Her death followed the end of her engagement to British police officer Tony Bukhari. Last week, just over a year after her death, Bukhari, 32, was charged with manslaughter by negligence.

The woman who made a living writing about the exploits of others became a headline, and the story has been the subject of talk among the tight- knit expat community.

At the core of all discussion is not just the tragic loss of Cadell, but the extraordinary legal issues surrounding the charge against Bukhari. He has not been charged with committing a pre-meditated crime, but rather, failing to act. Police allege that in his failure to respond to Cadell's calls or seek medical help, he is culpable.

The story of Liz Cadell begins ten years ago, when she arrived in Bermuda to work as a reporter, and carved a name for herself covering sports stories.

Cadell, a keen tennis player and netballer, (she captained the Gazette tennis team), was, said colleagues, well regarded among the sporting community.

After meeting Bukhari, the Cheshire born son of a Pakistani father and English mother, she moved in with him in 1991.

"They were a really happy couple," says her Gazette colleague, who added that she had never heard, as was subsequently reported, that Liz's relatives did not fully accept him. "The couple were popular, but there weren't part of Bermuda's party-goer scene. They socialised amongst his friends and hers."

The British expat scene functions on two levels in Bermuda: professional class (reporters, bankers, police) and entrepreneurs who relocate to Bermuda as a tax haven.

Among the former, Cadell and Bukhari were well liked. Life for Brits in the UK's oldest colony is comfortable (although they are touchy about reports which described them as "spoilt"), and despite being 600 miles from the US east coast, Bermuda's culture and economy are quintessentially British.

According to friends, both Bukhari and Cadell felt very at home there, and Bob Anes, a Gazette sub-editor and close friend of Cadell's, said the couple were devoted to each other.

"They were very affectionate. I saw them at a party a year before her death and he never left her side. Tony was very attentive to Liz."

Her colleague adds: "When I knew Liz, her relationship with Tony seemed to be going smoothly. There was no trouble until the last year, when it became clear things might not be all she wanted, but then all relationships ebb and flow. I know she wanted to marry Tony, return to London and work in antiques. She did not plan to return to newspapers."

In fact, unbeknown to Bukhari, in the year before her death Cadell began an affair with a Gazette colleague. "Most people knew of the affair but tried to keep it quiet because they knew she was living with Tony."

According to a report submitted to the inquest in March 1997, Bukhari learned of the affair after the couple became engaged. "Whilst on holiday in May 1997, Miss Cadell confided to Bukhari that she had been involved in an affair for approximately one year. Bukhari's response was to call off the wedding."

Friends have said that Cadell did become more quiet at work, but they did not ask questions. "I was not aware the wedding was off, she was private about those matters," said Anes.

Then Cadell was found naked and dead in the bedroom of her Harvey Hill Road flat on May 31, with part of the phone cord around her neck. Police records revealed a note was left which read: "I know I've let you down badly, I don't think there is any way I can make it up to you. So perhaps it is best if I disappear and let you get on with your life without me."

When Bukhari was later interviewed by police, he told them he had finished a shift at midnight, gone drinking, then to the home of another friend, where he stayed until 4.30am, before returning home. He told police that he had woken at 11am, and Cadell had told him she had swallowed 150 aspirin at 8.30am. He advised her to drink salt water and make herself vomit. He said she seemed to have recovered, and they made love at 1pm, after which he went out jogging. In his police statement he said that on his return, Cadell was dead.

It emerged that Cadell had paged Bukhari three times during the night, and he had not responded. At the inquest parts of Bukhari's version of events were disputed.

Dr Valerie Rao, a pathologist with the Dade County Medical Examiners office in Florida, gave evidence that Bukhari's claim that he made love to Cadell at 1pm could not be correct. "She was dead by one o'clock in the afternoon." And she added signs of aspirin poisoning are obvious. "If she had been taken to the hospital, she could have survived."

The inquest was also told that Bukhari had completed a first aid course and knew not to induce vomiting in cases of overdose.

The court learned that Bukhari attempted suicide after Cadell's death. Friend and police officer David Allen testified that he rushed Bukhari to hospital earlier this year after he swallowed 40 pills and left a suicide note in his police barracks accusing authorities of "stitching me up".

"Ever since Liz's death he just wasn't his normal self," said his friend. "He used to mention how upset he was. He couldn't believe Liz had done this and he found it difficult to accept that she wasn't going to be around."

Before the inquest concluded however, the Attorney General decided to charge Bukhari with manslaughter by negligence. Bukhari was charged in Hamilton Magistrates Court, bailed on US$10,000, ordered to surrender his passport, and report to police three times a week. A trial is expected to be scheduled for late in the year.

Unable to return to Britain, Bukhari is also without employment. His lawyer Delroy Duncan confirmed that Bermuda police have not renewed his contract.

Duncan, who is also a British expatriate, said his client's defence rests on the question of whether Bukhari owed Liz Cadell a duty of care in the circumstances. He maintains that Bukhari was not liable, and was therefore not guilty of neglect.

Duncan said today Bukhari is bearing up well, considering he faces up to 20 years in prison for failing to respond to his girlfriend's pages.

"He has been depressed, distraught. He considered their relationship a good one, and he still intended to marry her. He told me he wanted a break, and did intend to renew the relationship."

Cadell, too, had been intending to marry. She had changed her will to make Bukhari the beneficiary to her pounds 200,000 estate. The will was later ruled invalid and her estate goes to her family.

As for the expat community galvanised by this case, they are, despite the busy rumour mill, not taking sides, according to Gary Sheppard, owner of the Robin Hood pub. "I believe the Brits here know there is a discrepancy in the stories, and all they really want to know is the truth."