Travolta to testify over death of teenage son

Actor to take stand in Bahamas against paramedics accused of blackmail

Preparing to break his silence over the death of his teenage son and brave awkward questions about the Church of Scientology, John Travolta is set to give evidence in a bizarre blackmail trial which opened yesterday involving paramedics who tried to save the boy's life.

The actor, whose 16-year-old son Jett suffered a fatal seizure at their holiday home in the Bahamas, has returned to the scene of the tragedy for the first time, and is expected to appear as star witness in the trial of two locals implicated in a $25m [£15m] extortion plot.

Mr Travolta is on a list of 14 witnesses scheduled to testify against Tarino Lightbourne, a local ambulance driver who performed CPR on the dying boy, and Pleasant Bridgewater, a lawyer and former member of the Bahamian senate who stands accused of acting as his accomplice.

The duo were caught on tape demanding millions of dollars from the actor in exchange for a legal document relating to Jett's treatment. Prosecutors say they threatened to sell it to the media if no cash was forthcoming.

"Contact was made with certain persons to communicate a threat to John Travolta," said Bernard Turner, the country's chief prosecutor, in his opening arguments in the Nassau courtroom yesterday.

The document at the centre of the case is a liability release form signed by Travolta on 2 January, in the chaotic moments after an ambulance arrived to treat Jett, who had been found unconscious in a bathroom.

It released the ambulance's crew from responsibility should Travolta prevent his son being transported to hospital. However, the form's contents are largely irrelevant, since Jett was taken almost immediately to Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport.

Mr Lightbourne and Ms Bridgewater are nonetheless accused of attempting to sell the document a fortnight later, when questions were being asked over the influence the Church of Scientology – to which the Travoltas belong – may have had on the way Jett was treated.

The teenager, who died after losing consciousness and hitting his head on a bathtub, had a history of seizures. The Travolta family say he suffered from Kawasaki disease, a rare condition which causes inflammation of small and medium size arteries.

However Kawasaki disease rarely affects children over eight years old, and is seldom fatal. As a result, some medical experts speculated that Jett had been suffering from an acute form of autism – a condition not recognised by Scientologists.

This week's trial will see Mr Lightbourne accused of exploiting that controversy by persuading Ms Bridgewater to contact a lawyer for the Travoltas, and demand $25m for the return of the liability form. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.

It isn't entirely clear why they thought Travolta would be willing to pay so much to prevent the liability form becoming public: regardless of the controversy surrounding Jett's treatment, it had little bearing on his death.

The actor and his wife, Kelly Preston, have been keeping a low profile since the tragedy and have not returned to the holiday home where it occurred.

Mr Travolta is believed to be staying at a gated community close to where the trial is taking place.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week