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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable