Plot thickens in Travolta extortion case

Police in the Bahamas are deepening their investigation into an alleged plot to extort up to $25m from Hollywood star John Travolta over the death of his 16-year-old son.

A prominent politician on the island of Grand Bahama, Pleasant Bridgewater, quit as a member of the Bahamas senate over the weekend, and investigators questioned a former tourism minister who had claimed to be a close friend of the Travoltas.

Sixteen-year-old Jett Travolta was found unconscious in a bathroom at the family’s holiday home on the island on 2 January, and hospital authorities concluded he died of a seizure.

Tarino Lightbourne, a paramedic who said he tried to revive him is still in custody, on suspicion of being part of an extortion plot, although neither the local police nor Mr Travolta’s lawyers have released details of the alleged scam.

Early reports suggested that Mr Lightbourne and others had been trying to get money in return for suppressing a photo of the 16-year-old just before he died, but conflicting accounts are now circulating in the island of 75,000 people.

The former tourism minister, Obie Wilchcombe, was questioned by police last Friday, it has emerged. He was involved in a negotiation with Mr Travolta’s lawyers which, according to some allegations, demanded payments of between $10m and $25m. He was released without charge.

Mr Wilchcombe, a close friend of the Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction star, made a round of television appearances in the days after the tragedy death, saying he had been with the family in the hours after his son’s death.

On CNN’s Larry King Live, Mr Wilchcombe shared intimate details of the funeral home and the cremation of Jett Travolta.

Ms Bridgewater, a leading lawyer and politician in the island, angrily vowed to clear her name, as she submitted her resignation from the 16-member senate appointed by the Bahamas governor-general, the Queen’s representative. She had been acting as a lawyer, and the charges of extortion were “untrue and unfair”, Ms Bridgewater said.

"How these innocent actions can be so misconstrued, so perversely twisted to mean something other than it was, is a mystery," she said without providing more details.

Ms Bridgewater is free on bail. The leader of the opposition party, former Prime Minister Perry Christie, said in a statement that he regrets the turn of events and accepted Ms Bridgewater’s resignation.

John Travolta and wife Kelly Preston have returned to the US with the remains of their son. The couple have said Jett became sick when he was two years old and was diagnosed with Kawasaki Syndrome, an illness that leads to inflamed blood vessels. They blamed household cleaners and fertilizers and said a detoxification program based on teachings from the Church of Scientology helped improve his health. Outsiders have repeatedly claimed that Jett exhibited signs of autism, a condition which the Church of Scientology does not recognise.

The couple said at the time of his death that they were "heartbroken that our time with him was so brief".

Jett was the couple’s only son. They have a daughter, eight-year-old Ella Bleu.

Last week, the Travolta family sparked a mystery by filing their extortion plot, saying: “Regrettably, in a time of such terrible grief, there are often a few individuals who attempt to make false claims in hopes of making millions of dollars. We will never let that happen."

Reports today suggested that family lawyers had entered negotiations with the people involved in the plot, in order to help gather evidence.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Concierge and Porter

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a customer focused, pro...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer / Front-End Designer - City of London

£27000 - £33000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End Devel...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Customer Support Technician

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Waterlooville based softwa...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot