Two British women who fought to free a man who was wrongly accused of raping them have called for an urgent independent investigation into claims of incompetence by police in Barbados who investigated the attacks on them.
Derick Crawford, 47, was freed by a court on the Caribbean island on Thursday after Rachel Turner, a research scientist, and Diane Davies, a retired primary school teacher, campaigned for him to be released because he was not the man who attacked them within days of eachother in 2010 at the same spot close to an idyllic beach.
The women, who waived their right to anonymity to prove Mr Crawford’s innocence, told The Independent that the decision by Barbadian prosecutors to drop the case against him highlighted devastating concerns about the manner in which the vicious assaults were investigated, ranging from claims of a forced confession to the botched analysis of DNA evidence.
Darwin Dottin, the Commissioner of the Royal Barbados Police, said earlier that the force had a policy to “admit our failings” but insisted it was “highly regarded”. The force has not yet confirmed whether it will now reopen its investigation.
Dr Turner, 30, who arrived on the island to start a four-year research post two weeks before she was attacked, said: “It was clear from very early on that Derick was not the man who raped us. The only evidence against him was a confession which he says was elicited by force. But it has taken 18 months of being ignored by the police to get to the point where he has been cleared. The police insisted that they had other evidence against Derick but this week they could not produce a thing.”
The two Britons, whose campaign was supported and funded by the former actress Hilary Heath, who herself was raped on Barbados in 2004, said they wanted to see two officers who interviewed Mr Crawford suspended following claims of brutality.
There are also concerns about the DNA evidence. Dr Turner was told tests on the sample taken from her had not found male DNA. Results from Mrs Davies have yet to return from testing despite being taken more than two years ago.
Mrs Davies, a grandmother-of-nine, said: “At the very best, the police have been incompetent. I dread to think what it could be at its worst.”
Dr Turner, who has remained in Barbados to complete her work and underlined her love of the island and its people, said: “I’m not sure if I feel brave. The truth is that we didn’t have any choice but to do this. We would not have volunteered for this but the police have systematically failed to act as they should have done. We were not prepared to let it go by, so we had to fight and will continue to do so.”