From left: Head of the Detective Department Delano Baptist, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication Stuart Johnson, Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever, Police Chief Commissioner Carl John and Chief Prosecutor Mirjam Mol at the joint press briefing at the Government Administration Building on Friday, August 9.
PHILIPSBURG-The police department announced Friday that three suspects have been held in connection with the armed robbery of a Canadian tourist and his daughter in Beacon Hill on June 5, after 11:00pm. The three suspects are behind bars and are cooperating with the investigation.
The suspects, whom have been led in front of an Investigating Judge, will remain in custody for questioning and further investigation in the so-called “Amazoniet” case, the police said.
No further details about the arrest and the suspects were disclosed during a joint press conference by Police Chief Commissioner Carl John, Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever and Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication Stuart Johnson, in the presence of Chief Prosecutor Mirjam Mol and Head of the Detective Department Delano Baptist. The press briefing was hosted by police spokesman Chief Inspector Ricardo Henson.
“The community of St. Maarten and visitors to the island should feel safer that these culprits are off the streets. Police Force St. Maarten (KPSM) has put all resources into this investigation and will do everything necessary and in its power to bring closure to this case for the family and friends of the [victim – Ed.] Sylvain Valade,” said Henson.
During the robbery, Valade, in his efforts to protect his daughter from any harm, was shot and succumbed later to his wounds at a hospital in the United States. The victim’s daughter was not physically injured, but was emotionally traumatized by the incident.
Directly after committing the act, the robbers fled the scene in a small white vehicle towards French St. Martin, where they have been in hiding. The Special Unit Robbery (SUR) of the Police Force St. Maarten KPSM immediately launched an investigation and gave this case highest priority to locate and apprehend the culprits and bring them to justice.
“The SUR-team worked tirelessly with persistence and in close cooperation during many long hours with the local Prosecution Service and the French Gendarmes to solve this case, which started just over two months ago,” Henson said.
Henson said the robbery, which ended in the death of a visiting tourist, was covered by the international media and shocked the entire community of St. Maarten, including visitors to the island.
Ministers De Weever and Johnson both commended the police for their successful operations in bringing the three suspects behind bars in two months’ time and lauded the law enforcement agencies on both sides of the island for their good cooperation.
“Nothing can take away the pain from the loss that the Valade family has suffered. To have it occur at all is beyond words, and to have it happen here on our shores, where we welcome and embrace all visitors from around the world each year, is equally unacceptable. No one should have to ever worry about their safety while visiting our shores,” said TEATT minister Johnson.
“I hope that the news of the capture and arrest of the suspects can bring some degree of comfort in the knowledge that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Our country mourns with you still today, and we will be unrelenting in our pursuit of justice,” Johnson said.
Minister de Weever said he hoped the arrests would bring some solace to members of the Valade family and their friends in what he described as a “senseless and merciless” act of violence.
“As a father I can understand the instinctive nature of a man to protect his daughter. It is also my hope that this capture and the capture of anyone breaking our laws will bring solace to the entire community…Every life is sacred, whether it is a tourist or a resident,” he said.
De Weever expressed his “deepest respect and gratitude” to the police force, the detective department, the Prosecutor’s Office and all those who have worked with them to bring “closure” to this case as they continue to work in making this island a welcoming place to residents and visitors alike.
Minister Johnson said his ministry, and by extension the government of St. Maarten, had offered support to the Valade family after the incident. The family will be informed about the arrests through the justice ministry.
Johnson said this case did not have any negative impact, such as cancellations or any other indications of a decrease in visitors from the Canadian market.