On Feb. 19, detectives charged 29-year-old Ashan Westcott with the murder of Nickera Smith almost four years after her body was discovered beneath a blue tarpaulin in Hawks Nest, according to a police press release.
Mr. Westcott’s charge comeson the heels of a nearly four-year-long investigation, during which detectives interrogated Mr. Westcott and others, traced phone calls, and obtained documents including Ms. Smith’s banks statements and a receipt for motorbikes Mr. Westcott had imported, Director of Public Prosecutions Tiffany Scatliffe-Esprit said during Mr. Westcott’s hearing last Thursday in Magistrates’ Court.
Shortly before Ms. Smith’s disappearance on Jan. 27, 2016, she withdrew $9,000 from her bank account while Mr. Westcott scrambled to repay debts totaling more than $4,700, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said.
Representing himself in court, Mr. Westcott was remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison because the Magistrates’ Court “has no jurisdiction in regards to bail” when adjudicating murder charges, said Magistrate Ayanna Baptiste DaBreo.
He is scheduled to return to Magistrates’ Court on April 23 for a report, Ms. Baptiste DaBreo said.
According to the police’s findings, Ms. Smith’s father recalled several instances of a white, two-door Suzuki jeep picking up his daughter from his home, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said, adding that Mr. Westcott owned a vehicle matching that description.
On Jan. 25, 2016, after the driver of this vehicle had come to pick up Ms. Smith from her home, Mr. Westcott made a series of calls, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said.
The next day, Ms. Smith withdrew $5,000 from her bank account, and then she withdrew another $4,000 the day after that, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said.
Between 2:43 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Jan. 27, the accused exchanged five text messages with a used car dealer and made six calls to Ms. Smith, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said.
Ms. Smith was last seen that evening at about 8:30 p.m. with her phone in hand and dressed to go out, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said.
At 9:30 p.m., she texted a friend. The friend responded at10:30 p.m., but Ms. Smith never replied, the DPP said.
And after Jan. 27, Mr. Westcott never called Ms. Smith’s phone again, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said. To this day, the $9,000 removed from her bank account “has not been accounted for,” the DPP added.
During their investigation, police also found that Tropical Shipping had billed Mr. Westcott $4,761.44 for the importation of motorbikes to the territory, and Mr. Westcott had forged documents for their release, the DPP alleged.
Company officials told Mr. Westcott that if he did not pay what he owed, they would alert the police that he had falsified the documents, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said.
Witnesses who had been owed money by Mr. Westcott said they were paid, according to the DPP.
First arrest and interview
Three days after Ms. Smith’s parents reported their daughter missing, Mr. Westcott was arrested on suspicion of abduction and interviewed by police, according to the DPP.
Asked about the numerous calls he had made to Ms. Smith in the days leading up to her disappearance, he responded that he could not describe the details of these calls, and he added that he and Ms. Smith had only been in occasional contact, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said.
“The account he gave
under caution was grossly at odds with previous witness statements,” she said.
Following their interview with Mr. Westcott, police executed several warrants across the island as part of the search for Ms. Smith, but these proved futile, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said.
On March 30, 2016, a taxi driver alerted police to an “unpleasant odour” in Hawks Nest, the DPP said.
Upon searching the area, police noticed a blue tarpaulin, and they found a decomposed human body beneath it, according to the prosecutor.
Autopsy results confirmed that the corpse was Ms. Smith, who was killed by a gunshot wound to the head, according to the DPP.
Prior to appearing in court, Mr. Westcott was extradited from the United States, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said.