When murder happens within the often exclusive confines of the expatriate community in the Bahamas, it always captures international headlines. Nothing bad is ever supposed to happen in a tropical paradise, but when it does, the world takes note.
The November 2015 conviction of Donna Vasyli, 55, of her husband’s Phillip Vasyli, 59, murder, exemplifies this. Donna Vasyli was convicted after her husband was found dead at their home, in the exclusive gated community of Old Fort Bay, in March 2015. News of the Australian podiatrist’s death was carried across the world.
For Bahamians, the interest eventually centres on whether the expat will be given the same treatment as the natives. Will foreigners, who find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system, be afforded preferential treatment, or given the same as any other criminal offender.
In 1966, a case of manslaughter made the world news. The mysterious death of Collette Bonheur, a wife, mother and a famous Canadian songstress in her own right, who had been force fed a large quantity of lethal barbiturates.
The husband said it was suicide. The coroner said otherwise.
EXCLUSIVE QUEENS COVE ROCKED BY VIOLENCE
When Freeport and Queen’s Cove, on Grand Bahama were first created, they were exclusive areas. Exclusive along racial live. Black Bahamians were not allowed to live there. Most of the goings on, sordid and surreal, involved the large expat community, who were drawn to Grand Bahama’s new development scheme initiated by Wallace Groves. Groves was the creator of Freeport and the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
The Robinson’s had moved to Freeport, Grand Bahama, from French Canada around 1961.
Five years later, Collette would be dead.
On October 15, 1966, Collette Bonheur , a 39 year old French singer, was found dead in her bedroom. She died from a barbiturate overdose, which had been suspected of being administered to her, over a two day period.
A coroner’s report and witness testimony concluded, she was unconscious during that time.
By all accounts, Collette Bonheur Robinson was the long suffering wife of Gerald Robinson. Gerald was having an affair, which Collette tried unsuccessfully to end.
Gerald had been flaunting his relationship with a pretty blonde secretary. In despair, Collette had tried previously to kill herself.
Rumours persisted about the affair of the husband Gerald Robinson, a saxophone player and chiropractor.
Gerald was arrested on 24th February 1967, four months after his wife’s death. A four day inquiry which ended on March 7th, 1967 provided enough circumstantial evidence to charge Gerald Robinson with manslaughter in the death of his wife, Collette Bonheur Robinson.
Gerald Robinson’s Sweetheart Testifies Under Immunity Deal
Janice Carole Bonsta, described as an attractive young blonde in her early 20s, was the sweetheart of husband, Gerald Robinson. Janice testified that as soon as the wife, Collette Bonhuer Robinson died, she moved in with her lover, Gerald.
Collette Bonhuer’s death was caused by an overdose of barbiturates. The maid, a Bahamian, by the name of Isilda Hall testified that Collette was unconscious for two days prior to her death. According to Hall, she was being force fed juice juice and coffee which the unconscious woman threw up. The maid testified that the husband, Gerald Robinson would visit his wife’s bedroom alone. On the night she died, he had visited her room alone. Shortly after his visit, Collette Bonheur died.
LAWYER FOR THE DEFENCE ARGUES DOUBLE JEOPARDY
Gerald Robinson’s lawyer, Loftus Roker, law partner of Premier Lynden Pindling, argued that his client was being subjected to a type of double jeopardy.
Magistrate John Cronin could have charged Gerald Robinson with failure to provide adequate medical assistance. Robinson knowing his wife was gravely ill, did nothing. He had her force fed juice and coffee by the maid. He never called an ambulance or sought medical help from the hospital or a physician.
In the end, the Magistrate bypassed any charges of reckless endangerment or failure to act, which would have given only a five year sentence. Magistrate Cronin charged Robinson with manslaughter. Manslaughter carried the sentence of life in prison.
(The Miami News Monday 13 March 1967)
UNDERTAKERS’ DISPUTE OVER COLLETTE’S BODY DELAYS FUNERAL
As grieving family and friends made their way from Canada to Freeport, for the funeral of Collette Bonhuer Robinson, there was a dispute between undertakers, which caused a delay in the funeral.
Services had been scheduled for Friday 21 October 1966 but a dispute over who had the right to handle the funeral, only further exacerbated the grief of her family.
(The Tampa Tribune Sunday 23 October 1966)
THE VERDICT – 8 to 4 Not Guilty
On the Wednesday 19th April 1967, the trial of Gerald Robinson on Manslaughter concluded. Robinson had testified that his wife had attempted suicide twice before. He testified that his wife knew of the affair and was planning to divorce him.
The jury ignored the fact that the husband sought no medical help for her in the 48 hours that she lay unconscious.
The jury ignored the force feeding of liquids which the deceased threw up.
The jury ignored all the evidence including that the deceased had four children she loved desperately.
The jury ignored everything, except for, the husband’s testimony that she had tried to kill herself twice before.
(The Sun Canada Thursday 20th April 1967)