Two things must be said from the outset. First, policemen aren’t supposed to be the perpetrators of the crimes they are meant to solve. Secondly, the crime of kidnapping is quite rare in the Bahamas. Having said that, in 1973, in Grand Bahama, life was taking a bizarre turn for an unsuspecting Canadian bank manager. He soon found out that the supposed norm in the Bahamas, wasn’t going to apply to him.
Leading up to 1973, there had only been a handful of cases involving the crime of kidnapping in the Bahamas. In fact, over the previous 200 years, and discounting the pirate and slavery years, there have been only a few cases of abduction for profit.
In 1972, someone decided to target an expatriate banker, believing that he had free access to monies held at Royal Bank of Canada, in Freeport. The Bahamas then had two kidnappings in less than two years. Both kidnappings involved the same family.
The victims were the wife and their four year old daughter.
Robert Spencer, a Canadian, and his wife Joan had been living on Grand Bahama for a number of years prior to 1973. They had two daughters, Andrea Spencer, four years old, as well as a four month old baby.
Spencer was a banker, a manager at Royal Bank of Canada. All said, he was well liked at the bank and in the community.
By Sunday 20th February, 1973, after seven years in the Bahamas, Robert Spencer was frantically packing up his family. Close friends on the island came to help the couple. The Spencer’s only took whatever could hold in a few suitcases. Whatever was left would be sent for later. All they wanted to do was leave. The family were taken to the airport.
The Spencer’s had just endured the second kidnapping in little more than a year.
It was over.
They had won.
Robert Spencer was leaving.
Who was they? Everyone would be surprised to find out.
THE CRIME – SNATCHING A CHILD FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS
On Thursday 15th February, 1973, two masked men, armed with a shotgun, entered the home of 40 year old, bank manager, Robert Spencer in Freeport. During the breaking and entering, the gun was discharged by one of the masked men, while in the process of smashing a glass door.
The men snatched a screaming and terrified four year old, Andrea Spencer from her mother’s arms.
During the night, a man telephoned the Spencer’s home demanding a ransom. The amount demanded was $250,000. The voice told Spencer, the money for his child life. Several more phone calls were made, directing the distraught father where to go.
Spencer called several banking associates on the island and the money was quickly raised. He was told to drive the 10 miles from his home to an area near Bahama Cement, which was in Hawksbill. Robert Spencer left the money where he was instructed.
He went back home to wait for the call as where to pick up his daughter.
The call never came.
1972 – Mrs. Spencer Kidnapped
In January 1972, Joan Spencer, wife of Robert Spencer, was kidnapped. Gunman burst into the home of Robert and Joan Spencer as they were entertaining guests. The armed men made everyone lie on the floor while they told Spencer to go to the bank and bring back $300,000. Spencer left while the men stood over the room of people. Instead of going to the bank, Robert Spencer stopped at a neighbour’s house and called the police. When the gunman heard the police sirens, they grabbed Mrs. Spencer.
While making their escape, several shots were exchanged with the police. Mrs. Spencer managed to jump from car as it was driving. She made her escape on a deserted road as the car was moving. No ransom was paid.
(The British Colombia Daily News Saturday 15 January 1972)
1973 – Four year old Andrea Spencer is Kidnapped
36 hours after she was abducted by armed masked men, Andrea was found by tourists in Freeport. Tourists found the little girl, still in the night clothes she had been taken in. She had had no food or water. Kidnappers tied her up and left her in an abandoned church. The little girl, stayed there in the dark, too frightened to move. When the sun came up the four-year-old successfully loosened the strips of cloth used to tie her up. She was wandering the street near the church, when tourists discovered her.
(The Journal Tuesday 20th February, 1973)
Police and Detective Charged with Kidnapping a Child
The most shocking twist to the terror inflicted upon the Spencer family, was revealed on Friday 23 February 1973, when a policeman and an ex-policeman were arrested for the kidnapping of four-year-old, Andrea Spencer.
Spurgeon Alexander Dames, police constable and Leroy McLean, a former policeman, were convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.
(The News Journal Saturday 24th February 1973)
1986 – Spurgeon Dames, the former policeman arrested on drug charges.
Spurgeon Dames was released from prison in 1978, just five years, after kidnapping four year old Andrea Spencer in Freeport. Incredibly, despite the terror inflicted upon the Spencer family, Dames was given early release for good behaviour.
By November 1986, the Americans were describing Dames as a “major drug underworld figure.”
A Bahamian police officer denied that Dames was a underworld drug figure saying that the Bahamas in 1986 didn’t have any underworld drug figures.
It must be asked whether or not the Bahamian police spokesman really understood what an underworld drug figure actually meant.
(The News Press Saturday, 08th November 1986)
1987 – Dames on supposed hunger strike in Charlotte County Jail in Florida on Marijuana possession
Just over four months after Dames’ Florida arrest, with five others, on marijuana possession, in March 1987, he goes on a hunger strike. Spurgeon Dames wants to be released from jail and given a ticket back home to the Bahamas.
(The News Press Thursday 09 April 1987)