The deceased, Sylma “Codo” Thomas.

The Chateaubelair woman who died Friday, one day after falling ill during a police search of her house, fainted immediately when officers found and showed her a “substance resembling cannabis”, Commissioner of Police, Michael Charles told reporters on Wednesday.

Sylma Thomas, 49, died at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital of what was later diagnosed as stroke, two of her siblings told I-Witness News on the weekend.

(Read also: Woman dies after falling ill during police raid)

Her relatives and residents of the North Leeward town have accused police of not acting promptly to provide her with medical attention.

They also said that Thomas was taken to the hospital in a private vehicle, even as a police vehicle was on the scene.

MP for North Leeward, opposition lawmaker Roland “Patel” Matthews, on Monday called for an “immediate investigation” into the case, saying that the police officers seemed to have believed that Thomas was faking her illness.

(Read also: MP calls for ‘immediate investigation’ into death of woman after police raid) 

The police chief told journalists on Wednesday that an investigation will be launched into the development.

He said that members of the Rapid Response Unit, a tactical squad, went to Chateaubelair to execute a search warrant.

“During the search, substance resembling cannabis was found and same was shown to the occupant of the house, and immediately, according to the police present, she fainted.

“Steps were made to revive her. That is, relatives of the lady brought rubbing alcohol, etc., and were rubbing her, and she was then assisted in a transport.

“I was also informed that the police transport was readily available but members of the family stated that they didn’t want her to go in the police transport, hence she went in a private vehicle.

“She was taken to the hospital and she subsequently died,” Charles said.

(VIDEO: Woman dies after falling ill during police raid)

Commissioner of Police, Michael Charles, has extended “deepest condolences” to Thomas’ family. (IWN photo)
Commissioner of Police, Michael Charles, has extended “deepest condolences” to Thomas’ family. (IWN photo)

He said the incident was unfortunate and extended “deepest condolences” to Thomas’ family.

“You know, you cannot understand death, especially in these circumstances; but we will do everything in our powers to assist that family,” Charles said.

He did not say whether police have tested the substance said to have been found at Thomas’ home.

“I am not in a position to say, because after the death, that becomes priority, but the substance is still in the police custody.”

Charles said an investigation would be launched but that he was not in a position at the time to say who will conduct it.

Asked about seemingly conflicting elements of the police and the family’s version of what transpired, Charles said: “Reports that I heard on the street are actually the same thing I am hearing form the police officers. What is different is the time that the lady moved from the home to the hospital.”

Charles said that as of Wednesday, the family had not filed any report with him, neither has the officer-in-charge of the Western Division indicated the filing of any such report.

MP Matthews had also accused the police of harassing residents of the town.

“The police don’t go about harassing people. If people feel that they are harassed, there is the Public Relations and Complaints Department. If they don’t feel comfortable coming to the Public Relations and Complaints Department, they can always go to the police oversight body, which is an independent civilian body to deal with their complaints,” Charles said.

He said that no one likes to be searched, adding that even when police are conducting stop-and-search around carnival time, law-abiding citizens don’t feel “too well” when they are searched.

“Nobody like to be searched really, but police are not harassing people; they are doing their job legally,” Charles said.

He, however, agreed that the approach of the police, at times, leaves a lot to be desired.

“From time to time, I will get complaints from citizens [about] the way police approach them, especially traffic officers.

“It’s not for the want of teaching. We do a lot,” Charles said, mentioning the efforts of the Public Relations and Complaints Department and the Police Training School.

“Every person is a different individual but our aim is to serve the people who pay us, and that is the general public of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Charles said traffic police are some of the most important officers, as far as the image of the Police Force is concerned.

“If the police is, [as we say] colloquially, hoggish, the person who he deals with will see the whole Police Force as pigs. If he deals with them in a civilized manner, the general public will see the police as civilized people, and this is the type of image we want to get across,” Charles said.

13 replies on “‘Substance resembling cannabis’ found at home of woman who died after police raid — police chief”

  1. Urlan Alexander says:

    Mr Michael Charles, CoP you must really think people are that stupid? Are you the same officer who PC 16 Andrews said refused to take her statement of the alleged rape that took place at the PM resident? You will do everything you are told by massa to cover this one up as you did before.

  2. concern vincy says:

    Mr Charles, [..] all like you are the reason why Ralph Gonsalves have to be treating black ppl the way he treat them like we are still under slavery. […] that could have been your mother your aunt your sister are your daughter be a man and speak the truth nobody won’t believe your remark you sound like a fool

  3. Commissioner, I wholeheartedly agree. If your aim is to exact civility from members of the force, why don’t you send along a photographer (video) during these searches … so we can see how things unfold? This is a good way to access everyone’s performance.
    Moreover, here is a link entitled, “How NOT to welcome tourists to Saint Vincent”, of a visitors meeting and impression of one of our custom officers in Bequia, sometime in Nov’ of 2010. After reading this… have things improved since?
    http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Caribbean_and_Central_America/Saint_Vincent_and_the_Grenadines/Warnings_or_Dangers-Saint_Vincent_and_the_Grenadines-MISC-BR-1.html#2
    On the other hand, the phrase “colloquially hoggish “can be applied to the average Vincy too; not just police officers. In some instances, persons tend to be piggish, rude, and confrontational, when approached by law enforcement personnel, and this will usually escalate into a heated debate/argument, which attracts a menacing crowd. This leaves the officer exposed to abuses from the person in question, and the crowd.
    I have seen instances where a police officer will have to back-off amidst heckling and jeering, just to avoid being mobbed; although he was carrying out his duty in accordance with the law.
    Are we to believe that Vincentians people have no respect for the law, and are just a lawless people? No! We need to do more to prevent these unfortunate circumstances from unfolding in the manner which they do? Do we need more training or better training for our officers? And, what about our citizens? We need to address them too. We need some sought of educational program like,” Law Enforcement And You!” to educate the public on their rights as citizens, and how to behave when stopped and questioned by law enforcement personnel; which should be aired every week on Radio and TV. Stories like these leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and an ugly image for our country. Comrade! do something before it’s too late.

  4. Peter Binose says:

    Thanks for reminding us of that Urlan.

    Chief Charles I thing eduction of the force from top to bottom should be the order of the day, starting with your dear friend Dr Gonsalves, he needs some anti-hog training more so perhaps than your officers. Because his behaviour can well be reflected in the behaviour of the police.

  5. game changer says:

    I HAVE READ A LOT OF COMMENTS REGARDING THIS WOMAN.S DEATH, NOW WHILE SOME POLICE OFFICERS IN SVG LEAVES A LOT TO BE DESIRED ALL ARE NOT THE SAME.THE POLICE CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS WOMANS DEATH,MOST POLICE ORGANISATION DO NOT TRAIN THEIR OFFICERS TO BE EMTS: POLICE CANNOT TELL WHO IS FAKING FROM WHO IS NOT.I HAVE SPENT 20 PLUS YEARS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT (OUTSIDE SVG) AND EVERBODY IS INNOCENT EVEN WHEN THEY ARE NOT, POLICE DONT JUST GET UP AND DECIDE THEY ARE GOING TO EXECUTE A SEARCH WARRANT WITHOUT REASONABLE SUSPICION.SO THE POLICE THEREFORE HAD INFORMATION WHICH THE ACTED ON.
    NOW, AS LONG AS THE POLICE DID NOT TOUCH/BEAT THE WOMAN THAT RESULTED IN HER DEATH THEN THEY SHOULD NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE.

  6. If i have “substance resembling cannabis” at my home and i’m told the police at my house searching would i run to my house?. If the police found “substance resembling cannabis” at a house why allow civilians to take away the one to be charged for it?. Was a police stationed at the hospital to make sure she remains in custody to be charged for the “substance resembling cannabis” that was shown to her?.

  7. Carlos Walcott says:

    What the heck is ‘a substance resembling cannabis’? It’s either cannabis or wasn’t. Was it a plant or a derivative of it? If it’s a plant, then say a plant resembling weed. SVG is no stranger to weed. Don’t be shy and talk in circles. Even a kid knows weed.

  8. Game Changer, no one is saying that the police are not allowed to warrant there search, but what they are saying is while at it they have a duty of care to put into place. Am a sergeant in the British Army and i have done many tours to Iraq,and if during that time while i was on the battle field and any member of the enemy has been hurt in the line of fire it is my responsibility as the sergeant in charge to make sure that hurt/ill soldier is take care of. and that my friend is what the police has failed to do. And for the commissioner to come and say that the family member refuse for the lady to be taken in the police transport is nonsense, because from the time the lady taken ill it was the responsibility of the senior officer to take control of the situation,act and use whatsoever resource he/she has in place.which he/she has failed to do.It has taken about 30 minutes before the decease brother intervene and react to the situation. That my friend should not of happen.if that had taken place here in England that hold section that warrant that search would of been suspended until a full investigation has taken place and because negligent is the KEY here they all would be out of a job and the force would have to compensate the family. So dont you say the police is not at fault, it only high light what kind of officer you was.

  9. Mr COP i would like know if your officers dont know the differece of cannabis or something else first of all it smell different so those officers should know what it was so you and those officers sound and look like fools as cop u should known better but i guess not. I also think that the search should of stop and look after the woman health first u all should accountable.

  10. Peter Binose says:

    This matter worries me considerably, I could even believe if someone told me it was a plant, not planted in the garden, planted in this ladies house.

    Stinky Poo

  11. While I am all for law enforcement, this one is a hard nut for me to swallow. How come it took the police department so long to come up with that (STORY). WHATEVER THEY CLAIM TO FIND, I BELIEVE IT WAS PLANTED. Remember, the Commissioner is in that position because his resume reads ‘COVERUP, COVERUP, COVERUP!)

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