(CMR) Last year was an eventful one for the Cayman Islands; we welcomed a new governor, had a change in political leadership, an increase in armed robberies, and the presentation of a budget, which we expect to see implemented this year.
As we work to make the Cayman Islands a better place in 2024, here is a reminder of some of the happenings of 2023.
Increase in armed robberies— There was in increase in armed robberies. We hope for a significant decrease in these and other crimes in 2024. Up to July of 2023, there were 47 firearm incidents reported since the beginning of the year, with 31 of those armed robberies. For the corresponding period in 2022, there were 15 armed robberies; this is more than a 100 percent increase in robberies. The spate of armed robberies continued in the following months raising concerns in the community.
Former CIFA execs Watson and Blake sentenced in CIFA fraud case— In 2023, former treasurer of the Cayman Islands Football Association Canover Watson was sentenced to eight years in prison, while former vice president Bruce Blake was sentenced to two years after they were found guilty in a major fraud case in 2022.
Cayman welcomes 15th Governor– In April 2023, the Cayman Islands welcomed a new Governor, Her Excellency Jane Owen, the 15th Governor to serve the territory.
McKeeva Bush charged with decades-old rape— In June, former premier McKeeva Bush was arrested and charged with Rape and Indecent Assault in relation to an assault that occurred over 20 years ago. He is expected to stand trial in this matter and another assault case this year.
New Political party formed— After a vote of No Confidence was brought against the PACT government, a new political group, the United People’s Movement (UPM), comprised of 12 Members of Parliament, was formed with Hon. Julianna O’Connor-Connolly as Premier and Hon Andre Ebanks as Deputy Premier to form the government.
Gun seized in Cayman linked to multiple murders in Jamaica– Police revealed last year that a gun seized in the Cayman Islands has been connected to at least five murders in Jamaica.
Celebrity visitors arrested for ganja in Cayman— In July, CMR broke the news that American influencer Gigi Hadid was arrested and charged after ganja was found in her luggage when she arrived on island. She was fined $1000; however, a conviction was not recorded. This news got international attention with major media houses making reference to CMR's report.
Abdulbasti Basit Shittu, also known as the drag queen Dionne Slay, was arrested and charged after a small amount of ganja was discovered in his luggage when he arrived on the British Airways flight to the Cayman Islands on Tuesday, 1 August. He was fined $500 and a conviction recorded.
Man sentenced to 21 years for attempted murder— Luisto Eusebio Hernandez (28), who shot his father-in-law twice following an argument about how to feed his young child a mango, was sentenced to 21 years for attempted murder on Tuesday, 11 July. He was also sentenced to 12 years for illegal possession of a firearm.
Man ran over another with vehicle: Bryan Welcome (41) was arrested and charged with murder in the gruesome killing of Omar Ryan. Ryan, was reportedly intentionally run over by Bryan Welcome, owner of People's Choice Grocery, in George Town in July.
Murderer planned escape to Cayman–A Jamaican gang leader, who is appealing a 38-year prison sentence for his role in the 2008 murder of a former state employee, reportedly arranged for a gang member who carried out the hit to be sent to the Cayman Islands to evade the police.
Multiple water-related deaths reported in 2023 — On 19 July, a 55-year-old man, a visitor to the Cayman Islands, was pulled from the water after showing signs of distress. Also in July, chairman of the National Conservation Council board McFarlane “Mac” Conolly (70) died after experiencing difficulties while snorkeling at Colliers Beach, East End.
An 80-year-old woman who was visiting the Cayman Islands from the US also died in July after experiencing difficulties while swimming. Regal Jackson (65) of George Town reportedly died after experiencing difficulties and losing consciousness while swimming this morning, 3 August.
A 68-year-old woman from North Carolina, USA, experienced a medical emergency while snorkeling in the Cayman Kai area on Saturday, 10 June. Raheem Tyrike Barrett (27), a Jamaican national who was residing in the Cayman Islands, died in a water-related incident on 21 October.
A 71-year-old man who was visiting the Cayman Islands died on Friday, 22 December, after experiencing difficulties while snorkeling in the North Sound.
Budget– The new UPM government presented its first budget in December, which raised many questions as there are several proposed increased fees. Let us see what this year will bring.
Steady increase in visitors — The Cayman Islands showed steady growth towards full tourism recovery, with stayover and cruise arrivals maintaining an upward momentum. Between January and November 2023, the Cayman Islands welcomed a total of 379,370 stayover visitors exceeding 2022’s year-to-date numbers by 61% and representing approximately 85% of 2019’s numbers.