Tiny Caribbean Island Shocked, Worried After Murders of Two American Women
The stabbing deaths of two American women whose bodies were found on a solitary beach shocked the 7,000 residents of this tiny island in the eastern Caribbean.
They can’t recall anything like it, and even the police chief isn’t sure when the British colony last had a murder.
“We are so distressed here in Anguilla,” said Clive Smith, 43, a construction worker and member of the Anguilla Assembly who found the bodies on Nov. 29 while taking a morning stroll.
“We are not accustomed to this kind of violence, and it happened just as tourism was booming,” he said.
Susan Galvin, 39, and Martha Marie Alsup, 38, both psychotherapists from Watertown, Mass., were killed while exploring the island in a rented Jeep. Their bodies, clad in swimming suits, were found in the desolate and rugged eastern tip of the island, an area called Windward Point Bay.
Hardly anyone ever goes there because it is rocky and its crashing waves make it impossible to swim.
“When I’m not too busy I like to stroll there because it is empty and I feel closer to God,” Smith said.
Police say if it hadn’t been for his walk, the women’s bodies might have not been found because the strong waves could have washed them off.
Andy Otto, a 17-year-old local boy who was arrested the day the women were found, was charged with murder and robbery.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of death by hanging, because police said he would be tried as an adult.
“Our investigation revealed the two women died from unnatural causes which led to the charges of murder and robbery,” Police Commissioner Harold Payne said. He said the women were probably killed with a “sharp instrument, probably a knife.”
Although Payne said the women’s jewelry was not stolen, robbery was suspected because “there was some money involved.” Payne would not elaborate.
The women arrived in the secluded island the weekend of Nov. 26, about three days before their bodies were found.
Alsup, the daughter of the late Illinois congressman John Alsup, and Galvin, originally from Columbus, Ohio, lived together in a Watertown house they bought seven years ago. They had separate practices.
“The incident has sent shock waves throughout the local community where a murder has not occurred in a number of years,” wrote the island’s weekly newspaper, Vantage.
Payne, who has been commissioner since 1976, isn’t even certain when Anguilla last had a murder. “I think we had a crime of passion five years ago,” he said.
Aided in Investigation
Two Scotland Yard detectives helped in the investigation because local police lacked experience.
The 16-mile-long island was named Anguilla after an eel because Columbus thought it was shaped like one when he discovered it in 1500. It has more than 30 unspoiled, white sandy beaches bordering the aquamarine coastline of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
This year, Anguilla had a tourism increase of 29%, more than any other Caribbean island besides Aruba, and officials hope that the killings don’t scare off future tourists.
“Anguilla is a tranquil, peaceful island. We don’t want potential visitors to think this is a violent country because it isn’t. Here there’s no need to lock your car or even your house,” said Home Affairs and Tourism Commissioner Julian Harrigan.