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Monday 27 January 2020
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Prisoner’s relatives demand answers on missing arm: was it shark bite or boat propeller?

Escaped prisoner Unil Phillip
Escaped prisoner Unil Phillip

Relatives of 47-year-old prison escapee Unil Phillip are questioning the authorities’ account of his death. He was found floating in the water around a Trinmar offshore platform on Monday. One of his arms was missing.

Relatives said they are yet to receive an official statement from the prison service and are only getting bits and pieces of information from investigating officers and social media. A close female relative told Newsday there appeared to be stab wounds to Phillip’s waist and chest.

“The reason we knew his body was found was because of social media. Nobody contacted us to say anything,” she said.

“He always complained of mistreatment from the prison officers. He was very sickly in his final days and we were hearing reports that they were withholding his medication from him.

“He knew he was going to die and he told us something like this was going to happen.”

Relatives also doubt whether Phillip tried to escape custody, as he was about to finish the final year of his six-year sentence for possession of a gun and marijuana.

“He had two children to live for and several businesses on the outside. He was looking forward to finishing this part of his life in prison and moving on. He had something to live for, so when something like this happens, when he’s so close to freedom, we can’t help but ask questions.”

Relatives also confirmed while an autopsy was done yesterday, they were not given any documents stating the cause of death, as the body was claimed by the State.

One relative who asked to be identified only as “Sheig” said many details are still unclear, as some officers claim Phillip’s missing arm was lost to a shark bite, while others insist, it was from a boat propeller.

Prisons Commissioner Gerard Wilson said from the reports he received, Phillip died of drowning and that his family originally relinquished custody of the body to the State, as they were unable to hold a funeral. However, he said, the family later changed their minds and asked for the body.

“They made the request after all the documents have already been signed, and now they need to reapply for the custody of the body, which is complicated, as it was found at sea,” he explained.

Asked the procedure for burying prisoners, Wilson said all prisoners, once convicted, become wards of the State and may be buried by the State unless relatives specially request custody of the body.

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