I made the decision that we were investigating a murder

For Detective Inspector Jason Smith, it was the first time he had investigated a murder where there was no body; indeed, the trial was a first for the island.

Mr Smith, though, never had any doubts — all the evidence, albeit circumstantial, pointed to Kamal Worrell as the killer of Chavelle Dillon-Burgess, the mother of his son, whose body has not been found.

It was on April 30, 2020, when a missing person report came to the attention of the police.

“So, on April 30, this missing person report came in, there was a period of time where we conducted some initial inquiries, and then quite quickly we began to realise that there’s something untoward that must have happened to her because her behaviour pattern had changed.

“She had a circle of friends that she would communicate with daily. And then after April 11, that communication completely stopped. She had an 18-month-old son at that time, whom she adored.

“She just vanished.”

It is the first time in Bermuda that a murder trial has been conducted when the body of the victim has not been found. As a result, the police case was built on circumstantial evidence.

No body trial

Detective Inspector Jason Smith said the trial of Kamal Worrell, where there was no body, was a first of its kind in Bermuda.

When he was put in charge, he and some colleagues participated in a “no body” homicide course in the United States.

“That was conducted by police authorities in the US. What you found was that in the US it’s quite common, and in the US there’s also been a lot of convictions from ‘no body’ homicide trials, prosecutions.”

“You could only draw one conclusion — that when you put all of the circumstances together, it would lead you to believe that the only thing that could have possibly happened to Chavelle would be that she was no longer alive,” said Mr Smith.

He said Chavelle was looking forward to joining the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

“So you look at that, and she was looking forward to that. In fact, she had even made preparations for the embodiment for someone to look after her son.

“She never made it.”

He added: “She had a son that she was caring for, and then you looked at the case and you looked at a lot of communication with her friends and how she was speaking about her son; she adored her son.

“She would never have left him. She cared for him as a mother would do, and particularly a young, infant child.”

When police searched Worrell’s house, “some of the things that we uncovered in the house was more raised for suspicion”.

“Money. So she had money, she had quite a large sum of money that was not necessarily visible. You had to search for it,” said Mr Smith.

“She left that behind, over $3,000 in cash. And when you think about just daily survival, how long can you go without having financial means to just the bare necessities of life? So you saw that there was no activity. Almost all of her clothing was there.”

Subsequently, police found no proof of life. There was no use of credit or debit cards, no social-media posts, no bank withdrawals.

At the time Chavelle went missing, the island was in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

“So nobody should have been out and about,” said Mr Smith. “You look at Bermuda, you look at the fact that it was a complete lockdown, there was nobody moving. She lived in a residential neighbourhood, so you would think people would have seen activity, seen movement.

“There were government warnings out there. And people, citizens, were taking note of people who were out and about, so you would think that in an island this small in a complete lockdown, look at those circumstances, nobody’s moving, nobody’s seen her.

“I made the decision, having considered all of those circumstances, that this was now not just a missing-person report, but we were now investigating a murder.”

From that moment, police looked to build the case, constantly looking for proof of life. They issued appeals for information through the media, checking bank records, and contacting friends and relatives.

“You saw that there was no activity. And then you think that her missing person report was not made by her live-in boyfriend and child’s father, but it was by friends who flagged it to her mother and then her mother eventually making that report to the police.”

On Worrell, Mr Smith said: “You would think that she is the mother of my child and she hasn’t come home, that I would be concerned about that.

“And not only that, but we’re talking about a man who’s a lawyer. He’s an officer of the court, a man in a position of trust that you would think that you would raise those alarm bells.

“When you look at all of the circumstances and you have to look at the case not in isolation but in all of the circumstances, you should be able to come to that conclusion as we did.”

Despite repeated requests for information and a search for Chavelle that galvanised the island, there has been nothing that has led detectives to her final resting place.

Asked if the police would continue to search to help bring some closure for her family, Mr Smith said: “I think that our appeal for any information on where Chavelle might be will be ongoing.

“What I’ve seen in my experience, that closure comes in different forms. Obviously, this is the first ‘no body’ homicide, so we haven’t been able to say to the family, ‘here are your loved one’s remains, and may her soul be put at rest’.

“But I think closure is also that justice was served, a man was held accountable, a jury of his peers have spoken and have said, ‘based on all of the circumstances that we have reviewed, we are satisfied that this is the man’.

“I think that will bring, I hope that will bring, some measure of closure to her mother and grandmother.”

Where is Chavelle? An investigator’s hypothesis

For 27 years, Detective Inspector Jason Smith has been involved in murder investigations.

In his experience, bodies placed in the ocean often, if not always resurface. People who have been killed, murdered, and their bodies left outdoors, and even in cases concealed, as time has gone by the body decomposes and there is a distinctive smell.

At the time Chavelle went missing, the island was in a Covid-19 lockdown, making movement difficult.

Mr Smith said: “A working hypothesis throughout the investigation is that there’s a strong possibility, and there’s no evidence, so I cannot say that this was definitive, but you think of it as there’s a strong possibility that he killed her and then he dumped her body in a dumpster.

“He would’ve lived less than or about a quarter of a mile away from several trash dumpsters.

“It was a lockdown period, people were home, people were not working, and so what a lot of people were doing was having a lot of free time and cleaning up houses, getting rid of stuff that they didn’t need any more, and then they were taking stuff to dumpsters, and the sanitation department was still working.

“And so you think about it, we have an incinerator. So everything that’s put in the dumpster would be taken to the incinerator.

“So you think of an investigative hypothesis, one probability would’ve been that he would’ve dumped her body in a trash dumpster. As time went on and even as the body would’ve decomposed, yes, it would’ve smelled, but because it’s a trash dumpster, you would expect it to.

“It would get covered and covered, and people dumping trash on a regular basis because they’re cleaning up their houses. And then that dumpster is taken to the incinerator.

“That would almost be like going into a crematory, and because it would be mixed with so much other soot and ash, it’d be very difficult to be definitive. So that’s one investigative hypothesis.”

Asked about the “unbelievably callous” nature were that the case, Mr Smith replied: “Well, I think if you look at this case in its entirety, all of the circumstances of this case even before her disappearance, there was callous behaviour shown by Kamal Worrell towards Chavelle. And that is sad.”

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