NEWS

Grenada funeral for Toronto man to draw hundreds

01/09/2012 09:04 EST | Updated 03/10/2012 05:12 EST

The funeral of a Toronto man who died after allegedly being beaten by police officers while visiting family in Grenada over the holidays will be held Monday on the Caribbean island in the hamlet of Crochu.

Hundreds of mourners are expected at the 1 p.m. ET service for Oscar Bartholomew, who died Dec. 26 after he and his wife and a cousin stopped at a police station in the town of St. David's, in the southwestern part of the island.

A relative says Bartholomew stopped so his wife of 10 years, Dolette Cyr Bartholomew, of Cascapedia-St. Jules, Que., could use the restroom. His family has accused members of the Royal Grenada Police Force of beating him into a coma after he allegedly mistook a plainclothes female officer at the station for an old friend and lifted her off the ground in a bear hug.

Police said Bartholomew, 39, was arrested after assaulting an officer and imprisoned. But on Dec. 27, he was taken unconscious by ambulance to St. George's Hospital, and died shortly after, according to a Dec. 31 post-mortem report.

Five Royal Grenada Police officers who are charged with manslaughter were granted bail on Friday. They were ordered to surrender their passports, report daily to authorities and avoid visiting the police station.

Police brutality under microscope

The incident has sparked outrage and allegations that police brutality is endemic in Grenada, and Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has said there will be a full investigation into the death.

"Even if they felt something warranted arresting him, they should not have taken it to that extent," said his cousin, Trevor Bartholomew.

"One hopes that out of this, some light will be shed on the whole aspect of police brutality."

Defence lawyer Anselm Clouden has been pressing for a joint Canada-Grenada inquiry into the death and the actions of the police force, but there's no indication the government is contemplating one.

About 110,000 people live on Grenada, a lush tropical island known for its native warmth and tourist resorts.

Bartholomew's mother, Andrianne Bartholomew, said her son wasn't violent, and was a "good boy," although some witnesses allege Bartholomew tried to bite one of the officers.

While the Toronto man's family have called for murder charges to be laid against the five officers, who have yet to enter pleas, they were charged with manslaughter. If convicted, they face a maximum 15 years in prison.

MORE:cbcNews