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Murder of a stranger in PARADISE; You cast your X.

All teenager Rebecca Middleton wanted was a good time. She was young, attractive and had everything to live for.

But her life came to a violent end on a deserted road in a tropical paradise.

And her murder sparked a storm of outrage in her native Canada.

Rebecca, 17, went to Bermuda with her school friend, Jasmin Meens. They were to spend a few weeks with Jasmin's father, Rick, who lived on one of the 150 islands on the British colony.

After a few days they went out to a pub in nearby St George. Later, they called a taxi, which failed to arrive.

Jasmin got a lift home on a friend's motorcycle. Rebecca agreed to go on another bike with two young men.

She would have felt safe. This was Bermuda, after all, which prides itself on its low crime rate. But she was wrong...

Tourists found her near naked body a few hours later, lying on the road.

She was alive. But her throat had been cut and she'd been stabbed 16 times. She died before the ambulance reached her.

Meanwhile, Rick Meens was searching for her. He came upon a roadblock, fearing the worst - then had the grisly task of identifying the body.

Local boy Justis Smith and Jamaican-born Kirk Mundy were identified as the men who drove off with Rebecca.

Police fished a steak knife from a pool near the murder scene. A search of Smith's home unearthed a set of similar knives. Then, in a plea bargain, Mundy implicated Smith, 17, in the murder. The 21-year-old claimed Rebecca had agreed to have sex with him.

Afterwards, he went to a pool to wash and heard her scream. He came back, he said, and saw Smith punching the girl on the face. But Smith always protested his innocence.

Mundy claimed Smith committed the murder. Then Mundy pled guilty to a charge of accessory after the fact. He got five years.

But prosecutors believed that two men had been involved in the murder. A security guard had spotted two men leave on a motorbike. And a top New York pathologist stated that Rebecca's injuries were consistent with a two-man attack.

Later, Mundy was charged with murder. But an appeal to the Privy Council in London ruled that, having accepted his guilty plea to the accessory charge, the authorities couldn't upgrade it.

That left Smith facing the rap - and a possible walk to the gallows - alone. He'd been picked out at the ID parade. They had the knife and Mundy's statement.

But they didn't have forensic evidence linking him with the girl.

The only DNA evidence related to Mundy, who had admitted having sex with her.

Smith's parents hired British lawyer John Perry to defend their son.

The lawyer attacked the police investigation.

He said the initial search of the locus was shoddy, that the knife could have been in the water for anything from two days to two weeks before it was found. Even the pathologist did not think the knife matched all the wounds.

So, to bolster their case, the prosecution brought in Dr Michael Baden, a pathologist who had been a defence witness at the OJ Simpson trial.

Perry said that the prosecution were determined to prove the two-man theory, even though the evidence did not support it, and that Baden had been brought in "like a gunslinger to do the deed".

It turned out Dr Baden had not examined the body or murder scene.

He had drawn his conclusions from police photographs.

So did 17-year-old Justis Smith brutally murder holiday girl Rebecca Middleton?

Or was the case against him fatally flawed?

You decide...
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 24, 1999
Words:609
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