Anguilla files for international arrest warrant for American charged in hotel employee’s death

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock
Oleksii Liskonih/iStock

(LONDON) — Authorities in Anguilla have declared an American man a “fugitive” after he failed to return to the British Caribbean territory for a court hearing in a manslaughter case.

U.S. citizen Scott Hapgood, who is charged in the death of an Anguillan hotel employee, was due to appear in court on Monday for the latest pretrial hearing, as required by his bail conditions, but he didn’t show up. Hapgood’s legal team sent an email to the magistrate presiding over his case the night before, saying that they had advised their client not to return to Anguilla due to concerns for his safety and the fairness of the judicial process on the island, according to a press release from the Anguilla Attorney General’s Chambers, which called the concerns “totally groundless.”

“In consequence of this willful defiance of the High Court order, a bench warrant will be sought from the High Court judge for his arrest,” the attorney general said in a statement Tuesday. “When this is shortly obtained this will be circulated through Interpol to police forces around the world.”

After Hapgood failed to appear on Monday, the magistrate adjourned for a further hearing, at which “he will make a final determination of the matter at hand,” according to the attorney general. His bail bond has been forfeited.

Hapgood, who works as a banker in New York City but lives with his family in Darien, Conn., had been released back in April on $74,000 bond and has appeared at previous hearings for the case.

“Other formal processes will now commence regarding Hapgood who is now a fugitive,” the attorney general said. “Hapgood’s decision to abscond will not allow him to evade justice.”

ABC News has reached out to a Hapgood family spokesperson for comment.

Hapgood, 44, was allegedly with his two daughters in a room at the Malliouhana Resort in Anguilla on April 13 during a family vacation when a man dressed in a hotel uniform knocked on the door “minutes” after the girls “walked back to the hotel room on their own,” according to a statement released by the Hapgood family back in May.

The man, identified by Anguilla police as hotel maintenance worker Kenny Mitchel, allegedly stated that he was there to fix a broken sink before he came inside and demanded money from Hapgood, according to the family. A scuffle erupted between the two men, in which Hapgood was “fighting for his life,” the family said. Mitchell was eventually restrained by a security guard, and Hapgood was taken to a local hospital for his injuries, according to the family.

Hapgood later learned of Mitchell’s death as he was giving his witness statement at the police station, the family said. He has been charged with manslaughter.

Hapgood’s international defense attorney, Juliya Arbisman, has accused prosecutors from witholding a toxicology report for more than two months that allegedly “showed Mr. Kenny Mitchel was not only drunk, with a blood alcohol level that is double the legal limit in the U.S., but also high on cocaine and other drugs when he attacked Scott.”

“I worry about Scott’s ability to get a fair trial when relevant information is withheld and a persistent narrative has been given to potential jurors, the people of Anguilla, which is based on falsehoods and admissions,” Arbisman said at a press conference on Aug. 20.

ABC News could not get confirmation from authorities in Anguilla about the claims from Arbisman regarding the results of Mitchel’s toxicology report.

U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter last month, saying he will look into Hapgood’s case and that “something looks and sounds very wrong.”

Hapgood and his lawyer appeared at a press conference on Oct. 28 with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who called upon the British government to “exercise authority of its judicial system” to come to a “swift conclusion” on whether to allow the trial in Anguilla to continue.

Monday’s hearing was expected to be the conclusion of the preliminary trial, in which the presiding magistrate would come to a decision on whether to commit the proceedings to a jury trial, according to Arbisman.

Hapgood’s defense team is concerned about his safety, “given the threats that have been made in the past,” and whether he would be permitted to return to the United States on bond should a jury trial ensue, Arbisman said.

Hapgood spoke briefly about the ordeal that he and his family have been going through ever since they returned from their trip to Anguilla, especially his daughters, who are 12 and 14.

“We’re still in shock that a simple vacation that we looked forward to for so long turned into a nightmare,” Hapgood told reporters. “This nightmare is my new reality.”

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