2009-10-29 / Front Page

BVI jury convicts Swain of murdering his wife

By Mason Marcus Special to the Jamestown Press

David Swain leaves the courthouse in Tortola, BVI, after being found guilty of murdering his wife, Shelley Arden Tyre. Photo by Todd VanSickle David Swain leaves the courthouse in Tortola, BVI, after being found guilty of murdering his wife, Shelley Arden Tyre. Photo by Todd VanSickle TORTOLA, BVI – After deliberating for more than four hours, a unanimous British Virgin Islands jury found David Swain guilty of murdering his wife, Shelley Arden Tyre, on March 19, 1999.

Swain, who sat expressionless through most of the trial, took a deep breath and bowed his head when the verdict was read. His son, Jeremy Swain, and daughter, Jennifer Bloom, reached to comfort him.

The conviction puts to rest a decade of speculation and waiting for Tyre’s parents, Richard and Lisa, who won their first victory against their former son-in-law in a R.I. civil court in 2006.

Richard Tyre, who gave a victim impact assessment immediately following the verdict, broke down in tears describing his daughter’s death.

“We are old, and we are retirees, and when Shelley was killed, our life pretty much ended,” he said.

Tyre, a former educator, said his daughter’s passing had affected all the children she taught at the middle school where she worked. “We believe that education affects the whole future, and Shelley was the future for all these kids and all these parents, and now she is not. And nothing will bring her back,” Tyre said before rushing from the witness box.

Outside, the Tyres praised the efficiency and integrity of the BVI court, and thanked the jurors for their attention.

Swain’s children, who each gave their father a final embrace before he was escorted back to prison, called the verdict a “horrible mistake.”

“My father’s life has already been ruined. Nothing can be done to bring Shelley back so what is the point of this? What is the point of this?” asked Swain’s son, adding, “To ruin another man’s life through your own grief is not worth it.”

Bloom said they forgave the Tyres for pursuing Swain’s arrest and conviction. “They didn’t know Shelley when she was alive and they don’t know her now that she’s dead and that’s the sad truth,” she said.

The family said it plans to ap- peal the decision.

“We’ve already identified a number of preliminary legal issues that the judge didn’t make the right call on,” said Tim Bradl, one of Swain’s U.S.-based attorneys. His local counsel, Hayden St. Clair-Douglas, had no comment.

The Tyres’ lawyer, J. Renn Olenn, who prosecuted Swain in the civil trial, said he was confi- dent the proceedings were error free, and that justice was done.

Terrence Williams, director of public prosecutions in the BVI, agreed.

“The important thing is that we put on a good case and the jury deliberated on it, as extensively as you could have based on the time, and everyone could look at this trial and say it was done to the highest international standards,” he said.

During the 15-day trial, the jury, consisting of seven women and two men, heard hours of testimony from Swain’s close friends, expert witnesses and his former lover, Dr. Mary Basler.

Prosecutors argued that Swain killed his wife for love and money. The defense claimed Tyre’s death was an unexplainable accident.

“This is what the case boils down to. The prosecution says it’s murder, it’s David Swain. The defense says it’s medical reasons, and accidental drowning,” Justice Indra-Hariprashad Charles told the jury in her three-hour summation Tuesday morning.

During closing arguments, Swain’s defense conceded that Swain had committed infidelities and was a poor businessman, but asked the jury to consider all the possibilities that could have led to Tyre’s death.

The defense also claimed that several prosecution witnesses were distorting the facts. He accused former dive shop owner Phillip Brown, who rented Swain’s group’s air tanks at the start of its charter, of painting the accused man with “sinister intentions.”

Brown had testified Swain entered his dive shop and inquired about a dive site with few people. He also said that after Tyre’s death, Swain asked that he give her equipment to a deserving local.

But during the trial, Swain’s friend and dive companion, Christian Thwaites, told the Court that he rented the tanks while Swain stayed onboard the boats. Swain also alleged that Brown had approached him, asking if he was willing to donate Tyre’s scuba gear.

The defense also poked holes in the autopsy report, claiming that it left open too many medical uncertainties, including a heart attack or stroke. The original autopsy report did not include a toxicology test or microscopic tissue examination.

Dr. Jack Daniel, a defense witness, testified that only a “cursory” medical examination had been performed. He also said there was no indication Tyre was attacked under water.

The defense also referred to expert testimony given last week by Dr. Glenn Egstrom, a UCLA professor of kinesiology, who told the court that Tyre had a history of panicking under water.

“I believe that the material raises as many doubts as it answers questions,” said Dr. Egstrom, who testified he had been an accident investigator for 57 years.

After the verdict, Swain’s children complained that the judge had not allowed them to present a full defense. Late last week, the testimony of Dr. Paul Block, Swain’s psychologist, was ruled inadmissible. Dr. Egstrom, who testified about Tyre’s air consumption rates, was also limited in the scope of his testimony.

In closing arguments, prosecutors said Swain approached Tyre from behind, turned off her air and held her down. “Her struggle would have become a fatal struggle, and a futile struggle,” said Williams.

Prosecutors argued Swain lied in statements to police and in his R.I. depositions.

Under the laws of the BVI, Swain will be sentenced to a mandatory life sentence in prison. He is due to appear at a hearing next week to determine how many years he will serve before he is eligible for parole.

Mason Marcus is a business reporter/ editor for the BVI Beacon, a weekly newspaper in Tortola.

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