CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Investigators are trying to identify a body found burned beyond recognition last week in a charred Range Rover near a luxury hotel on the north shore of this Caribbean island, police said Wednesday.
Officials released scant details at a news conference, but speculation was rife that the dead man was wealthy hotelier Oliver Gobat, a St. Lucia native who also has British citizenship. He was reported missing Friday, the same day the body was found near his family’s upscale Cap Maison hotel and spa.
Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus said only that the body was believed to be a “prominent St. Lucian resident associated with the tourism sector.”
On Wednesday, Gobat’s family issued a statement saying they were devastated by his “sudden and tragic death.” They said he died Friday and they planned to hold a memorial service Saturday. They did not offer any specifics on how Gobat died.
Gobat is the son of Theo Gobat, who came to St. Lucia in the 1970s and ran several hotels. About six years ago, the family opened Cap Maison, a 49-room hotel spread out in villas that the younger Gobat managed.
While British newspapers are identifying the corpse in the car as Gobat, Assistant Police Commissioner Frances Henry said officials were still trying to determine the identity and were working on getting forensic assistance from overseas. A police statement Tuesday said the body’s identity could not be conclusively determined “in the absence of scientific evidence.”
An initial autopsy found evidence of head trauma and possible gunshot wounds, according to police. But they said the body was so badly burned it would require further work to determine the cause of death.
St. Lucia, an island of about 163,000 people, has seen an increase in violent crimes that authorities blame on drug trafficking. However, police reported 34 killings last year, the lowest number in four years.