Young pals: Jasmine Meens and Rebecca Middleton *File photos
Young pals: Jasmine Meens and Rebecca Middleton *File photos

In the coming months, the OBA government will decide on whether to make GPS/digital dispatch optional for cabbies. In recent editions, the Bermuda Sun has been highlighting the benefits of GPS amid concerns expressed to this newspaper that its possible demise would be a retrograde step not only within the industry, but, since taxis play such an integral role in tourism and international business, for the country as a whole. 

The previous PLP government tried to make the satellite tracking system mandatory, saying it would lead to greater efficiency and customer service. But some drivers resisted, voicing concerns about cost and the new technology. There have long been complaints about Bermuda’s taxi service, that cabs will fail to turn up or take lengthy periods of time to arrive. 

There are also claims some drivers lie about their positions or pick up other fares on the way.

Proponents of GPS say it is faster, more efficient and a more accountable system. The dispatcher will send the closest cab to the caller and the system alerts them as to when their taxi will arrive.

There is also an argument for GPS on public safety grounds. The father of murdered teenager Rebecca Middleton tells the Bermuda Sun why his daughter might still be alive today if her taxi had arrived on July 3, 1996.

ould Rebecca Middleton still be alive today if a GPS system had been in place for cabs?

Yes, says her father David Middleton, who is still coming to terms with the murder of his daughter on July 3, 1996.

Mr Middleton spoke to the Bermuda Sun from his home in Canada to express his support for GPS/digital dispatch.

“Anything that will help public safety is the way to go,” he said.

“There are people against something like this (GPS) but it’s about accountability. You phone for a cab and it’s supposed to be there, but an hour later it’s not. Who is accountable for that? 

I would say, don’t let the taxi companies go backwards, as it’s been bad enough. It would be better with a better system.”

In the Middletons’ home city of Belleville, Ontario, the largest taxi company, Central Taxi, operates a GPS/digital dispatch system.

Mr Middleton said: “If a taxi firm has a digital GPS system they can tell you when they are going to be there, and if it’s regulated properly they would have to be there too. So you have a big safety factor there.

“On an island where public transit (transport) does not run all night and you cannot rent vehicles in most cases, the taxi service can be — and is — a lifeline in some situations.”

He said: “I do feel Becky would not have taken a ride to her death if her taxi had arrived.”

Rebecca Middleton travelled to Bermuda with her friend Jasmine Meens for a vacation and to celebrate her 17th birthday.

The teenagers were staying with Jasmine’s father Rick Meens, in Flatts village, Smith’s.

On July 2, the teens went into St George’s for Heritage Nights but ended up at the White Horse Tavern as the event was cancelled due to bad weather. 

They then went to a friend’s house nearby and attempted to get a taxi home at about 1:15am.

But a taxi never arrived.

The girls instead accepted the offer of a ride from young men on two motorcycles. Jasmine arrived home safely but Becky never made it. Her body was found on a deserted road in Ferry Reach. She had been tortured, raped and stabbed to death in a frenzied attack.

Three times

ecalling events, Mr Middleton said the girls had to leave their friend’s house in St George’s shortly after 1am. 

“They called for a taxi three times and believed it was on its way for them.

“They waited for about half-an-hour and then nothing, so they called again, and then waited another 15 to 20 minutes, and then called again. It was probably at least an hour (they waited).

“After the boys said, ‘We’ve got to go to bed’, the girls said, ‘We’ll wait outside’. The house was very close to the street, so they went outside and waited. The girls were told the taxi was on its way but I think that was just a routine answer.

“But to tell them a cab was on the way twice, and maybe a third time… The last time when they talked to the dispatcher, they certainly got the feeling that it wasn’t going to happen.

“They were thinking, ‘How are we going to get home?’ and that was probably what persuaded them to get on those scooters.”

Does he feel Becky would still be alive today if the taxi had had GPS/digital dispatch?

“Yes… I think if the cab had picked them up, they wouldn’t have seen these motorcyclists and had any involvement whatsoever getting a ride home with them.

“Jasmine said at the time, she didn’t want to get in too late because her dad was keeping tabs on her and so she didn’t want to phone him and wake him, to get him to pick her up.

“You hear a lot about kids going out doing something and then not wanting to get in trouble with their parents. But in most cases it doesn’t end the way Becky’s story did. In most cases it ends with the parents giving them a talking to.”

But although the failure of the taxi to show up was a contributing factor in her death, Mr Middleton said it was only one link in “a chain of events”.

“One of the things was that she went on holiday to Bermuda. Another was that the festivities in St George’s were rained off and that they went to the pub, and then on to the house. It also gets down to the fact the taxi didn’t come to pick them up.

“But if you had taken any one of these links out of the chain, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Two men — Kirk Mundy, 21, and Justis Smith, 19, were suspected of killing Rebecca but neither were convicted of murder.

Before forensic tests were completed, Mundy cut a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to a lesser charge of being an accessory after the fact to the murder, in exchange for him testifying against Smith. 

He claimed to have had consensual sex with Rebecca and returned from washing himself on a nearby beach and blamed the killing on Smith. He was jailed for five years. Two years later, the murder case against Smith was thrown out after Judge Vincent Meerabux said there was no case to answer.

No one has ever been convicted of Rebecca’s murder and to this day the Middleton family are still searching for justice.

“I still miss Becky every day; you wonder what life would have been with her,” Mr Middleton told us.

“I don’t know if things get easier, but things have levelled off. Becky was the youngest of our three kids and I have my two sons, and grandchildren now, and life is good in that sense. But there is still a hole in my life as I’m still missing Becky. 

“Her brothers miss their sister, but we are surviving quite well.”