'Disappointed': Rebecca’s father, David Middleton, has spoken about the Bermuda government’s work permit decision. Inset, murdered teen Rebecca Middleton. *File photos
'Disappointed': Rebecca’s father, David Middleton, has spoken about the Bermuda government’s work permit decision. Inset, murdered teen Rebecca Middleton. *File photos

The father of murdered teen Rebecca Middleton has said he is “disappointed” by the decision to refuse a TV crew temporary work permits to film a documentary about the unsolved crime on the island.

Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said the decision was made because of “potential reputational risks to Bermuda”.

And last night he told the Bermuda Sun: “This is a docu-drama production and is not journalism.

“Nothing is journalistic about re-enactments of a brutal murder and rape, especially when we are well aware of what happened.

“This production would not be in any way reflective of the Bermuda justice system.”

But the move has sparked widespread criticism both at home and internationally, where it has made world headlines.

David Middleton told CKWS Newswatch: “I’m not terribly surprised by that, I’m just, again, disappointed.” He added: “If the government really wants to do something, they want to be part of correcting something that went wrong, then they should be on board with having it done in Bermuda.”

The filmmakers were planning to travel to Bermuda to film a documentary about the murder of Rebecca Middleton.

The 17-year-old Canadian was raped, tortured and killed while on vacation on the island, on July 3, 1996.

She was stabbed up to 35 times and left to die on a remote road in Ferry Reach, St George’s.

No one has yet been convicted of her murder.

The documentary, which was called ‘Murder in Paradise’, is now believed to be on hold.

But some media outlets have reported that producers now plan to conduct interviews for the documentary outside of Bermuda and push ahead with the project. Mr Middleton said: “They applied, they got the application to go down and do the filming there and then the night before they’re supposed to leave they get this notice that they’re not supposed to come.”

Earlier this week Minister Fahy defended his decision. He added: “After carefully and extensively assessing the matter, we recognised that there would be some potential reputational risks to Bermuda associated with the ultimate airing of this documentary.

“Based on the provisions under the law and at my discretion, a decision was made to decline their application for temporary work permits.”

Shadow Minister Walter Roban has condemned the decision as an “affront to freedom of expression”.

Political activist Jonathan Starling said the decision did more damage to Bermuda’s reputation than allowing the film crew in would have done.

Earlier this week, the Media Council of Bermuda was asked to comment on the issue by ZBM.

Tony McWilliam, editor of the Bermuda Sun, released a statement on behalf of the Media Working Group, which set up the council: “At the heart of this issue is the horrific, violent death of a young female, Rebecca Middleton, and for that reason we feel it is inappropriate to comment on the specifics of re-telling this story or speculating on what value it may or may not bring.

“What we will say is that as a matter of principle, we are opposed to any government action that inhibits the movements and /or legitimate functions of bona fide journalists, whether they be local or from overseas.”

Case recap:

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

Before forensic tests were completed, Mundy cut a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to a lesser charge of accessory after the fact to 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, blaming Smith for her death. 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. 

The UK Privy Council later criticized the judge’s “surprising” and “perhaps astonishing” decision, but said his decision had to stand.

• In 2007, Chief Justice Richard Ground conducted a judicial review of the Middleton case at Supreme Court. 

The Middletons’ lawyer, Cherie Booth, QC — wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair — called for Mundy and Smith to be retried on new charges of rape, torture and kidnapping.

• Under the double jeopardy law, a defendant cannot be tried for the same crime twice, following an acquittal or conviction.

In the UK this legal principle was scrapped in 2005 for serious crimes, allowing new evidence such as DNA to be used in a retrial.

It was only overhauled in Bermuda in 2010, for murder, and was not made retroactive.

• In 2007, Ms Booth argued new charges were warranted because of prosecutorial error and alleged violations committed under the European Convention on Human Rights (Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory).

The Chief Justice, however, rejected the Middleton family’s appeal. 

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