On Tuesday, a jury found Mr Kevin Rankin not guilty of sodomising and murdering his two-year-old niece nearly three years ago at Haslington, East Coast Demerara. Mr Rankin, who was 15 years old at the time of the incident, had been arrested by the police after it was established that the dead toddler, Kimani Phillips, had been in his sole care for about an hour before her death. He was then released, but was rearrested after the infant’s cause of death was confirmed by the results of a post-mortem examination (PME).

How did Kimani die? On October 21, 2013, the two-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at the Georgetown Public Hospital where she had been taken by her 18-year-old cousin and her aunt. The child had previously been declared dead at the Nabaclis Health Centre by a nurse, who could find no pulse and no heartbeat, but her relatives, who were perhaps in denial, still took her to the city health facility.

The PME which was later conducted on the child’s body, found evidence that she had been sodomised before death. According to the PME report, Kimani succumbed due to haemorrhage and shock from multiple abdominal injuries. The pathologist found that the child had been subjected to anal penetration, which left behind “fresh samples of blood.” The abdominal trauma was a result of the anal penetration, which caused massive internal injuries to her spleen, liver and anus. In addition, there were injuries to her head and neck and blunt trauma consistent with having been hit, compression or a fall. The pathologist also surmised that the infant could have been pressed down, thus restricting the flow of blood and preventing her from breathing. Can there be any worse way for a two-year-old to die? The extent of the injuries she sustained indicate that she would have been in unimaginable pain while they were being inflicted. The PME established that Kimani, at merely two years old, had been brutally ripped open by whoever penetrated her. Further, there was no doubt that it had happened right before she died. There was no way an infant could have lived for more than a few minutes with such tremendous injuries.

Who killed Kimani? All of the circumstantial evidence pointed to her then 15-year-old uncle, Mr Kevin Rankin. About an hour prior to her death, he had been called and asked to give her a bath. At that point, she had been alive and well. The next time she was seen after that she was either dying or already dead. No one else had any access to her. It was on the basis of this that the uncle was arrested. While considerations would have had to be given to the fact that Mr Rankin was a minor, there is no excusing what can only be described as extremely shabby detective work.

At the time of his first arrest, Mr Rankin would have been a person of interest in the child’s death because he was the last person to have seen her alive. And while there was as yet no PME report, the police would have had an idea as to how Kimani died. Therefore, in keeping with proper protocols, Mr Rankin should have been examined for signs of trauma consistent with the damage done to his two-year-old niece and samples taken from him for DNA testing.

At the time of his second arrest, Mr Rankin was a suspect and he was subsequently charged with the crime. Again, there were no moves by the police to obtain DNA samples from the accused, which could have been compared with samples taken from the dead infant. The results of such a comparison would have firmly established either that Mr Rankin was responsible for Kimani’s death or that he had nothing to do with it. One variable would have ensured a conviction. The other would have seen the police widen their investigation. This is pretty basic detective work and there is no reason why it should not have been done. There was no eyewitness. As emerged during the trial, the 18-year-old cousin who entrusted Kimani to Mr Rankin’s care so he could bathe her and who later took Kimani to seek medical attention was the closest thing to that. However, she gave conflicting evidence, because, she said, she was reluctant to implicate her cousin Mr Rankin. The police ought to have done its evidence gathering independent of this witness.

That being said, the circumstantial evidence was solid. The defence had no way of disproving that (a) Kimani had been in Mr Rankin’s care and no one else’s prior to her death and (b) Kimani was so sexually abused so viciously that it caused her death. The police’s failings aside, one cannot help but wonder if the jury’s not-guilty verdict really was based on the testimony presented in court. One hopes too that the Director of Public Prosecutions will file an appeal in this case. A trusting two-year-old has had her life brutally snuffed out. There should be justice for her.

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