British journalist escapes injury in fatal car park shoot-out

A former British newspaper editor has revealed how a gunfight outside his office in the Bahamas this Christmas left a policeman dead.

John Marquis, managing editor of the leading Bahaman newspaper The Tribune, and the paper’s business editor Neil Hartnell, also British, has just finished work when a police patrol and a gang of men exchanged 27 bullets from their office window after they finished a late shift on 29 December.

A 26-year-old police constable, Ramos Williams, was struck four times and died at the scene as he took cover behind a metal container. One of the men was arrested at the scene and another, the suspected killer, was picked up later by police.

Several bullets hit the office walls and spent rounds were scattered in the car park and a pool of blood marked where the dead officer lay.

Four men appeared before Nassau magistrates today charged with intentionally causing the constable’s death and were remanded in custody.

Marquis, a former editor of the Packet newspaper in Falmouth, who also writes non-fiction books, admitted that Bahaman capital Nassau’s soaring murder rate, and an increasingly hostile political climate, made his current job ‘slightly less congenial’than editing the Packet or covering international boxing for the Thomson organisation, another of his former jobs.

‘I’ve always said that Nassau was the best news town in the world outside of a war zone,’he told Press Gazette. ‘Now I’m beginning to think it is a war zone.”

Apart from Marquis and Hartnell, two other Brits work at The Tribune – production editor Jason Donald, from Glasgow, and Marcus Day, a former Wolverhampton Express and Star journalist who recently joined the paper from The Royal Gazette in Bermuda.

The incident brought to an end an eventful year for The Tribune.

Last May, the 104-year-old daily was blamed by some for bringing down the country’s Progressive Liberal Party government after Marquis published two front-page pictures of a cabinet minister on a bed embracing the model and reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith, who had recently died.

The minister was forced to resign in the aftermath, triggering a series of events culminating in the PLP’s defeat at the May 2 general election.

Three placard protests were staged outside The Tribune’s office calling for Marquis’s deportation and a smear campaign carried in rival titles described him as a ‘journalistic terrorist”.

This came after Marquis’s work permit was deferred in 2006 pending a Labour Department inquiry. Five senior government figures called for his expulsion, but the government backed down after it was found there was no Bahamian available to replace him.

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