In a 24-page handwritten letter to photographer Chris Lund, Fox details his version of what happened on that tragic day when two lives ended and his life changed forever. Here is the story of the murders, their reportage and the events surrounding them in Fox's own words.
THE FACTS | This much we know for certain. On September 30, 1997, in the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis (population: 39,000), 20-year-old beauty queen Leyoca Browne and her mother, 36-year-old Violet Browne, were fatally shot with a gun owned by Bertil Fox, then 46. Fox, who previously had been engaged to Leyoca and was at the scene of the crime when the shootings occurred, was arrested and charged with the murders.
His first trial ended in a hung jury, split five to four for acquittal. After much public outrage about the lack of a guilty verdict, he was retried, convicted and sentenced to hang. British human rights lawyers appealed, and Fox's automatic death sentence was ruled unconstitutional; he was resentenced to life in prison. He remains in a St. Kitts prison today.
THE PRESS | Fox is very critical of what he perceives as the unfair reportage he and his trial received. Stories frequently referenced "'roid rage" and the presumed aggression and insecurity of bodybuilders.
One of the people Fox singles out is Rick Wayne. Formerly a champion bodybuilder, an accomplished bodybuilding writer and the associate publisher of FLEX, Wayne is now a newspaper publisher and a political commentator in his native St. Lucia (a Caribbean island neighboring St. Kitts).
In a British TV documentary, Wayne claimed Fox dislikes white people. Fox writes to Lund: "I have never told him that. I am no bloody racist, you know that. Please, if you write anything from these letters, please put that straight for me. Most of my friends are white, including girlfriends."
THE CORRUPTION | Fox alleges that the judge and the jury at the second trial were biased against him. The foreperson was a friend of the family of the murder victims. Two other jurors reportedly complained to the judge regarding this conflict, but the judge refused to intervene.
Fox writes: "In the Caribbean, with a small island like St. Kitts where everybody knows everybody, it's very dangerous--especially for someone like me who did not grow up here and just came here to open a business, bought land and built premises.... It's who you know and who knows you that counts in these parts of the world.
"My conviction was because of an opportunist liar called Edmund Tross, who was supposed to be a friend, and his girlfriend, Julisca Wallace, and their greed for my gym business and property. And the corrupt flawed jury system that they use here that I mention about at the start of the letter. When the incident happened, I had no one to run the gym for me, and I had to keep the gym open because of a small mortgage I had to pay on the premises because of that same Edmund Tross, but that's another story." [Tross began running Fox's Gym after his friend's arrest.]
According to Fox, Tross, an electrician by trade, said he wanted to take financial control of Fox's gym, house and money to protect it from a potential lawsuit from the victims' family. Fox refused. Instead, Fox put the property in the name of his eldest daughter, Dorette, and he gave Tross power of attorney to withdraw money from his bank account to pay for his defense. Tross then allegedly turned Dorette against her father and convinced her to sell him Fox's property for a fraction of its worth.
Tross was a witness for the prosecution in the preliminary trial, first trial and the retrial, He was allowed to change his testimony each time. In the retrial, he claimed Fox confessed to the murders because Fox discovered Leyoca was seeing another man (no such man was named or came forward).
Furthermore, just before the second trial drew to a close, there was a surprise witness who had not testified in the preliminary trial or previous trial: Julisca Wallace. Wallace said she saw Fox with the gun shortly before the shootings, and Fox supposedly told her he was going to kill his ex-girlfriend. The judge did not allow Fox to take the stand again to refute Wallace's allegations.
THE PROSECUTION | Prosecutors alleged Fox was despondent when Leyoca ended their relationship. In their version, Fox, in a jealous rage, brought his pistol to Violet's clothing store, where Leyoca worked. He shot Leyoca in the back, fatally wounding her. Violet was also fatally shot.
THE WITNESS | Another employee, Amanda Matthews, was in the clothing store when the shootings occurred. As a prosecution witness, she testified that she did not see Fox with a gun. She did see him speak to Leyoca--reportedly not in an angry tone--but she could not hear what was said. The mother then confronted Fox and said, "Don't come in here with that." Fox then allegedly pushed the mother. Matthews heard a shot, and she ran and locked herself in a restroom.
THE DEFENSE | What follows is Fox's explanation in his letter to Lund. "Now let me tell you, Chris, how the incident happened. I had to go to England on a business trip to buy things for the gym.... On my return on the Friday, Leyoca was not at the house.
"Now she came on the Saturday morning in her brother's car and said to me she was staying at her mother's, and she had come for her things because she wanted to think things over and stay with her mother until she can make up her mind what to do. I helped her pack her clothes. Now this bit, what I just said, I did not say in court. I was told by my lawyer to leave that out and just start when I found my gun missing and went to Leyoca's mother's shop to see if she had the gun and pouch.
"The pouch was really, you know, those money bags bodybuilders use to put around their waists to put money in; that is what I left the gun in. [In a postscript, Fox notes that he purchased the .38 caliber revolver, for which he had a license, after being held up at gunpoint in a restaurant in 1995.]
"Now me and Leyoca were having some problems because of her mother who was always putting things in her head, and was always wanting to loan money from me, and was telling her daughter I would never marry her, that as soon as I saw some other young thing in the gym, I will leave her. Leyoca was obsessed with being married. So I gave her a check to buy an engagement ring.
"Now, after I found my gun missing from the bedroom drawer, I immediately went to Leyoca's mother's shop to see Leyoca. Let me tell you something, I did not go to Leyoca's mother's shop with any malicious or willful intentions in my heart. Nobody was more sorry and devastated about what happened than me.
"As soon as I arrived in the reception area, Leyoca immediately stopped what she was doing and came to meet me. We talk and greet each other and went outside the shop, and I asked her if she had my pouch with gun and keys, etc. She said, 'Yes.' I ask her where they were. She said she gave them to her mother for safekeeping. I said, 'Could I have it now?' She said, 'Sure. Follow me.'
"She went back in the shop with me behind her. She made a right turn. As Leyoca was about to enter a door, her mother came out. [Her mother] had the pouch in one hand and the gun in the other, and she waved them about and said to me, 'Are these what you want? Are these what you want?'
"Leyoca turned towards me and put her hand on my shoulder, as if to stop me going any farther. Her mother, in turn, pushed me with the hand she had the gun in over Leyoca's shoulder and said to Leyoca, 'Don't come in here with that'--meaning me.
"As her hand was coming back from pushing me over Leyoca's shoulder, I made a grab for the gun and pouch. She resisted. The gun went off and Leyoca got shot. I was still trying to get the gun from her when it went off again. [Her mother] fell down and dropped the gun and pouch. [The unusual passage of the bullet, entering Violet Browne's groin and exiting her neck, could add credibility to Fox's contention that Violet held the pistol and they were grappling over it when it fired.]
"I picked up the gun and pouch, panicked and ran out of the shop. I was heading towards a U.S. friend who has a business near Tross' workshop, but because of traffic, I ended up at Tross' workshop. [Tross] was not there.
"A guy that works there told me. I said to the guy, 'Phone Tross. Leyoca and her mother have been shot.' I was in shock. My head was spinning. I just sat down on something in the shop until Tross arrived.
"When he came, we went into a little room he calls an office. I said to him, 'Leyoca and her mother just got shot.' He said, 'What? What happened?' I said, 'Leyoca's mother had my gun, and I tried to get it from her, and Leyoca got shot.' He shook his head and asked something else--I can't remember. He asked me for the gun, and I gave him the gun with the pouch, and he said, 'Fat boy, I got to take you to the police station.' I said, 'OK' And we drove to the station. I never said one word to him from his workshop to the station."
THE CROSS-EXAMINATION | Fox fails to answer crucial questions regarding his scenario. Why did Leyoca take his gun and its pouch from his house, and why would she then give these items to her mother for "safekeeping"?
Why would he struggle with someone with her finger on the trigger of a gun? Did he think she would shoot him if he gave up his hold? How exactly was the gun fired during the struggle? Did his grip cause Violet to pull the trigger? What about the shots he didn't account for? (There were at least two more. Missed shots at close range could conceivably bolster his scenario.)
After what he claims was a tragic accident, why didn't he try to help the victims or call an ambulance? Perhaps Fox has answers for these questions among others, but they aren't provided in his letter.
There are problems with the prosecution's case, as well. There were no autopsies and no conclusive fingerprints from the gun. The witness did not see Fox with a gun just before the shootings, and his clothing--tank top and spandex pants--would not have easily concealed a handgun, nor was he described as emotional at that time.
Why would he tell Julisca Wallace that he was going to kill his ex-girlfriend? Furthermore, why did she present this evidence only at the end of the retrial, and why wasn't Fox allowed to answer her charge on the stand?
What about the conflicted interests of prosecution witness Tross, who benefited economically from Fox's imprisonment, and the jury foreperson, who had a connection to the victims? Did the general climate on the small island--there were frequent protests by women's groups, it was the biggest news story for months, the jury was not sequestered, the judge's comments may have been prejudicial--prevent an impartial outcome in the retrial?
THE VERDICT | Today, Fox is 58, and he has spent nearly twelve years behind bars. Near the end of his letter to Lund, he apologizes for his penmanship. "Sorry about the writing, but the bloody cell is so dark. There are 14 of us in a cell. Three are on the floor with just blankets." If, as the second jury concluded, Fox murdered two people, it is difficult to feel sympathy for him. If, as Fox contends, the gun was fired by Violet Browne during the course of a struggle, then Fox's crime was manslaughter at worst and most probably no crime at all.
There is another possibility that does not preclude either of those scenarios: Fox returned to the tiny island of his birth as a celebrity and an outsider, and, after the gun went off, he grew enmeshed in a web of media hysteria, financial malfeasance and legal prejudice.
As Fox writes: "I tell you, I curse the day and damn the hour I ever came back to this corrupt place they call St. Kitts." One person's corruption may be another's rightful retribution. Today, no one besides the man convicted of two murders knows for certain if the reporters, his "friends," the judge and the jury ultimately denied or delivered justice.