by Larry Smith
HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Over a mug of Gosling's rum in the Rosedon Hotel's tea room here recently, the conversation turned to race relations. And retired policeman Ken McDowall reminded me that it was 40 years ago this month that the island's British governor, Sir Richard Sharples, was murdered by a black Bermudian named Erskine Burrows.
McDowall is from St Vincent in the Eastern Caribbean, but he has spent the last 40-plus years in Bermuda, most of them as a police officer. After the governor and his aide were ambushed in the gardens of Government House in 1973, police arrested Burrows and an accomplice named Larry Tacklyn, both career criminals.
Three years later Burrows was found guilty of murdering Sharples and his aide, as well as the earlier murder of the British police commissioner and two white shopkeepers. Tacklyn was found to be complicit in the murder of the shopkeepers.
Both men were said to have been influenced by a militant Marxist group called the Black Berets, and despite petitions for clemency they were hanged at the Royal Naval Dockyard on the island's western end in 1977. These were the last judicial executions under British law anywhere in the world.