Scott Hapgood story hits home for couple robbed at gunpoint in Anguilla
Craig and Judy Pauly were considering buying a winter home in Anguilla when they rented an apartment from their friend who is a prominent realtor on the Caribbean island.
The North Carolina couple’s plans quickly changed, however, when they got a knock on the door last February.
A masked intruder armed with a gun barged into the apartment, firing a shot into the floor and then pointed the weapon at Craig Pauly’s head, according to the 76-year-old couple.
“Money,” the man demanded, according to the couple.
Craig Pauly handed him $200 and then took a swing at the intruder as he backed toward the door. The gunman hit his head and Pauly managed to close the door, the couple said.
“He had the gun pointed at my head the entire time,” Craig Pauly recalled. ”I’m 76 years old. But I thought, ‘I’d better do something.’”
Pauly initially considered the violent encounter a “one-off” experience on the island until he heard about Scott Hapgood.
Hapgood, 44, has been charged with manslaughter in the death of an Anguillan hotel worker. Hapgood and his family were on vacation in April when they said Kenny Mitchel, 27, tried to rob the Darien man at knifepoint in front of two of his children in their room at the Malliouhana hotel. A violent struggle ensued and Mitchel later died.
Hapgood, who is now considered a fugitive after refusing to return to Anguilla for a court appearance this month, said he acted in self-defense — just like Pauly said he did.
“Until we read about this (the Hapgood case), I thought it was a one-off deal,” Pauly said. “What strikes me as totally frightening was if I grabbed the gun from that guy and ended up shooting him, of course it would’ve been in self-defense, but maybe they wouldn’t see it like that.”
The Paulys said they felt the police treated them as suspects, questioning them in separate rooms for an hour after the incident. The couple said the intruder got away and they’re not sure he was ever arrested. Scott Hauser, the realtor who rented the apartment to the couple, did not respond to requests for an interview.
“They covered the material almost as if I was the guilty one and not the victim,” Craig Pauly said. “I got the distinct sense they were in disbelief. They wanted to make sure my second rendition was the same as my first. My sense is they didn’t take it seriously, and to some degree, I believed they thought I made up the whole thing.”
A police report of Pauly’s incident was not available.
Randy Dick, a spokesman for the Royal Anguillan Police Force, declined to comment about the incidents involving Hapgood or Pauly. Dick referred questions to Paul C. Morrison, commissioner of the Royal Anguillan Police Force, and Anguillan Attorney General Dwight Horsford. They have not responded to requests for interviews.
U.S. officials are aware Anguilla authorities have a vested interest in mitigating complaints from tourists, according to a recently dismissed lawsuit alleging a hotel employee attacked and nearly sexually assaulted a 12-year-old American tourist.
The parents of a 12-year-old New York girl identified in court papers only as “CG” sued the owners of the Covecastle resort in Anguilla just months after their daughter was viciously attacked by a hotel employee on a nearby beach, according to a New York Supreme Court Justice’s decision.
A New York Supreme Court judge noted in her ruling that an attorney on the island speaking for the owners of Covecastle said, “Anguilla has a substantial interest in adjudicating claims involving its beaches and tourism industry.”
The lawsuit was dismissed because it was filed in New York and not Anguilla. In her decision, the judge also noted that the suspect, who was only identified in court papers by his initials, was arrested by police.
A review of civil court records indicates that Americans have few civil lawsuits against the major hotels or Anguillan officials in connection with tourist incidents. In one case, a man filed suit against an Anguillan hotel after getting violently ill over a fish meal. Another lawsuit filed against an Anguillan hotel was related to a woman’s fall on wet tiles. Auberge Resorts, the hotel chain that owns Malliouhana, has no federal lawsuits pertaining to visitors.
Hapgood supporters have criticized the hotel’s safety and called for tourists to boycott the island. Some have left negative comments on the Malliouhana’s social media pages and others are campaigning for people to vote Anguilla off U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Places to Travel in the Caribbean.
Hapgood’s defense team cited death threats, concerns for a fair trial and the threat of being sent to prison until the case is resolved as the reasons why the UBS banker did not show up for court on Nov. 11.
Anguilla authorities have said they are preparing a warrant for Hapgood’s arrest, though none appears to have been issued.