Philip Halliday in Antigua in the fall of 2009. Photo courtesy of Sheree Halliday
Sheree Halliday got some good news.
The man who first got her husband Philip involved with the ‘Destiny Empress' has been ‘acquitted on all charges this week.’
That according to an email sent by lawyer John Henry of Joseph Hill & Co in Tottenham, England. Henry has been representing Michael McDermott.
McDermott was the captain of the ‘Destiny Empress” who first hired Halliday aboard in 2009 in Shelburne.
McDermott wasn’t aboard the vessel however when Halliday was arrested. He missed the trip from Trinidad due to broken ribs.
“One of the big things they had against Philip was a phone call he made to Michael to tell him they would be in Spain in two days,” says Sheree. “Because Michael had offered to take Philip on a tour around when he got in.”
Before Philip could land though, he and the rest of the crew were arrested for drug trafficking off the coast of Spain on Dec. 21, 2009. McDermott was arrested later in the U.K., along with an another dozen suspects, in February 2010 in connection with the same trafficking case.
“We’ve been writing and speaking to his lawyer on the phone since they told us a long time ago now, that they had some information that would prove Philip’s innocence,” says an audibly hopeful Sheree. “Well now that he’s been acquitted and his case is over with I really hope he will step up and do the right thing and help Philip.”
McDermott’s court proceeding took place in England.
Philip has been in a string of Spanish jails for the last 18 months and is suffering from liver disease. Doctors told him when he was first incarcerated that he needed to have his gall bladder out.
But as he was transferred from jail to jail, his medical records did not follow him. Finally this March he had gall stones removed but now has a tumour on his kidney and is still waiting to have the gall bladder removed.
“It would be one thing if he was overseas and in jail,” says Sheree, “But he’s sick too and that is what scares the hell out of me.”
Sheree says Philip trusted McDermott like a friend. They had made two trips together, one to Antigua and one to Trinidad and Philip felt comfortable with him as captain. Then when Philip arrived in Trinidad to take the empty ship to a German buyer in Spain, as he was told, McDermott wasn’t there.
A group in Digby has organized two different communication blitzes to persuade Canadian politicians and embassy staff to intervene on Halliday’s behalf.
In vain. They have recently launched their third blitz and a petition drive on the Facebook page, “The Friends & Family of Philip Halliday”.
“We are asking people to email, phone, fax or send letters to the minister of foreign affairs, the prime minister, our MP Greg Kerr and to the Canadian ambassador to Spain,” says Teressa Faessler who runs the Facebook page. “Ask them to please give us some help, to stand up for Philip’s human rights.”
Faessler wrote McDermott’s lawyer on Friday June 17 and got this answer back the same day:
“mr mcdermott was acquitted of all charges this week. he is no longer in prison. we will fax the relevant documentation to the fax number provided by sheree this week”
Sheree says she isn’t sure what this will mean for Philip.
“This has been such an emotional rollercoaster. We get some good news and then we get a bunch of bad news in the back of that. It’s just been insane.”