Bequia father says reports about him, American wife and children are false
Otis Lockhart, whose family was removed by authorities from the tent in which they lived on Bequia, admits that he made a few mistakes, but denied holding his wife and children against their will.
The Edinboro man, who was born here, but holds United States citizenship, contends instead that he was unfairly portrayed by the media.
“Iâve made some mistakes along the way, but Iâm not a criminal,â he told SEARCHLIGHT. “I donât [steal], Iâm very well educated, Iâm articulate,â Lockhart stressed, during an interview Thursday morning at the Edinboro home of his father.
The former Petersville Primary School and St Martinâs Secondary School (SMSS) student was detained by police last Monday, May 15 after someone reported to them that the living conditions of the family were inadequate.
During the three days police questioned him, investigators tried to ascertain if Lockhart held his wife and three children against their will on the Grenadine island where they were living in an eight-person tent in the district of St Hilary.
The family was removed from the tent last Monday and brought to mainland St Vincent. Lockhart was photograpped wearing handcuffs by a civilian when the party arrived at the Grenadines wharf, while video of the family quickly made the rounds on social media.
Police released Lockhart on Wednesday night, but his wife and three children have been handed over to social services and the United States Embassy in Barbados is said to be investigating their situation.
Lockhart said he has not seen his family since the news broke, but Superintendent of Police Richard Browne reported that Lockhartâs wife, a Connecticut native, said her husband did nothing wrong and the family wanted to remain with him.
Speaking with an American accent, Lockhart told SEARCHLIGHT he has never committed a crime here, or in the United States
He said that the authorities had thoroughly investigated him and confirmed that he owns the property in Bequia on which they were living. Additionally, he said he had been able to prove to authorities that he is financially able to support his family.
“A lot of people like to know everything and sometimes you canât tell people everything, even though you have nothing to hide,â Lockhart said.
Lockhart revealed that he left SVG in 1988 after graduating from the SMSS “with lots of subjectsâ and went on to study computer science, engineering and business at the tertiary level.
According to the Vincentian, he later worked in the United States, managing multimillion dollar information technology infrastructure before forming his own business and “doing very well for myselfâ.
In 2009, he said, his love for SVG brought him back to the country with his family, armed with a plan for a new and “excitingâ tourism venture. On arrival here, he spent a year in Edinboro at his fatherâs house, then moved to a rented property belonging to Moulton Mayers. His next journey was to Bequia, where he again rented from Dolly and Maryanne Philips and later to a place called Camel at a woman named “Juanita,â before going to St Hilary.
“We are a close-knit family who love being together,â said Lockhart, who added that as Americans, they were used to the idea of the outdoors and so decided to move into the tent. Their tent home was supplied with water, Internet, electricity and other amenities and is surrounded by a number of multimillion dollar properties.
“In the Caribbean, we are sometimes too one-dimensionalâ¦ I love here; thatâs why I came back here. I could have left my family and come back, but I met my wife there and we love each other; weâve been together [many] years,â Lockhart revealed.
He added that his wife supported their decision to move to SVG, where their original plan was to spend three to four years, while he pursued his dream of becoming involved in the tourism sector.
Lockhart said that since arriving in SVG, he has never worked, as he had enough money and his family is well taken care by him and his wifeâs relatives in the US.
He stressed that despite rumours, his children have the latest computer tablets and lacked nothing, and are home schooled by him and his wife, both of whom have tertiary level education.
Ultimately, their goal was to start a tourist-oriented campsite and create a Caribbean diaspora integrated website. The idea, he added, was to give back to the country by building a one-of-a-kind tourism product that would attract persons and allow them to stay at a cheap rate and have money to spend on other things on the island.
“Iâve made some mistakes along the wayâ¦ I love people, but a lot of the times what happen is … we get too jealous, envious â and weâve got to get out of that. There are a lot of beautiful people here, but it only takes one,â said Lockhart, who added that the police did their work and he has no problems with them. While they did him no favours, he added, they acted professionally.
“I spent literally EC$4,000 a month in Bequia to feed my kids; my family is well fed. We donât stock up food, because we donât have a fridge or freezer; itâs a campsite. We buy, at most, two days supply of food,â Lockhart added, challenging reporters to check their record at the Bequia-based Knights Trading Supermarket.
An official at Knights Trading confirmed Lockhartâs story.
He added: “We sat with the Ministry of Education; the kids are very educated and very literate. I love my children. If there was an issue with the kids, they would have said so, because kids donât lie. They would have said âdad abused us, they donât feed usâ.â
Lockhart said that when he was arrested he was getting food to take back to his family. Since he was held overnight, the food never reached them and so they were hungry when police visited the home.
“There are some mistakes along the way and they were highlighted and investigated and that is why I wasnât charged. We are all human beings and we make mistakes, but with kids you donât want to make any mistakes at all,â said Lockhart.
One of his biggest mistakes, he declared, was not letting his family stay at the rented apartment instead of moving them to the campsite fully. He charged too that the claim that his wife was not in contact with her family in the US was not true and his wifeâs mother would sometimes send money to Bequia.
“We, as Vincentians, love to jump to conclusions when we donât know. I donât blame them, I am a stand-off person and the fact that I am living in a tent with a family youâre going to draw conclusions, and rightfully so, but to make aspersions is another thing… I donât blame people, because I have made mistakes. I came to make a contribution and I realize I made mistakes,â said Lockhart.
Explaining his daughtersâ gait that was observed in the viral video, Lockhart said that she was born with a medical issue, but she is getting better.
“It has nothing to do with being fed or not being fed,â said the 47-year-old Lockhart. He also revealed that he spoke to US immigration officials on Wednesday night and they are doing investigations.
What Lockhart hopes to achieve can be seen on his website, bequiacamping.com