Saturday, February 5, 2011

Whitehorse woman found dead in Costa Rica

Kimberley Blackwell, 53, wanted her Costa Rican chocolate factory to make people feel good.

She left Whitehorse and moved to a remote area, near Puerto Jimenez, in Costa Rica, to build her factory.

“She was kind of a wild woman,” her friend Eric Epstein told The Star on the phone from Whitehorse. “She was very powerful woman, very fun, very silly, but also very committed.”

He said Blackwell’s property, located near Corcovado National Park, was surrounded by jungle and had an abundance of wild life. Epstein said Blackwell told him, she was having problems with hunters and poachers coming on her property.

Blackwell was found murdered in her home earlier this week. Her body was found on her patio and her friends in Costa Rica said she was apparently beaten and strangled.

“It’s a sad way to go,” said Epstein, adding that he imagined she would have been enraged that her life ended that way. “She was one who would have put up a big fight. She was all fight and no flight.”

Blackwell’s company, called Samaritan Xocolata, specialized in producing organic chocolates. The ingredients for her chocolates: cocoa beans, sugar cane, carao honey, chilies, were grown on her property. Epstein said she would sell her chocolate to hotels and spas.

According to its website, Samaritan Xocolata’s mission was “to pursue a self-sustainable cooperative that practices positive environmental stewardship and fair wage.”

Blackwell had a real love of animals, said Epstein. Her friends would call her “sloth mother” because she once adopted an injured sloth and nursed it back to life.

“She would say she used to be the woman who ran with wolves, now she’s the one who ran with tepezcuintles,” said Epstein. A Tepezcuintle is a large, rodent, native to Costa Rica.

A post-mortem will be conducted to determine the official cause of death. The Canadian consulate in Costa Rica is working with the police.

Man shot dead had extensive record

THE man shot dead by an off-duty police officer on Thursday evening had a long history of offending, including robbery, it was revealed yesterday.

Marc Alexander Ringland, 29, died following a suspected robbery bid at a garage on Belfast’s Albertbridge Road shortly after 7pm.

Mr Ringland, who lived off the Castlereagh Road, was jailed for nine months at Belfast Crown Court in March last year but had been released on licence.

His lengthy criminal record also included convictions for criminal damage, driving while disqualified, making a threat to kill, burglary, theft, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Nine years ago he pleaded guilty to a single count of burglary at Belfast Crown Court and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ detention in a young offenders centre.

At a subsequent appeal hearing, where he hoped to have his sentence reduced, the judge described Mr Ringland as being involved in “reckless criminal conduct” and said: “For a man who has nine previous convictions for burglary, 25 for theft, two for handling, two for criminal damage and one for deception, let alone three recent convictions for robbery, a sentence of three-and-a-half years upon a charge of burglary cannot be regarded as excessive.”

The family of Mr Ringland are “totally distressed by this tragedy”, their solicitor said yesterday.

“They require some time to come to terms with the tragedy,” said solicitor

Dennis Maloney, who appealed for the family’s privacy to be respected.

He added: “The Police Ombudsman’s senior investigators were here this afternoon, we have just liaised with them and that investigation has just started. It will continue over the weekend and his remains will not be released until that process is complete.”

Mr Maloney said he had been informed of the death of his 29-year-old client yesterday morning and described the shooting as “a total tragedy”.

A 20-strong team of investigators from the Police Ombudsman’s office are looking into all aspects of the incident – including claims that the dead man had been armed with a knife when he was shot.

Speaking yesterday, a spokesman for the Ombudsman’s office said: “The area was

cordoned off to allow forensic examination to take place and a number of items have been retrieved for further analysis, which is ongoing today.

“We have also identifed and spoken to a number of witnesses, and would like

to appeal for anyone else who may know anything about what happened to contact


PSNI officers have access to, and are entitled to carry, their police-issue pistols for protection when off duty.

East Belfast MLA Robin Newton said his son was a victim of a “violent hold-up”

while working in the same shop several years ago.

“This was a disturbing and troubling experience for him, which took some time

to get over.

“However, this much more serious shooting fatality will be an even greater

challenge to the mental well-being of the employees,” he said.

East Belfast MP Naomi Long described the incident as a “traumatic situation

for all of those involved” and also “very disturbing for people living and working” in the wider area.

Police Ombudsman investigators have identifed and spoken to a number of witnesses but are appealing for anyone else with information to contact their