Tue | Jan 21, 2020

'It was torture' - Freed widow of German hotelier says absence from son's life was hard

Published:Thursday | March 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/ Senior Gleaner Writer

Charmaine Steiner, the woman who was acquitted of killing her husband, German hotelier Helmut Steiner, has described her 10-year wait for justice as torture.

The most difficult part, said the 45-year-old widow, was not knowing the whereabouts of her son and not being part of his life for a decade. Steiner said that she took the decision to send her son, Marcus Steiner, to the United States after she was arrested for her husband's death in 2008. As a condition of bail, all of Steiner's travel documents were confiscated, causing her to miss important milestones in her son's development.

"I don't even know where my son lives ... . He graduated from high school and I've not been able to attend his graduation," she said.


2008 murder


Helmut Steiner, a German professor who lived in Jamaica for more than 30 years and operated the Jamaica Heights Hotel in Portland, was found with multiple stab wounds along the roadway near his business place in May 2008. His widow and 53-year-old labourer Owen Clarke were arrested and charged with the killing. However, the case collapsed in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston on Tuesday after prosecutors acknowledged, in court, that the integrity of a critical piece of DNA evidence had been compromised.

Justice Sarah Thompson James, who presided over the case, later directed the seven-member jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty. During the seven-week trial, District Constable Maurice Legister gave evidence that he accompanied Clarke to the Oracabessa Health Clinic and collected a bandage, which was submitted to the Government's forensic laboratory. However, a technician at the lab reportedly testified that the sample tested was labelled as coming from the Port Maria Hospital and contained different items than what had been described by Legister.

"No matter how one's memory is defective or how distracted one is, to write Port Maria Hospital when you are at the Oracabessa Health Centre begs for an explanation," lead prosecutor Kathy-Ann Pyke said. Both Charmaine Steiner and Clarke, who spent eight years in custody, have maintained their innocence and said that they were now focused on rebuilding their lives.

"Mi feel hurt bout that, enuh," Clarke said of his eight years in custody. Steiner said that she had already reconnected with her son and daughter, who resides in Germany. "I have to pick up the pieces ... try to get my life back together," she said.