January 24, 2009 / 1:58 AM / 10 years ago

Bahamas police probe Travolta extortion allegation

NASSAU (Reuters) - Bahamas authorities are investigating a suspected extortion attempt against actor John Travolta, whose son died there this month, and a senator was under arrest, although no charges had been filed, police said on Friday.

Actor John Travolta attends ceremonies honoring Michael Eisner, former chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co. with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood April 25, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Police Commissioner Reginald Ferguson said his officers were investigating an extortion complaint by Travolta.

Police would not elaborate on the nature of the allegation. Media reports said it was a threat to sell pictures of Jett Travolta’s body if the actor refused to pay for them himself.

Jett Travolta, 16, died on January 2 of a seizure disorder after being found unconscious at his family’s home in the Old Bahama Bay resort on Grand Bahama Island.

Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater was arrested but no charges had been filed in the case, police said. Under Bahamian law, police can hold someone for 48 hours without charges.

Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Marvin Dames also said a medical worker wanted for questioning had appeared voluntarily before investigators, accompanied by a lawyer.

Member of Parliament Obie Wilchcombe, a former minister of tourism and a friend of the Travolta family, was being questioned at police headquarters in Freeport, where Bridgewater was under arrest, Dames said.

“Mr. Wilchcombe is one of those persons we need to talk to see whether he is able to help with our investigations,” Dames said. “He was taken in but I don’t want to suggest he was taken in and would be charged. Our investigations are fluid and so, as we go forward, there are persons of interest we need to see and talk to.”

Bridgewater, a Freeport attorney, is a former member of the Bahamian parliament who was defeated in the 2007 general election. She was later appointed to the Senate.

Jett Travolta was found unconscious in a bathroom at his family’s home after suffering a seizure. His father and paramedics tried to revive him but he was pronounced dead after being rushed by ambulance to a Freeport hospital. The teenager had a history of seizures.

The boy’s body was cremated in the Bahamas and his ashes were returned to Florida, where Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, held a memorial service at their home near Ocala.

Editing by Jim Loney and Peter Cooney

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