Black Immigrant Daily News
Patrice Cudjoe mother of murdered Kathisha Cudjoe, whose body was discovered in the Heights of Aripo after she was initially reported missing, holds on to her casket during her funeral at Dennie’s Funeral Home in Belmont, on February 10. – SUREASH CHOLAI
At least 56 families are suffering as the year comes to an end owing to the disappearances of their loved ones.
Statistics from the police said they received 552 reports of missing people for the year, as of December 28.
This worrying trend continues to attract the attention of police, interest groups, relatives, and others searching for evidence of where these people have ended up. As it stands, 466 were accounted for, 33 males and 23 females were missing without any trace and 30 were found dead.
Since the disappearance of Zaid “Robin” Hosein, 54, of Princes Town, his family has been living in agony. The family has sought divine intervention, literally praying for answers.
“We read the Quran every night, then reduce it to every Saturday. It is heartbreaking not knowing where he is or how he is. It is difficult for the family. We are keeping hope that he is alive somewhere and will come home one day,” Hosein’s cousin-in-law Rose Hosein told Newsday.
“People randomly call the family saying they have information about his whereabouts. But all were invalid. They know the family is desperate for information on him.”
The businessman, who owns a store in Marabella, was last seen on September 7 when he left the family’s home. Hosein is not married and has no children.
Rose said every time there are reports of unidentified bodies found or someone goes missing, the family experiences emotional turmoil.
The search is ongoing for farmer Sanjay “Naren” Deodath, 31, of Moruga, who went missing in June. Days later, his truck was found abandoned in Cocoyea.
Relatives of missing retiree Orville “Ashley” Richards, 60, said the family is still awaiting DNA results to confirm that the human remains found were his.
He went missing on June 12 when he left his home at Penal Quinam Road home in Siparia. On October 7, skeletal remains were found at Deoraj Trace, off Penal Quinam Road. Clothing found near the remains matched the clothes Richards was last seen wearing.
Females, particularly 17 and under, have the highest number of missing people reports, with many being accounted for while others are found dead and some are still unaccounted for.
Two male infants – three-year-old Allon Ramdial and two-year-old Kimani Francis – were also among the missing. But their searches ended in tears.
On December 12, Allon’s decomposing body was found in the Ortoire River in Mayaro, days after he went missing near his home.
Seven months earlier, on May 9, Kimani wandered from his family’s home in Techier Village in Point Fortin. The next day, his body was found in the Guapo River.
Both disappearances sparked massive search operations.
Of the six missing females who were found dead, at least three were murdered. Keithisha Cudjoe, 21, of St James, was last seen alive on January 24, and her semi-nude decomposing body was found in the Heights of Aripo on January 28.
Kareen Ramlal, 43, of Pasea, Tunapuna, was last seen on July 31. Her decomposing body was found on August 7 at Bobb Street, Penal. The ex-convict was released from prison in December 2021 after serving her sentence for the murder of her common-law husband, Anil Jadoo, in 2006.
Marissa Edwards, 39, the mother of one, worked as an administrative clerk at the Department of Paraclinical Sciences at UWI’s Faculty of Medicine in St Augustine. She was last seen alive on September 18, when she left home with her boyfriend Simeon Roopchand, 51, the main suspect in her disappearance.
His body was found in a forested area in Tabaquite on September 23. He was believed to have died by suicide.
Three days later, members of the NGO Hunters Search and Rescue Team found Edwards’ decomposing body in a drain in Waterloo. An autopsy found that Edwards died of blunt force trauma and strangulation with a copper wire around her neck.
Another missing victim, Keisha Ghatt, 31, of Freeport, died in a hit-and-run accident in McBean, Couva.
Her dismembered body was found on March 25. She was the mother of four.
Two others, Jada Wilson, 18, and singer and actress Vanna “Vanna Vee” Girod, 30, drowned in separate incidents.
Wilson, of Tunapuna, went missing at sea in Tyrico Bay on December 20. Her body was found days later at Maracas Bay.
Singer and actress Girod, of Valsayn, drowned at Arnos Vale, Tobago. Her body was found on January 26, a day after she was reported missing.
The number of reports of missing females stood at 276, compared to 220 males, the police statistics given by Joanne Archie, head of the police service’s corporate communications unit said.
Apart from listing details like names, ages, sex, and addresses of five outstanding people from December 19 – 27, the document did not provide detailed information about the other missing reports.
Mental health a factor in disappearances
Newsday found that some reasons people go missing relate to mental health issues (diagnosed or undiagnosed), being victims of crimes, family disputes or simply forgetting to tell their loved ones about their whereabouts.
Newsday also found that most of the missing people were girls, particularly 17 and under, who were later found alive.
Clinical psychologist Renessa Kangalee weighed in on the issue, saying that children and young adults might run away for various reasons like stress.
Sometimes parents/guardians constantly put pressure on a child, Kangalee said.
The child might have too much responsibility or be consistently unable to meet high expectations. Alcohol and other drugs adults use in the home also put children at risk of abusive behaviour.
Kangalee is the PRO of the TT Association of Psychologists (TTAP) and founder of The Ark Wellness Centre Ltd at Chaguanas and Piarco.
Abuse in the home, like physical and sexual, she added, also plays a role.
“Verbal or emotional abuse like name-calling, insulting, intimidation, shaming, humiliating, isolating, give the perception that no one cares about them. Some children are also neglected, denied basic needs such as food and clothing,” Kangalee said.
“Parents or guardians involved in crimes may cause a child to leave in order to prevent their involvement by association.”
Kangalee explained that research has identified that one factor contributing to people going missing is the impact of mental health on a person’s ability to cope with life.
“People experiencing poor mental health have numerous triggers that may result in them missing, including but not limited to opposing ideas with loved ones about how to address a mental health issue and uncertainty about who or how to ask for help.”
She said children with mental or physical disabilities are at a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse.
Sexual predators, the psychologist said, may target children with intellectual or physical disabilities as the child may be easier to control and less likely to fight back.
“Adult predators will often prey on children who appear weaker or more vulnerable, which may lead them to target minors with mental or physical disabilities,” she explained.
She noted that research abroad showed that increased poverty because of covid19 is a major reason for children going missing or becoming victims of trafficking. But such data in TT is limited.
She offered suggestions on how people can help, saying one of the keys to preventing people with mental health issues from going missing is to provide them with alternative options.
She said, “In addition to sensitising and training parents, communication is part of presenting those options, whether between family members or the ability for loved ones to receive the professional assistance they need to better cope with life.”
Signs that someone could suffer from a mental health issue and may be at risk of going missing include talking about feeling very down and saying nothing can help.
Some are tearful or overly sensitive, losing interest in day-to-day activities, no longer reaching out to family and friends, and isolating themselves.
Even while these police statistics, Newsday’s investigations suggest the overall figure of missing people could be higher.