Mother of four dies of burns sustained in domestic row

Domestic violence has shattered the already tragic lives of two young girls leaving their mother dead, their father in jail and their two teenage siblings quibbling over their now uncertain future.

On October 2, life changed for ten-year-old Roneita Lambert and eight-year-old Aliya Lambert, as that night their father, Dillip Lambert, in a fit of drunken rage hurled a lighted kerosene stove at their mother, Pearly Kunja, severely burning her about the body. Aliya was the lone witness.

A few days later, Lambert was charged with attempted murder and remanded to prison while Kunja, with whom he had lived for 21 years, remained in the hospital battling for her life. Last Saturday she lost the battle and succumbed in the Burns Care Unit of the Georgetown Public Hospital. Lambert, it has since been indicated, will now be charged with murder.

When Stabroek News visited the battered zinc shack they call home at Jetty Squatting Area, Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara yesterday, the two young girls though thin and unkempt were outgoing and seemed at ease.

The oldest of the couple’s four children, 18-year-old Robert, who is a carpenter and who has looked after the two young girls with the assistance of kind neighbours since the incident, said he was unable to continue caring for them and they would have to be placed in an orphanage. However, their 15-year-old sister, Ramona, who no longer lives there, vowed not to let that happen.

Recounting the tragic events of October 2, the siblings said their mother had been at home cooking. She had just finished preparing rice and was about to fry eggs when their father, apparently under the influence of alcohol, returned home from a wake nearby.

Robert and Ramona were not at home and Aliya was alone in the kitchen with her parents when they began arguing. During the course of the argument, Lambert reportedly hurled the lighted kerosene stove at his wife and she caught afire. Realizing what he had done, he then threw two buckets of water on his wife, while Aliya screamed.

Neighbours rushed over and assisted in transporting Kunja to the West Demerara Regional Hospital. However, her injuries were too severe and she was soon after transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital. She had suffered burns to various parts of her body including her back, stomach, hands and feet.

Days after the incident, Lambert appeared before Magistrate Fazil Azeez at the Vreed-en-Hoop Magistrate’s Court charged with attempted murder to which he was not required to plead and remanded to prison. At that time Kunja, who had been employed as a domestic worker was still alive.

Kunja during her stay in the hospital was conscious but in a lot of pain and unable to eat. “Every time I see she, she always crying out foh pain,” Ramona stated.

The grieving girl said that when she last saw her mother “the last thing she tell me is she gon miss me”. Although hoping for the best, this was not to be as last Saturday they received the news that their mother had died.

The siblings said that their parents would usually have the “normal fight that everybody does gat”, but did not clash excessively.

Asked why they were not at school yesterday, Roneita and Aliya boldly stated that they had decided to “take half-day”. Questioned as to which class they were in, Roneita said she did not know while Aliya quickly stated that she was in Grade 2C.

Even as other relatives who were there discussing the children’s future, suggested placing them in an orphanage, Ramona adamantly ruled out that as an option.

Robert explained that with the hours he worked at his job as a carpenter, he was unable to give proper care to his sisters.

The house in which they currently reside shrieks poverty. It has neither running water nor electricity and given the fact that it floods often and easily, it reeks highly.

The Lambert children are even poorer now, having effectively lost both parents, although the two youngest siblings seemed blissfully unaware of the ongoing discussions regarding their future.

Relatives said they were awaiting the arrival of other relatives to assist with the burial of Kunja.

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