More than a month ago, Babita Sarjou, a 28-year-old mother of one, left her mother’s house in the morning after stating that she would be back home by around 9 pm. She has not been seen since. From that time to now, her mother, Champa Seonarine has been on a relentless crusade to learn the whereabouts of her daughter. Ms Seonarine along with relatives has searched, has filed police reports, has followed leads, has gone to the media, has solicited and accepted the help of individuals and organizations, all to no avail. Ms Sarjou appears to have vanished.
But that’s the knock right there. People don’t just disappear into thin air and in Ms Sarjou’s case there are disquieting circumstances. First, Ms Sarjou is married but had been separated from her husband for about a year before she disappeared. Second, there was a history of abuse in Ms Sarjou’s marriage and as a result, she had left her husband on three occasions prior to this, reconciling on the advice of her mother each time until the fourth time when she declared that she was not going back. Third, Ms Sarjou’s estranged husband had been charged after it was alleged that he posted nude photographs of her around her worksite some months ago. That matter is ongoing in the courts. Fourth, Ms Sarjou’s son, passport, money, jewellery and clothing have been left behind. People, particularly women, who intend to ‘disappear’, tend to take along with them at least two of the things on that list.
People periodically go missing; they disappear for different reasons. Sometimes it’s voluntary – a person may just have had enough of a situation, location, issue and they leave. More often than not unfortunately, it’s involuntary – abduction or murder in the case of adults. Then there are those persons with dementia, psychiatric problems, or who abuse drugs and alcohol; and in the case of children, running away from home because of abuse, poor guidance or peer pressure.
According to statistics found online, in the United Kingdom, some 250,000 people run away and go missing each year. In the United States the figure is said to be some 2,300 a day. In Australia, a missing persons report is made every 18 minutes. Closer to home, in Trinidad and Tobago, in 2008, 608 people were reported missing. Trinidad and Tobago has had a history of abductions over the past few years. All of these figures include both adults and children. In some cases, missing persons are found alive and well. Sometimes their bodies are found, but there are still very many cases where persons have never been found even after ten years or more. This must be devastating for relatives and loved ones as there can be no closure in such cases. The fact is, however, that people do not and cannot just disappear into thin air – they either have to go or be taken someplace and it is then up to their families, relatives and law enforcement agencies to find them. When found they can choose whether or not to return to wherever they came from if they are adults.
There is a sense, however, in the case of Ms Sarjou as well as a number of others over the years that not enough is done when persons go missing. While it is known that the police force is overburdened and understaffed, the appearance of an effort being made would be of great comfort to families. In addition, there could be the involvement of community policing groups and the wider community in search parties and the like. While the statistics might point to the fact that this is an issue worldwide, one missing person is still one too many. Ms Sarjou and the others who disappeared before her are somewhere out there. They should be found. At the same time, we should all use the lessons learned from Ms Sarjou’s case and others to find ways to better protect ourselves and our loved ones.