Champa Seenarine is living every mother’s worst nightmare. More than a year ago, her daughter Babita Sarjou vanished without a trace and though she has her suspicions, gathering enough evidence and getting the police to pay an interest has been extremely difficult.
A sombre Seonarine said that the last update from the police was in September when a rank from Brickdam Police Station informed her that they needed a DNA sample. It was later revealed to her that the skeletal remains of a woman clad only in underwear was discovered in the bushes alongside a spot on the Berbice foreshore. It was also explained that because the identity of the remains were unknown, a DNA sample was needed to see if there would be a match.
On September 20, she recalled having her mouth swabbed and hoping that shortly after she would finally know the fate of her daughter. DNA testing cannot be done in Guyana, and the police would have to send the samples to an overseas lab. It is unclear if the sample taken from Seonarine and that from the skeletal remains have left Guyana, and if so which country they were sent to.
However, with cases such as Lindo Creek and Sheema Mangar still outstanding, it is likely that the results of the samples will not be available in a hurry.
In an emotional interview with Stabroek News recently, the woman said that she believes that two men who were arrested days after her daughter’s Diwali eve disappearance are in possession of information, and had the police pressed enough they would have gotten something. The men are said to be friends of the woman’s estranged husband and father of her six-year-old son. The husband spent 72 hours in police custody assisting with investigations but was subsequently released.
She said that in the early stages she concluded that her daughter had been kidnapped, but that quickly changed to a suspicion of murder. Seonarine said Sarjou’s life was threatened several times but she could not say if her daughter had ever filed a police report. She told Stabroek News that the lives of herself and other members of her family had also been threatened.
“This [the disappearance] was well planned and organized,” she said.
She recalled that on December 11 last, her birthday, someone called her saying that they had married Sarjou and was her new son-in-law. This along with other information was passed to the police resulting in the arrest of the owner of the SIM card.
According to Seonarine, the man claimed that his brother who he identified as `Ricky’ had made the call, but gave conflicting information about his whereabouts. The woman was adamant while speaking with this newspaper that she was unhappy about the police investigation into the matter. “If they had wanted, they could have arrested those involved in the case. If they were pressured they would have come out with the truth,” she said sadly.
She said that more than a year later there is no word or clue about her daughter’s whereabouts, which makes it harder for her. “I don’t know if she alive or dead,” she said, adding that she strongly believed her daughter was alive and was being held against her will. Asked why she would be held for such a long period of time, she responded that it was being done to punish her (Seonarine).
Asked if it was possible that the woman ran away to start a new life, she said that Sarjou was not that type of person.
The woman said too that since her daughter left her Timehri home and vanished without a trace, she has not been able to see or speak to her grandson. The child is in the care and custody of his father. Seonarine hopes that the new Minister of Human Services will in some way be able to help her.
She called on the police to open their eyes and follow up on certain aspects of the investigation.
Based on the accounts given, Sarjou then 28- years-old got up as usual and dressed for work on November 4, 2010. Before she left, she invited both her mother and sister to accompany her to view the motorcade that night, but they declined. She later told relatives that she would go with her estranged husband and their son.
She was last seen clocking out her time at BK International and was to return home that night. When Babita did not show up, her mother initially thought she might have spent the night with her son and his father, even though the couple had been separated for a year.
However that morning the estranged husband Anand, sent Seonarine’s granddaughter a text message wishing she and her family a happy Diwali, and asking her to tell Sarjou to call him since her son wanted to speak to her. According to the text message, Sarjou was not answering her phone.
Seonarine had told this newspaper that she immediately suspected something and reported the woman missing at the Timehri Police Station. The family was not on speaking terms with the man and found it strange that he wanted to wish them a happy Diwali.
The woman later went and reported her daughter’s disappearance to the Kitty Police Station and was shocked when she was told by two female officers that the man had gone to the station the night before and made a report. He had told officers that the woman had not turned up to view the motorcade with him.
She added that she immediately fired off questions to the officers, including one asking what gave her son-in-law the right to report the young woman missing.
She pointed out that even if Babita had not turned up to view the motorcade, her husband could not just assume that she was missing and make a report to the station without even contacting her family to ascertain whether she had changed her mind and gone home instead. However, Seonarine said she was even more shocked when she returned to the station the following day to give a detailed statement, including what she was told about the man making a report, when one of the officers told her she had misunderstood her and that the husband had made no such report.
Phone records and suspects
Meanwhile a source told this newspaper that phone records show some suspicious activity between a city resident and a man closely acquainted with Sarjou. The phone records show that the man lied about the communication between himself and the city resident on the night Sarjou disappeared.
According to the source, the records show that the man called a particular phone between 5.30 and 9.30 pm on November 4, 2011 more than 20 times. Prior to that, there were very few calls between the two numbers. It was on the basis of investigations and this information that police arrested the city resident who claimed he had a relationship with the man.
The city resident also told investigators that he had asked the man for some money and that was the reason behind the countless calls.
Stabroek News was also told that Sarjou last spoke to a relative and had told her that she was in a bus a short distance from her estranged husband’s home.
The records show that two days later a call was made from her cell phone to the number of the city resident. The city resident has also told investigators that he doesn’t know Sarjou and never spoke to her. He claimed that he met the man in a Sheriff Street bar six months prior to the woman’s disappearance.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has since advised further investigations based on the phone records.