Police are investigating a report that three children over the weekend fell ill after consuming what appeared to be cocaine-laced gold finger sweets which they had purchased from a shop at White Water, Region One, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud has confirmed.
Persaud when contacted yesterday said that based on reports the children had an “unusual reaction” when they tried to consume the sweets. He said that the police have to send the sweets for analysis to ascertain whether there was any cocaine. He said too that investigators have taken statements from the shop owner as well as the person that they had initially bought the sweets from. No one has been arrested. Sources say that one of the two persons interviewed by police was a businesswoman from Kumaka from whom sealed packs of sweets were bought. The duo has since said that they had no knowledge that the sweets were laced with an illegal substance.
The incident has left the community located very close to the Venezuela/ Guyana border uneasy. Residents told this newspaper by phone yesterday afternoon that this is the first time such an incident has occurred and that previously there was no evidence that cocaine was in the community.
The girls have been released from the Mabaruma hospital where they were kept overnight for observation. The relative said that the children who are cousins are presently suffering from fever, a burning sensation in the stomach and weakness.
The close relative who did not want her name to be revealed explained to Stabroek News that on Sunday afternoon the children left home with an adult cousin for the community playground. The woman explained that while there the cousin sent the three girls to a nearby shop to purchase some things to eat. Among the things the children bought were $80 worth of gold finger sweets.
Stabroek News was told that the first girl to eat one of the sweets noticed that it tasted bitter and smelt funny. The woman said that the child then asked another child to have a taste and she too had the same reaction. The other cousin also tasted the sweet, the woman said adding that subsequently the trio explained to the cousin what had happened and after she began digging into it, “she see a powder dropping out”.
The cousin immediately called her grandmother and later bought a $100 worth of the same sweet from the shop. The result was the same; a white powdery substance was falling out.
The relative said that the first girl who tasted the sweet began feeling unwell and her brother who was home was summoned to collect her as she was getting weak and appeared limp. The other two girls, the relative said began to stagger when they walked, their eyes got red and they were complaining of feeling unwell.
A decision was taken to rush them to the hospital located about 15 miles away after their condition worsened, the relative said, adding that before they could reach, “the children get block out”. The children were given saline and injections and kept overnight for observation. They were released around 9 am the following day (Monday).
The worried relative said that the entire episode has left her in shock as in the couple of years the shop owner has been operating in the area, residents have never encountered such a problem.
The woman expressed the view that the sweets were accidentally sold to the children. ‘Look how he could lose three big children”, she stressed.
She said that the police visited the shop and collected more than 80 sweets which were also found to have the white powdery substance inside.
“I am fearful. When we get this thing straight they (the girls) should be compensated because we don’t know what will happen to them in the long run”, she said. She told Stabroek News that it is difficult for her to say what took place but knows at this point everyone is afraid to buy the gold finger sweets.
Meanwhile a source close to the case told Stabroek News that the shop owner has a lot of questions to answer. The source urged the police to launch a swift investigation so as to get to the truth.
According to the source, the fact that the community is located near a very porous border where illegal items are smuggled into Guyana, speaks volumes as to the origin of the cocaine.