By Roger Wong
Police have been questioning the estranged husband of the dismembered Buxton woman while an employee of hers remains in police custody.
The body, which was discovered at the Annandale foreshore last Thursday has been identified as that of Samantha Benjamin, 40, a US citizen and proprietor of a boutique in the Vendor’s Mall on Water Street. Her estranged husband positively identified her remains yesterday.
Relatives said Benjamin had returned to Guyana last August, intending to reside here permanently and had opened the boutique, importing the items for sale from the US. Reports are that she had moved to Buxton to live alone after her relationship encountered problems.
A distraught Bridget Abrams, Benjamin’s aunt, related that the woman had indicated to a female employee who assists in the boutique the week before she went missing that she would not be frequenting the business since she would be occupied with other transactions. Hence her disappearance did not raise any alarm bells at first.
It was not until last Saturday that the employee became anxious and tried to make contact with Benjamin. This is because, the aunt said, Benjamin would usually contact the girl every Saturday. The employee called repeatedly, but all calls went to voice message.
Abrams said Benjamin was known to be a busy businesswoman so no one thought it strange that she had not been seen. It was not until another relative arrived from the US and was unsuccessful in making contact with her that concerns were raised.
Her estranged husband was contacted and he related that he too had been trying to make contact with the woman but failed. A frantic search then began, which led to the woman’s Buxton home, where the sight of what appeared to be blood clotted in the crevices of the floor and other suspicious things prompted a report to the police. Stabroek News was told that the house was locked from the inside and relatives were forced to jump through a window to gain entry.
Benjamin’s cellphone and laptop were missing and there was a bloodstained mattress in the building. A cutlass which appeared to have been used in the woman’s murder was later retrieved from the house.
Abrams said the last time she spoke with Benjamin was about two or three weeks back. Abrams’s son had been gunned down and Benjamin attended the wake.
One relative said that the daughter and sister of the dead woman had received text messages from her cellphone on Saturday. So Abrams said that although all the calls to the phone went to voice message no one took it to mean that she had been murdered.
Meanwhile, the male suspect in police custody, who is from Berbice, had been staying in the house with Benjamin, who had employed him.
Neighbours told Stabroek News yesterday that they had heard screams coming from the house sometime back, but ignored the cries, since the young man was in the habit of taking young girls into the house and they thought he was just having fun.
“I hear the screaming…,” one neighbour said. “Is three a we went standing gaffing when we hear she holler but me say man them mussy having fun in the house.” The woman said she regretted not paying heed since it must have been then that Benjamin was being murdered in the house. She said that had she called the police at the time, the killer might have been caught in the act.
The neighbours further related that Benjamin’s absence raised no suspicions in the village since she had only moved into the house about a month ago and nobody in the area knew who she was.
The actions of the suspect had raised concerns amongst the neighbours, since he would be roaming the streets late at night on a motorcycle constantly disturbing the peace.
Relatives also said that there were reports in the community that the suspect had been burning items. Some residents believe others might have been involved because he was not alone on the night she went missing.
A relative said the suspect had indicated that he was planning a visit to Linden since there were no chickens for him to care for. The relative said that was the week before Benjamin went missing.
According to reports, the suspect has maintained silence under questioning by the police. He was taken back to the house yesterday by the police as they continue to press for clues in solving the crime.
Abrams said the news of Benjamin’s death has hit the family severely and they are finding it very difficult to come to grips with the situation.
The distressed woman said she saw Benjamin’s remains at the funeral home and did not believe she could muster the courage to have a second glimpse. “Is one thing when you have a dead but is a next thing when you can’t look at the dead,” she stated.
All of Benjamin’s siblings and her parents along with her daughter reside in the United States, Abrams said. She related that Benjamin was a US citizen and had migrated there since she was a child.
Since she had lived most of her life in that country, she was not known by persons in the community which was the reason why the body was not quickly identified, the aunt posited.
She remembered her niece to be a very outspoken person whose love and passion for business drove her to give up her profession as a social worker in the United States and opting to become an entrepreneur in her homeland. Prior to her decision to return to Guyana, Abrams said, the woman had sent goods home to be sold in her boutique.
Another relative who did not want his name mentioned said that Benjamin used to relate all her problems to a cousin who also lives overseas. He said he spoke with that cousin who informed that the woman never mentioned anything to her which might have indicated that she was in fear for her life.
He remembered Benjamin to be someone who always made her presence known and who was a very good person.
On Tuesday, her estranged husband, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Stabroek News that the last time he spoke to her was last Wednesday. He said that the two of them had made plans to pick up a car which Benjamin had purchased, but she did not show up. The man said he had tried calling her phone but it kept going to voicemail.
He said he thought the woman had changed her mind and did not think much of it. He did not hear from his estranged wife over the weekend and he found it odd since she would always make contact with him. He said it was only on Tuesday he started to worry. He said the car dealer called him and enquired about his wife. He said he then had a funny feeling about her fate.
What was even more worrying to him was the fact that a friend visited him and told him that Benjamin occupies a home at Buxton, Middle Walk and the woman had not been seen for days. He said this prompted him and a cousin to investigate the house where his wife was staying.
The man said the bedroom had all of her nail polish scattered, along with her hair extensions and other cosmetic items. He also said that the house also smelled rank.