A single mother made several efforts over the past four years to get her daughter out of an abusive relationship which ended last week when she was chopped to death.
Thirty-four-year-old Vanessa Sookram and her two-year-old-son Joel Ganesh died last Friday morning after her husband, Suresh Ganesh, allegedly chopped them. Among the wounds Sookram received was one to her neck, which was almost severed, whilst Joel was virtually gutted by a chop to his abdomen.
Speaking to Stabroek News from her Crane home on Friday, Sookram’s mother, Anita Persaud expressed her anger and frustration at the entire incident, noting that since the murders various stories are being told but not by Sookram’s relatives.
Persaud explained that as a single parent she worked hard to maintain her children including Sookram.
Persaud said her daughter was living in a furnished apartment of her house after they returned from Trinidad some 15 years ago to live in Guyana when she met Suresh. “It was one morning she saw him on the roadside and they talked and she encouraged him to come to church and thereafter they started a relationship,” Persaud said.
After meeting the suspect, she said, Sookram quit attending church and was teaching him. Persaud said, “He didn’t know to read and write. Is my daughter sat with him and taught him to read the Bible.”
Persaud said she recently learned that he did not even have a birth certificate and she offered to assist him in getting one so that he can go to Barbados and work but he refused the offer.
The woman said she left to work in Barbados leaving Sookram behind. But she was forced to return home after she learnt that Sookram was pregnant. “I know what kind of guy my daughter was living with and I know they would not have been able to look after a child, so I got the welfare involve and eventually I got custody of the child who is now four years old.”
She said she took care of Sookram, even though she was living with Suresh, by providing her with money and groceries weekly. “Many days she would get up and cook for him and he would put his bag on his back like he’s going to work and he would go to his mother where he will eat and sleep all day,” Persaud related. This went on for quite a while.
Then Sookram became pregnant with her second child and again, her mother stepped in to help.
“He was so lackadaisical that when I used to buy milk for the baby he would wake up in the night and eat it out,” Persaud said, adding that due to Suresh’s behaviour everyone asked whether there was something wrong with him. But Persaud said to her, he was just someone whose plan was not to ever work.
Three weeks before Sookram was murdered, one of her husband’s relatives allegedly chased her with a knife. Persaud said it was only after her daughter’s death that she became aware of all this when everyone started to speak out. “The woman turn and tell she that anytime she hit the baby again she will murder her,” Persaud said.
‘Ripped up everything’
Persaud said she heard from neighbours and other individuals that Suresh “took his music box, which he worship and break it up into pieces and he gave away… all his clothes two days before…” She said the only belongings she got for her daughter was her ID card and some Christian scriptures and songs that she had in a bag.
She is also of the belief that Sookram was murdered way before her body was discovered. She said everything in the shack was destroyed, Sookram’s clothes had been changed and she had been placed in a sleeping position. “He ripped up everything including all the photos they had together,” Persaud said.
She explained that after viewing her daughter’s body she is convinced that she fought for her life and tried to protect her baby. “In her palms you could see how it cut up, like she try to block the chops… and she threw herself on the baby and that was why she had like 15 chops across her back,” Persaud explained.
She said she was suspicious that Sookram was subject to abuse, but could not say why her daughter always made the decision to return to her abuser. She recalled on several occasions when her daughter visited her house and she enquired about visible marks on her body, she would say that she and her husband had “a little scrambling.” She said her daughter often covered things up to save him from trouble.
She is of the belief that Sookram was trapped in a relation where she was scared to speak out, because of several threats made to her. “Vanessa was a very quiet person who would never say anything that was bothering her because she just didn’t like problems,” Persaud related.
The mother vented her anger about the accusations by the suspect’s family in sections of the media that her daughter was having an affair.
“How can you cheat on someone when he have you locked up in a house 24/7?” she questioned.
She recalled that when her daughter was living at her house the man would even follow her to the bathroom and wait outside until she was finished. She said she sent about four phones for Sookram, which were destroyed. “He always take out the battery or break it up or something,” she said.
Persaud said the last time Sookram visited her house was the day before Father’s day. “She came here and she told me, ‘mommy you can’t see somebody from America and take me away from this?’ and I told her ‘Vanessa why don’t you come back home?’ She said she will but she… only came for [her] funeral.”
Persaud said, “The guy use to accuse my daughter of being with my two nephews and even his stepfather and every man that goes to his mother house and consume alcohol. But what really goes on there is that they sit down and drink together, fight and argue among themselves.”
She said the shack Sookram lived in was surrounded by the homes of relatives of the suspect who abused her on a regular basis. “… They called her the nastiest names in the book! My daughter was not stupid she was just very quiet,” she said, adding that the abuse went on for years. “No matter what I do he would come and get her to go back,” she lamented.
Despite all of this, it was only last year that a report was made to the police. “I took her because she came home and she had a scratch on her neck and a black and blue mark on her shoulder and she claimed he hit her,” the mother said. But she said the police never visited or arrested him.
Persaud said every time she wanted to visit her daughter, she had to call her husband so he could open the door, but on several occasions her grandmother visited unexpectedly and she was forced to speak to Sookram through the windows, since the door was padlocked from outside. “You could ask anyone from around there and they would tell you that he used to lock her up in there,” Persaud said.
“I feel things got worse when I went away to work the last time and she wasn’t getting food, money or my support and he never wanted to work,” she said.
“I know my daughter, she would not say she needed anything but I would pack her up because I could have looked at her many days and see that she had nothing to eat.”
Ganesh, who also allegedly chopped his mother and hours later a Pouderoyen security guard, David Persaud, 51, injuring them both, was subsequently shot twice by the police and arrested. He underwent a psychiatric evaluation, which deemed him mentally fit to appear in court and is expected to face murder charges this week.