A 22-year-old man, said to be mentally-ill, was yesterday rescued from a pig pen at back of his father’s North Sophia, Greater Georgetown home, where he was reportedly kept for at least three years.
Responding to an anonymous tip that a father was keeping his son in a pen for almost a decade, members of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) found Gopaul Etwaroo naked in a padlocked enclosure at the back of his father’s Lot 23 Block ‘R,’ North Sophia home.
He is now at the Georgetown Public Hospital receiving treatment, while his father, Clement Etwaroo, and stepmother, Parbattie Sukhu, are in police custody.
When the GWMO and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) arrived at the residence, they were greeted by a padlocked fence nearly 10-ft high.
“One of the police officers had to break the neighbour’s fence for us to get into the yard,” President of GWMO Urica Primus told Stabroek News.
Once on the property, the members of the GWMO and GPF found themselves unable to free Gopaul and they had to retrieve Sukhu from a primary school, where she sells snow cones, so that the thick chains could be removed from the enclosure.
In the interim, they tried to communicate with the traumatised Gopaul but all he would say is “Don’t beat.”
“He just kept pulling himself to the back. He seemed unable to communicate, just mumbling and all we could make out is ‘Don’t beat. Don’t beat.’ He stopped talking completely once she [Sukhu] came,” Primus related.
The man has since revealed that he was born in 1996.
After Gopaul was removed from the pen, he was given clothing which he donned in silence. Led away by the police the young man was eerily content to follow instructions and ravenously ate the food the GWMO provided.
The space in which Gopaul was being kept was too low for him to stand. He relieved himself in a trough, slept on a bench constructed from wooden planks and ate from what was provided in recycled bleach bottles.
Though it is claimed that he also had regular baths in the space, the odour emanating from both his person and the sty suggested otherwise. The surrounding area was a putrid swamp as excrement from the enclosure mingled with wooden and metal scraps and other building material.
There was no visible evidence of mental illness but both Sukhu and neighbours claimed that Gopaul had been unstable since his school years. “When we get he outside, he is destroying things…. When we had the zinc house at the back, he used to live with us but since he father move to front, he break it up… everything he destroy. So, I tell him the child need a home… but he don’t tek me on,” Sukhu told reporters.
A neighbour also told Stabroek News that Gopaul had been the victim of violence after he begin “jumping fences and taking people thing.”
“He would be around the area and people would beat him. People would lash him. One time somebody lash him in his back because he would jump people fence and yard because he’s not righted and so his father keep him home,” one neighbour related.
“We don’t know what condition… I thought maybe he had him in a room and he would clean it and so…nobody don’t want their loved one to be beat up on the road no matter their illness but maybe he should’ve gotten help, gone to a doctor or something,” she added.
While there is no evidence that Gopaul was ever taken to a doctor for a diagnosis, his stepmother noted that the Human Services Department of the Ministry of Social Protection once regularly visited the home.
“I went with him to Human Services about two, three years ago. We had to bathe the boy and carry him and Human Services call he mother and call him [the father]. They used to come every Sunday…they came and it was bare mud and they tell him the mud wasn’t safe and he build concrete. We give him a mattress and he destroy the mattress. We give him clothes and he throw it away,” Sukhu said.
While the GPF is attempting to establish the exact circumstances surrounding Gopaul’s imprisonment in the pen, the GWMO is concerned about his present and future welfare.
Primus explained that the Ministry of Social Protection is likely to have the final say on what becomes of the youth but the organisation has already contacted the Dharm Shala home in Berbice, which has agreed to house him once he is found to be medically fit.
“We will continue to advocate for his rights to be respected and also for him to benefit from better treatment,” she said, before adding that a psychological examination would be necessary to determine if the youth suffers from mental illness or if his symptoms are a result of the abuse he suffered.