Trinidad: 20 residents rescued from “House of Horrors” senior citizens home

A police officer escorts one of the rescued residents from the senior citizens home in Arima yesterday.

(Trinidad Guardian) Three el­der­ly women were among 20 peo­ple who were res­cued from a se­nior cit­i­zens’ home in Ari­ma that was de­scribed as a “House of Hor­rors” by state of­fi­cials and po­lice of­fi­cers.

As the el­der­ly peo­ple were be­ing es­cort­ed out of the flat con­crete house, one of them, up­on cross­ing the front gate, shout­ed: “This is the life.”

He, along with 19 oth­ers were es­cort­ed from the house by po­lice and of­fi­cials from the Min­istry of Health and Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices and placed in a 24-seater maxi taxi. They were then tak­en to the St Ann’s Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal, where they will be kept over the next few days and as­sessed. They will al­so re­ceive med­ical treat­ment while there. The el­der­ly peo­ple will then be tak­en to the state-run New Hori­zon in Pi­paro where they will be housed.

The State moved on the home af­ter po­lice dis­cov­ered that the el­der­ly per­sons there were forced to live in di­lap­i­dat­ed and un­san­i­tary con­di­tions. The of­fi­cers made the dis­cov­ery when they be­gan to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances in which Mar­garet Thomas, 47, died from an in­fec­tion caused by the lack of im­me­di­ate treat­ment to burns she suf­fered while in the care of the home’s own­er.

Thomas’ rel­a­tives ini­tial­ly said they be­lieve the mat­ter war­rant­ed a prop­er in­ves­ti­ga­tion since the home­own­er al­leged­ly re­fused to con­tact them when Thomas was hurt. Thomas’ rel­a­tives were con­tact­ed on Feb­ru­ary 9, the day af­ter she died at the hos­pi­tal. It is be­lieved Thomas suf­fered the burns on Jan­u­ary 26. The own­er claimed Thomas had turned the gas to the stove on as she was due to bake bread and left it for a while be­fore ac­tu­al­ly light­ing it. How­ev­er, Thomas’ rel­a­tives said they did not know Thomas to cook or bake.

Pre­lim­i­nary po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions sus­pect­ed foul play, as they said based on the burns about Thomas’ body it looked like if she was doused with a flam­ma­ble liq­uid and lit on fire while in a seat­ed po­si­tion. An au­top­sy re­port re­vealed that Thomas died from sep­sis and burns. Tis­sue sam­ples were al­so tak­en for fur­ther foren­sic his­tol­ogy test­ing.

Yes­ter­day, as the res­i­dents of the home were be­ing tak­en to the hos­pi­tal, some of them shared jokes with the state of­fi­cials whilst some were not quite sure what was hap­pen­ing and why they were be­ing moved. Of­fi­cials from both min­istries at­tempt­ed to give them “clear ex­pla­na­tions” which Guardian Me­dia was told they un­der­stood.

State of­fi­cials al­so took the op­por­tu­ni­ty to break the news of Thomas’ demise. One of the women be­came in­con­solable, oth­ers ex­pressed sad­ness at the news, as they said they were on­ly told she was at the hos­pi­tal.

As the of­fi­cials and the team of po­lice of­fi­cers moved in on the O’Meara Road home, the own­er, who was wear­ing a hi­jab, just looked on. The own­er was ap­proached by state of­fi­cials hours be­fore and al­leged­ly at­tempt­ed to block them but the of­fi­cials re­turned short­ly be­fore 4 pm with po­lice and pro­duced the rel­e­vant doc­u­ments.

Sev­er­al res­i­dents in the area stood in their re­spec­tive yards and looked on at the sit­u­a­tion.

One res­i­dent thanked Guardian Me­dia for break­ing the sto­ry and ex­pos­ing the in­hu­mane con­di­tions at the home.

“We have seen and heard many hurt­ful things and we thank God those peo­ple are be­ing res­cued. You guys (re­fer­ring to Guardian Me­dia) are very brave,” one res­i­dent who wished not to be iden­ti­fied said.

As the maxi taxi drove off, the own­er stormed in­to her car that was parked on the road­way and while do­ing so shout­ed: “Don’t take my pho­tographs…I ain’t do noth­ing wrong.”

Health of­fi­cials yes­ter­day warned peo­ple who place their loved ones in homes to check on them reg­u­lar­ly.

“Not be­cause you can­not take care of them prop­er­ly and by your­selves don’t just dump them in any and any home. Do re­search on the homes and check on them to make sure that they are be­ing well tak­en care of—food, wa­ter, med­ica­tion and are in com­fort­able and san­i­tary con­di­tions,” an of­fi­cial said.

In­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cers con­firmed the own­er of the home has been ques­tioned but had not been charged pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

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