Agony and heartbreak for the nation and family of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt as her decomposed body was found off a precipice in the Heights of Aripo in Arima just after noon yesterday.
Bharatt’s kidnapping six days ago had triggered an outpouring of prayers and unity by a nation that had banded together determined to find the missing woman and bring her safely home to her family.
Her disappearance bled the hearts of parents across the country who could understand the hurt and pain that consumed her father, Randolph Bharatt, daily as he hung on to hope that his daughter would be found safe and sound.
But that realisation was shattered when her father got the dreaded call by police to come to the Heights of Aripo to identify the female body that was discovered.
The discovery of the body, investigators told Guardian Media, was made by 22-year-old Jody Sutherland, a self-employed landscaper, while driving his vehicle along the winding road of the Heights or Aripo close to 12.25 pm.
Sutherland told police he was looking for scrap iron when he peered over the precipice on the eastern side of the roadway and saw what appeared to be the body of a young woman clothed in pink underwear and a multicoloured top.
The body, police said, appeared to be in a decomposed state and lying face down.
Shortly after 3 pm, Andrea’s father was hustled to the crime scene with worry etched on his face.
He was taken beyond the police tape that ensured that the media and other onlookers were kept a safe distance as officers of the Crime Scene Unit processed the scene.
Several police officers stood in a huddle with Andrea’s father as other relatives poured in and joined him as they waited anxiously for the police and fire officials to retrieve the body.
The body was found in a heavily forested forest over a steep precipice approximately 20-30 feet down.
Police had obtained a rope to assist in retrieving the woman’s body, but the services of the Fire Land and Search Unit were soon called in to ensure that the body was extracted easily from the rugged terrain.
Andrea’s father and other relatives were later allowed to view the body and investigators said based on the clothing found on the woman’s body, her father and other relatives were able to confirm it was Andrea.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith issued a media statement shortly after 4 pm confirming the news that the body found was Andrea.
Within half an hour of arriving, Randolph Bharatt was escorted from the crime scene.
He put on a brave face as he walked past members of the media, a woman police officer clenching his hands tightly and another officer urging her “to hold him.”
The father, mourning the loss of his only daughter, a clerk from the Arima Magistrate’s Court, was whisked into a private vehicle.
Just a few vehicles up the roadway, another relative who had also been on the crime scene wept uncontrollably in the back seat of a van as she was consoled by several police officers who shielded her from the glare of media cameras.
Several hunters who had been lending their assistance to the police for Andrea over the last three days had also gathered at the crime scene, hoping that the body that had been found was not her.
But their optimism was quickly dashed after they were later told by police that the relatives had identified the body as Andrea.
“It’s really heartbreaking. We really thought this might have turned out differently. We hope this will help the nation to band together and be one another’s keeper,” said one hunter.
Bharatt’s kidnapping had triggered a massive search in east Trinidad since Monday as police and hunters scoured several forested areas in the Fishing Pond area in Sangre Grande and had also searched parts of the Valencia area on Wednesday as well as the Windy Hill area in Arouca.
Yesterday, the search ended in Heights of Aripo and now the nation bleeds for Andrea—another young woman’s life snuffed out by cold-blooded killers.