Lead Editor, Investigative Desk
The family of Andrea Bharatt was expecting answers in the death of the 23-year-old Arima Magistrate’s clerk, but an autopsy performed yesterday at the Forensic Sciences Centre by pathologist Dr Sonu-Sekhar Gajula proved inconclusive.
It means that at this stage, police cannot charge anyone for murder.
The key suspect, who was on bail when police held him, despite having over 45 pending cases in court, died in hospital yesterday.
Bharatt’s tragic end triggered an outpouring of grief and anger across the nation five days after her decomposed body was found off a precipice in the Heights of Aripo last Wednesday after she had been kidnapped by two men in Arima on January 29.
Homicide investigators told Guardian Media that due to the advanced decomposed state of the body they could not say with any certainty how she died.
Sources say that Bharatt’s face was badly decomposed and there appeared to be several animal bites about her body.
However, swabs were taken for testing to determine if the young woman was sexually assaulted.
Guardian Media understands that Bharatt’s family posted on social media late yesterday evening that they have decided to do a second autopsy and activist Inshan Ishmael later indicated that he and two other people will fund the autopsy to be done today.
Andrea’s father, Randolph Bharatt arrived at the Forensic Science Centre in St James shortly before 9 am and just after 11.15 am was driven out of the compound in an unmarked police vehicle.
When Guardian Media contacted Bharatt after lunch yesterday he said politely, “I just want to be left alone right now. I need time for myself.”
As the investigation now remains at a sensitive stage, Guardian Media asked Commissioner Gary Griffith, how the results of this post-mortem may affect the investigation? He responded, “patience.”
Senior homicide investigators told Guardian Media there are two suspects that remain in custody following the death of Andrew Morris last week and most recently the main suspect 37-year-old Joel Balcon who died at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex around 2:20 pm yesterday, according to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) media release.
The Guardian had exclusively reported several days ago that Balcon, who sustained injuries while in police custody, suffered spinal injuries and was in an unconscious state since he had been admitted to hospital.
Balcon who had a long rap sheet of offences including rape, kidnapping, robbery, larceny, and firearm matters, was the main person who masterminded the kidnapping that later ended in the death of Bharatt. According to the TTPS media release of the initial 70 charges he had 45 of those were still pending in court.
Investigators into Andrea’s death and kidnapping had indicated in an exclusive Guardian Media story last Saturday that they believed Balcon used the Heights of Aripo as a dumping ground after the body of Bharatt was found there.
That find later prompted two searches on Friday and Sunday where police recovered three sets of skeletal remains that have since been sent for testing.
Balcon suspected in
Balcon they believe may have also been responsible for the disappearance and murder of other women including Teri “Smurfette” Gomez who went missing in January 2008.
Balcon, according to Gomez’s relatives, had a child with her and repeatedly beat her during their relationship.
Investigators involved in several cold cases say that they will be turning their attention to missing women from East Trinidad who may have been murdered and never found.
A senior homicide source said Balcon’s post mortem is expected to be performed on Thursday due to COVID regulations.
While Homicide investigators have widened their investigation into Balcon’s activities, sources informed Guardian Media about fresh information concerning the investigation into Bharatt’s death in which the two remaining suspects – a man and his wife – remain in police custody.
Sources familiar with the case said that contrary to what had been reported in another newspaper, Morris had not withdrawn any cash at the ATM in Trincity.
Senior investigators revealed that Balcon and the other suspect had driven to a savannah in Bon Air Arouca, where they met with with the suspect’s wife on the night that Bharatt went missing.
Balcon later gave the couple Bharatt’s bank card and they went to the ATM in Trincity where they withdrew close to $5,000 before returning to meet Balcon in the savannah.
With Bharatt still alive in the back seat, it was here the suspect and his wife were given Bharatt’s personal possessions including jewellery.
It was that personal jewellery that police later found in the possession of the female suspect who has since been questioned extensively by investigators.
Sources say that the couple later drove off in a Tiida motorcar after returning the card to Balcon— who sources say withdrew an additional $5,000 early Saturday morning from Bharatt’s account before returning the rental motorcar that had been borrowed from Morris.
Morris’ autopsy results
Guardian Media also obtained the autopsy results of Morris which indicated that he died from blunt force trauma to the head and body.
The detailed autopsy, according to sources, allegedly revealed that he suffered several broken ribs, a contusion to the right eye, damage to his legs, brain fractures, bleeding from internal organs, and burn marks to the back (possibly from a taser), shoulders badly damaged and bleeding from internal organs.
Morris’s family had alleged that he was beaten by officers attached to the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) when they detained him two days after Bharatt had been kidnapped.
They also alleged he was beaten while in custody at the Malabar Police Station.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith had told the media that Morris was sickly and had fallen off a chair and later died.
He said that Morris had acted violently when police officers of SORT had attempted to subdue him at his Tumpuna Road in Arima on January 31 after came to detain him in Bharatt’s kidnapping.
Director of the Police Complaints Authority David West told Guardian Media they are pursuing three separate investigations as he indicated the death of Morris will be looked at separately, the death of Balcon will be the basis of a second investigation and a third investigation will be launched as to why police did not submit files or attend court in several of the matters that Balcon had, that were later dismissed by the courts.