Lead Editor, Investigative Desk
A joint police and army patrol spent more than six hours yesterday in a forested area in Sangre Grande as they searched for further clues into the kidnapping of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt, but their search came up empty-handed by the time they came out just after 2 pm yesterday.
The search took the lawmen almost three miles into Nonpariel Road, a winding, partially-pitched road that later transforms into a dirt road where vehicles have to carefully manoeuvre and are heavily forested and littered with a few homes and farmland along the way.
Close to the two-and-a-half-mile mark of the road, an army truck was parked as two soldiers stood guard with no one allowed beyond that point as police scoured the area for any semblance of clues that would bring them closer to finding Bharatt.
Over 50 police and army officers spent several hours in the heavily forested area combing hilly terrain littered with lush vegetation and several abandoned structures.
Shortly before 2 pm, the search had ended.
“We spent considerable time inside the forest, and we covered miles in the search, but we didn’t find anything,” said a senior officer as he left the scene.
The police also had the assistance of tracker dogs in their search.
The lawmen had gone to the area after receiving certain intelligence.
One Trinidad and Tobago Regiment (TTR) truck left the scene after the search was halted, followed by a convoy of at least six police vehicles all packed with heavily armed officers.
Bharatt was kidnapped on Friday after she went into a Nissan Versa taxi with a co-worker. Her co-worker was dropped off in Cleaver Heights, Arima. Bharatt’s home was a mere ten minutes away, but she never made it home.
One of the alleged kidnappers had told her father on Friday night—when her father spoke with her kidnapper a second time after her father appeared aggressive the first time on the phone with him, he told her father, “for getting on so I will send your daughter’s ears for you.”
He had also asked for a sum of money. However, there was no further communication from Bharatt’s kidnappers.
In a media release, yesterday evening the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith confirmed that at least five suspects were now in police custody with respect to Bharatt’s kidnapping.
Griffith implored the media and the public to be careful about the information posted about Bharatt’s kidnapping.
Griffith said, “Media frenzy over this incident points out that too much information on this case could jeopardise the investigations and place the life of the victim in further danger.”
Senior police sources informed Guardian Media that the men in police custody are mostly from East Trinidad.
In fact, one of the suspects’ detained is a 24-year-old labourer from Sangre Grande who is said to be the son of a police officer, while another suspect, who they believe to be the mastermind in the kidnapping, aged 37, also from Sangre Grande, is known to the police as a “firearm offender, drug offender, robbery offender, larceny offender, and a kidnapper.”
The 37-year-old, who is well known to police with the aliases “Fabulous” and “Reddo”, was the first to be picked up at a female companion’s home in Petit Bourg early Sunday morning by police officers of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad (AKS) and the Special Operations Response Team (SORT).
Guardian Media has also been reliably informed by senior police sources that a female from the Arima area, who had purchased Bharatt’s phone for the sum of $700 from one of the suspects, had also been questioned by police.
And while investigators say they will continue to pursue specific leads as it relates to Bharatt, there was some good news after 15-year-old Kadesha Cox, who had gone missing on January 22, was found.
In a brief Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) release, police said Cox was found in the Port-of-Spain district and thanked the public for their assistance in assuring her safe return.
Meanwhile, prayers continued among friends, family and strangers for her safe release.
The group Women Helping Others (WHO) was among those joining the chorus of voices praying for Bharatt.
“WHO is deeply saddened by the circumstances surrounding Ms Bharatt’s kidnapping and words cannot express the emotional pain and trauma her loved ones are currently experiencing,” a statement by the group said.
It added: “We will continue to pray for her safe release and urge members of the public with any information as to her whereabouts to contact the nearest police station.”
One radio station also opened its lines to members of the public yesterday, to allow them to offer their support and prayers for her safe return.