Roukaya Amanda Sophia Aaliyah Johnson Straughn St Louis Swan is a difficult name to remember in its entirety, but the 22-year-old’s warm personality, according to relatives, is, or was, unforgettable.
Roukaya’s mother and six siblings are trapped in an uncertain space somewhere between the past and present–created by the absence of closure.
As her mother spoke about her, she fumbled between is and was, and between the idea of Roukaya being out there alive and the hurt, or of her possibly being taken away from this life too soon.
“I feel she is somewhere out there and one day, she will come right back to her mom. So help me God, that’s how I feel about my child,” Roukaya’s mother, Avalon said.
“The pain in my heart has gone to my soul. I know whoever did it shall never rest. They shall never rest. Their life will always be miserable on the face of the earth. Even when they die, they will have to pay the price for what they did to my baby.”
What is certain, however, is that she just doesn’t know what has happened to her daughter.
But someone out there likely does.
On April 30, 2016, the then-Form Five student of Morvant/Laventille Secondary left her Eighth Avenue, Barataria home.
She told relatives she was going to do the hair of a couple of children at Sixth Avenue.
Roukaya, an aspiring beautician, was a talented hairstylist.
“I’ll never forget that Saturday morning. She left home and said she was coming back just now. (When she was leaving) she ran back up the hill, kissed me and her stepfather and said, ‘I love you’ll,’” Avalon recalled.
Typically, when Roukaya went out on hairstyling jobs, she would return no later than 10 pm.
When she failed to do so that Saturday night, her mother immediately knew something was wrong.
Avalon and Roukaya’s brother made a report at the Morvant Police Station but were told they had to wait 24 hours before formally doing so.
While disappointed in the initial response by police, Avalon said the police responded sufficiently after it became clear she was missing.
Roukaya’s sister, Precious, however, was less pleased about how police handled the case.
“I really wish the police officers who dealt with the matter would have moved with some sense of urgency. That they would have found out if the family knew more. You know, lend that listening ear to hear what we have to say,” Precious lamented.
Precious is full of questions about her younger sister’s disappearance.
“This child was young. I mean what could she have done to go missing? Did she run away from home? Was she pressured into leaving the household?” she wondered.
According to Avalon, there was no cause for concern about her daughter’s well-being leading up to her disappearance. She said her daughter appeared happy and was eagerly looking forward to doing her CXC exams.
Precious, however, recalled hearing from a relative that Roukaya seemed stressed a week before going missing.
“They told me she was on the phone crying. So, they asked her what she was crying for? She seemed timid, you know, and she was not answering. She didn’t give them an answer, but she was crying and she looked like she was under pressure,” Precious said.
They never knew what that call was about.
In the five years since the former Morvant/Laventille Secondary School student went missing, multiple people claimed they saw her.
Around a month after she went missing, in May 2016, a family associate claimed he saw Roukaya at Maracas Beach with a group of people. He said he spoke with her and even bought her drinks. She told him, he said, that she was going to Blanchisseuse after.
Guardian Media discovered that a couple of photos of Roukaya were uploaded to Facebook by two separate profiles, one male and the other female, on May 20, 2016.
When shown the pictures, Precious confirmed the person was her sister.
She had never seen the pictures before.
Roukaya did not appear to be in distress. She had a phone in her hand in one of the pictures.
The listed home address for one of the people who uploaded the pictures was Blanchisseuse.
Guardian Media attempted to contact the person but they didn’t respond to messages.
Other people claimed to have seen Roukaya in Diego Martin and Cedros.
Family investigations into the sightings have always come up short, with those who claimed to have seen her too scared to give certain information.
While her mother isn’t quite sure, Precious believes her sister is somewhere out there alive.
“It will mean a lot to us, whether dead or alive, to get that type of closure. We are willing to take whatever we get–mommy especially,” Precious said.
“I’m just asking the Lord for the strength not to cry. I had a humble child who one day would have gotten married to somebody nice and I would have seen her walking and coming up the hill with her little ones. They would be running around and saying, granny, granny,” Roukaya’s mother said.
No one in the Swan family has been the same since Roukaya left home that day.
Avalon is a shell of her former self, while Precious’ outlook on life changed.
“It made me more understanding about the ways of life and not to trust people where friends and family members are concerned. Sometimes, family is the ones you have to look at sometimes too, in some instances, and I really hope that is not the case,” she said.
“Roukaya, I love you…I have tears in my eyes right now. I’m thinking about it every day. You have nieces and nephews and they ask about you.
“I would love to tell her that…no matter what bad happened in her life that she went missing, whatever it is, we have put it behind us and we just want to show her love,” her mother said.
According to police sources, the case remains open.
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