Mark Bassant and Rishard Khan
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday pleaded with citizens to come forward with information on the kidnapping of Andrea Bharatt, 23, as he addressed a news conference in Port-of-Spain.
“When these things happen there are people among us in the population who know what happened. And all I could say is that to whoever is listening – if you know something about this young lady and what is happening to her, just remember that the upholder is worse than the thief,” he said.
Bharatt, a clerk attached to the Arima Magistrate’s Court was kidnapped after entering a what appeared to be a taxi – a white Nissan Versa. Since then four suspects were detained for questioning in her disappearance.
“If you know something, you can safely say something to the authorities to assist us in recovering her. In these crimes and similar crimes and crimes in general, there’s usually- almost always- somebody who knows something that is useful to the investigation and search. Please if you are that person, come forward or get the information to law enforcement or somebody who would get it to law enforcement to the search can be focused and have a better chance at being successful,” Dr Rowley said.
The prime minister said he refuses to believe, from what he has seen, that there are people who do not know what has happened.
Another day without success
Meanwhile, for a third straight day, police officers and hunters scoured miles of forest around the Fishing Pond area in Sangre Grande in the hope of finding additional clues.
While police confirmed to Guardian Media they had uncovered a potential clue on Tuesday, they were hoping yesterday to build on this and extended their search to other forested areas from where they had begun on Monday in Nonpariel Road in Fishing Pond Sangre Grande.
On Wednesday they extended this search further north with the assistance of hunters near the Gordon Farm settlement area and later at Phanchoo Road in Fishing Pond.
Several hunters combed the Gordon Farm area for more than four hours but found nothing. Ren Gopiesingh, one of the hunters, said they made thorough checks throughout that area but did not find anything that could assist the police in their investigation.
“We just want the public to say anything that can help the police Think about what her father and family is going through,” he said.
Close to two pm, a convoy of police vehicles left the Sangre Grande Police Station and made their way deep into the Fishing Pond area into Phanchoo Road.
The road which is approximately two miles, comes to a dead-end and is heavily forested. Close to 50 officers entered the forested area and spent several hours hoping to find any further clues that could assist them in locating Bharatt.
A senior police source told Guardian Media, “We got some intelligence and we had to search this area. During their search, they found a weed field that was destroyed but nothing was found. People are saying things on social media that’s not true,” he said.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith issued a statement yesterday calling on people to desist from spreading false information connected to Bharatt’s case.
Claims being made on social media were that Bharatt had died and some people had been calling the family offering condolences.
The senior source said they had not obtained any other definitive clues up to late yesterday evening, but were hoping to resume their search today.
Reward reaches $500,000
The rewards offered for information leading to the safe return of Bharatt reached $500,000, due mostly to a big pledge by Crime Show host Ian Alleyne.
Alleyne yesterday offered to pay a reward of $400,000 to anyone with information that could lead to finding her.
He made the announcement on his weekday Crime Watch show yesterday, asking anyone with information to contact him.
Meanwhile, Colin Bissoondath, president of Full Throttle Hunting Club who has been assisting the police in their search, has pledged $25,000.
“It’s time to find Andrea. Crime Stoppers have put out a reward of $50,000 and Mode Alive $25,000 and now I am pledging a reward of $25,000. So that makes $100,000. We need to find her. I am taking it personally and I have not eaten or slept since then. If someone knows something, make a phone call. I am pleading with the public,” said Bissoondath.
Attorney – Suspects released
Meanwhile attorney Fareed Ali, who is representing two suspects, ages 20 and 26, claimed last night they were released by police.
The suspects, who both have the same first name and live in different areas of Arima, were released shortly after 6 pm yesterday evening.
According to Ali, one man is unemployed while the other is a PH taxi driver.
“The TTPS in examining the phone records of one of the male suspects were able to locate a female correspondent who was possession of an item that allegedly belonged to the missing Andrea Bharatt,” Ali said.
Ali, who is also representing the woman, also said that another man was arrested allegedly through her direction. She remains in police custody.
Police, however, maintained that all suspects remain in custody.