The discovery of human remains at Heights of Aripo just hours after the decomposed body of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt was found has prompted homicide investigators to widen their investigation to include a series of sex crimes in which women were raped and murdered but their bodies never found.
Bharatt was kidnapped on January 29, after boarding a car at King Street, Arima, on her way home from work. For six days police searched forested areas in east Trinidad, and her body was eventually found off a precipice in Heights of Aripo on Thursday afternoon.
“We are certain that this man, who is the main suspect in Andrea’s murder, used this area as his dumping ground in the past. This man knows the area well and is well connected,” a senior police officer told Guardian media.
Investigators believe the suspect might be responsible for the disappearance of several women over the years.
“There was a woman that went missing last year. We believe he kidnapped and raped her with the same modus operandi as Andrea’s. He and other men were brought in for questioning around July and their homes searched but there was no material evidence found for us to tie any of them to the case,” a senior homicide source revealed.
The source added that the suspect might have been responsible for the disappearance of Teri “Smurfette” Gomez, who had a child with him and was often beaten before she went missing in January 2008.
On Thursday, the Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, told reporters the woman’s sister, Tony Vincent, had reached out to him on social media post. Her sister went missing 13 years ago and police have not been able to crack the case.
Griffith said: “Speaking to witnesses and persons, what they told us is that this individual was accustomed to assaulting and raping women, he takes them and throws them in the forest in that area and that is what we have to deal with in society.”
Investigators returned to the Heights of Aripo yesterday morning after receiving a telephone call around 9.40 am about human remains.
Shortly after 10 am, homicide crime scene investigators went to the area approximately two minutes’ drive from where Bharatt’s body was discovered in a bushy area off a precipice. Down a 20 to 30-foot precipice off the side of a sharp corner in the road, they recovered a black bag with what appeared to be human and animal remains. The remains have been taken to the Forensic Sciences Centre in St James for testing.
Residents in the area have complained for years that the area is a dumping ground.
A 37-year-old suspect is in critical condition at hospital and may be paralysed after he attempted to escape from police custody hours after he was detained for questioning last Sunday. He has a rap sheet stretching from 2004 to 2020, including sexual offences, firearms, robbery and kidnapping. according to detailed information seen by Guardian Media accompanied by a photograph of the individual also known by the false name of Devon Charles.
The main, who is at an undisclosed medical institution, has at least four different known addresses—two in Sangre Grande, one in Valencia, and another in Tobago.
In 2017 he was committed to stand trial for rape and kidnapping in Tobago and remained in jail for three years until he secured bail in October 2020.
Reports are that he attempted to lead the police away from the crime scene to Jacob Settlement in Sangre Grande last Sunday. A confidential document obtained by Guardian Media states that he first went to Windy Hill, Arouca, after kidnapping Bharatt.
Police are working on the theory that Bharatt may have been killed at this location where the suspect spent just over an hour. Certain areas of Windy Hill are well known to the police and there are several dirt roads leading into the mountains that are accessible by car, making them easy locations to commit crimes out of earshot of Windy Hill residents.
Sources believe the suspect then drove to an area in Pinto Road, Arima, where he sold Bharatt’s phone for $700 to a woman, who has since been detained by police.
An eyewitness told police when the Nissan Versa entered the area someone was lying on the backseat of the vehicle.
The suspect, who police believe on his way to Valencia at that time, made a detour and dumped Bharatt’s body at Heights of Aripo before continuing his journey.
Investigators say based on intelligence by the time the suspect arrived in Sangre Grande he had no one else in the car. On Friday evening he had spoken to several persons on his cellphone and later switched the false number plates back to the original plates in the rented car, so as not to arouse the suspicion.
He returned the rented vehicle the next day in Sangre Grande and later went to San Fernando to purchase a vehicle from a man for $20,000. Authorities determined there was no attempt on the suspect’s part to make any trade for Bharatt to imply that human trafficking may have been involved.
The man who sold the car to the main suspect was detained and later released after checks confirmed that he had attempted to conduct a legitimate business transaction with the suspect, who he did not know.
Bharatt’s body was taken to the Forensic Sciences Centre in St James yesterday. It will be swabbed as COVID-protocols must be followed before an autopsy which is expected to ve done on Monday.
Yesterday Bharatt’s father and other relatives were whisked in through the back gate of the compound and later left the same way without speaking to the media.
Contacted yesterday about the possible court link in Bharatt’s death Commissioner Griffith said: “I have no such information.”
Two other senior homicide sources dismissed the allegation as false.