A fight for turf among warring gang leaders and members in Tunapuna is being blamed for the recent upsurge in murders.
The latest to fall victim of the gun were two-year-old Aniah and her 39-year-old father Stefon Mc Leod of Upper Fairley Street, bringing the murders in the once peaceful community to six for this year.
Two weeks ago, Kathleen Theroule, 56, and her 19-year-old son Keron were riddled with bullets inside their Cornelius Street home.
The murders kicked off in January when Kenneth Maitlan was shot outside his apartment building on Ali Street.
Two months later, Vaughndell Joseph was found dead in a drain on St Vincent Street.
On Wednesday, residents of Upper Fairley Street spoke in whispers about last Friday’s double murder, as they tried to come to terms with the tragedy that has befallen their community.
The murder of the Aniah and her dad was the second double murder to have taken place in Tunapuna in the last three weeks.
Video footage of the shooting, viewed by Guardian Media, showed Mc Leod driving his car along Fairley Street which stopped in front of an opened yard where Aniah was playing with another girl.
Aniah was taken to the car by her mother Melinda to meet her father.
Melinda chatted briefly and placed the toddler inside the vehicle which slowly drove off.
Seconds later, a car was seen trailing Mc Leod.
As Melinda turned her back, the sounds of rapid gunfire were heard, as pedestrians scampered to safer ground.
Melinda’s instinct told her something was wrong as the shooter jumped into a vehicle which sped off.
She ran down the road only to see Aniah’s lifeless body covered in blood and Mc Leod slumped behind the steering wheel.
The pain was too much for Melinda who screamed out in agony “they killed my child… they killed my child.”
With trembling hands Melinda lifted her daughter out of the car and ran towards her home for help.
Father of five Seeraj Ramsaran who lives in the same yard with Melinda offered to rush Aniah to the Eric Williams Medical Science Complex in Mt Hope for medical attention.
Ramsaran said he clung on to hope knowing that the toddler had a faint heartbeat.
“ But when the doctors came out of the emergency room and shook their heads we knew she was gone. I never expected Aniah to die at the hands of a bullet. This shooting has shattered me. My children are affected.”
Every day, Aniah would visit Ramsaran’s children to play.
“She used to sit in my car and pretend to drive. Aniah also loved doubles. To me, it was her favourite food. She was such an angel.
Since the shooting, Ramsaran keeps his children indoors.
“I for one don’t hang out outside. Once the sun goes down I would lock my door.”
Ramsaran also plans to install a wrought iron fence and gate at the front of his home, stating that he no longer felt safe in the area because of the spate of killings.
“If I leave here, where would I go? Nowhere is safe anymore. The murders in Tunapuna really getting out of control. It have us living in constant fear because you don’t know who is next. If they could shoot a toddler without mercy and a heart, what would they leave for adults?” Ramsaran said.
Police officials told Guardian Media that a fight for turf among gang members and leaders in the Tunapuna/ Macoya/Maingot Road areas have been triggering the murders.
Aliases such as Croc, Pelman, Yardi, Satan, Barman, Lizard, Coco, Jaspa, Mexican, Fats, Shevy, Monster and Stinking are said to be associated with the gangs which have been causing havoc and mayhem in the communities.
A 2010/2020 Municipality of Tunapuna/Piarco- Local Area Profile report stated that a 2010 Citizen Security Survey showed that 22 per cent of the northern region’s respondents indicated there was a gang in their neighbourhood.
Also, the residents did not feel safe.
At the corner of Sesame Road and Fairley Street where Aniah and her father were gunned down, residents remained tight-lipped.
“You don’t know who you are dealing with. You have to be careful of anything you say and do,” remarked one shopkeeper.
Aniah’s grandmother Rosanna Jaggernauth said the holders of the illegal firearms are not adults but children.
“Is children using the guns now. Not big people. Everything is a gun.”
Jaggernauth wondered how the high powered weapons were coming into the country undetected.
Gripped with fear and anger, Jaggernauth said soon she would be moving out with Melinda.
“My daughter wants to leave. I am leaving with her. Honestly, I am not feeling safe here anymore.”
Jaggernauth said she had no idea what led to the killings.
“Nobody is talking. The killer is still walking free. All we are asking God for is justice.”
She said Aniah picked up five bullets.
One of the bullets struck her head and shattered an eye.
Another pierced her chest.
“What did that little baby do to deserve five bullets? You tell me,” said an emotional Jaggernauth.
Last November, resident Roslyn Thomas said her son Ganesh Cudjoe was sprayed with bullets while at his Bamboo Trace home.
Cudjoe left behind five children and a wife who was nine months pregnant.
“When the gunmen opened fire Ganesh ran in front of his wife to save her life and that of their unborn child. It’s a very painful thing to lose a child. It’s scary to live up here. Every day I does cry for my son,” Thomas said, clutching her chest, as tears streamed down her face.
Having lived in the area for decades, Thomas said Tunapuna was peaceful and everybody looked out for one another.
However, she admitted that things have since changed, stating that her community has become a terror and war zone.
“It was a close-knit community. These killings are something new. I don’t know what to tell you that could change things going on here right now. The COVID-19 pandemic did not stop the killers. It still had murders. Parents are grieving, crying and hurting every day. There is too much bloodshed.”
Thomas said Cudjoe’s murder has remained unsolved to this date.
“ He (Cudjoe) was good around everybody. I don’t know when my door closed what activity took place on the outside,” Thomas said.
Tunapuna MP Esmond Forde said the six murders were far too many.
As the representative for the area, Forde said he could only do so much.
“ I really do not like it, We need to ensure….know your friends… know what you are involved in. It is really a sad day in Tunapuna.”
Forde could not say what has been fuelling the murders.
“ I am not saying if Stephon was involved in anything. I know Stephon. When I was a councillor I used to give Stephon three months contracts at the regional corporation ever so often.”
Asked if the killings could dissuade people from voting for him in the upcoming general elections, Forde said crime was a national and global issue.
“It hurts when it hits home. This (crime) is bigger than me. For each MP you would be glad to know it is not in your constituency….so you could walk about and say nobody got killed in my area. I would love to say that.”
Despite programmes and job opportunities being offered to uplift the lives of his constituents, Forde said some people have a different mindset.
On Thursday, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to Aniah’s killer.