by Sharlene Rampersad
Police rescued a 92-year-old woman yesterday from what her neighbours called ‘A house of horror’.
The elderly woman was carried by an officer from the Tunapuna Police Station after they broke down the door to her El Dorado house to find her alone and surrounded by piles of garbage.
One of her neighbours, Latoya Greaves, had launched a campaign on social media earlier in the day, calling for police and the Ministry of Social Development to rescue the woman.
Greaves said that on Sunday she was alerted by a relative that the woman was lying unresponsive in the rain outside her home.
“My cousin described the house to me and we came back together. When we got here she was just lying in the rain, with the dogs barking around her and surrounded by garbage,” Greaves recalled.
Greaves said she contacted police and an ambulance but when the first responders arrived, one of the woman’s close male relatives refused to give them permission to take her for treatment.
“He was carrying on, saying she doesn’t want to go anywhere, she good, she doesn’t need anything. It is me who insisted that they take her to the hospital. When she got in the ambulance, I asked her if she was hungry and she said yes, she was very hungry,” Greaves said.
She said the woman bore several marks of violence on her body and seemed to have not been bathed in several days.
“Her skin was like you could take a knife and peel off the dirt. Her clothes were dirty, her hair was matted like it had not been combed in months…she just looked like no one was taking care of her at all.”
Greaves said the woman’s relative would often lock her in the house for days on end, as he roamed the streets of El Dorado.
“Everybody accustomed to seeing him walking all the road picking up garbage. I guess now we know what he was doing with it. And when she is here alone, she has nothing to eat, nothing to drink and she remains in her dirty clothes and pampers for days.”
She visited the woman at the hospital every day and Greaves said she saw a drastic change in the woman’s demeanour.
“She was lively, talking, walking about and trying to clean up all around her. She told me all about how her marriage and how she used to live before. She seemed eloquent and well-educated.”
But Greaves said she was horrified to learn the woman was discharged into the care of her alleged abuser on Wednesday morning.
“A neighbour called and told me they saw her relative dragging her into the yard this morning. I waited a while, came across and jumped the wall to get inside. She was there, among all the garbage…she was wearing pampers that were soiled, I don’t know how long she had it on. She said she had not eaten for the day.”
Guardian Media visited the house yesterday.
From the outside, the high concrete walls conceal the true condition of the property. Through a small pedestrian gate, piles of garbage were scattered all around. The concrete steps leading to the upper part of the house were clear of any garbage but to walk inside meant navigating large pieces of wood, heaps of paper, plastic and other debris. Inside the house was not much different. Greaves said the woman spent most of her days and nights in a chair, as her bed was also covered in garbage.
Throughout the house, there were narrow tracks cut into the garbage, seemingly to allow the woman and her male relative to walk.
Greaves said the kitchen had no clean dishes and was littered with plastic bottles of water.
“She has no plates, no cups, no spoons…the stove doesn’t work, the fridge doesn’t work. This woman can’t help herself to make a cup of hot tea even if she wanted to.”
When officers from the Tunapuna Police Station arrived, they seemed shocked by the woman’s living conditions.
When the woman answered their calls, the officers helped her to a chair and spoke to her for several minutes. Then, after several calls to their superiors, PC Singh lifted the woman and carried her to the police vehicle.
The officers said she would be taken to the hospital to receive treatment for several open wounds on her leg before being taken to a safe house.
Head of the TTPS’ Gender-Based Violence Unit, ASP Claire Guy-Alleyne told Guardian Media she became aware of the woman’s plight after Greaves posted several videos to social media. She said her unit was monitoring the woman at the hospital and they too were surprised when she was discharged.
Guy-Alleyne said when Guardian Media contacted her on Wednesday afternoon to inform her that the woman was back in the house, she immediately activated a team from the Tunapuna Police Station and began arrangements for a safe house for her.
She said the unit will continue to work closely with the woman in the coming days.