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Family tries to overcome grief
In spite of the assurances by police that the suspects in the murder of special prosecutor Dana Seetahal, SC, will be brought to justice soon, anxious relatives, friends and colleagues continue to struggle with deep emotions and unanswered questions as to why their loved one was brutally murdered, who ordered the assassination and who stood to benefit from her death.
Three days shy of the one-year anniversary of Seetahal’s senseless killing near the Woodbrook Youth Facility during the early hours of May 4, 2014, the overwhelming sense of disappointment, hurt and sorrow threaten to derail their daily lives as they continue to appeal to the authorities for closure.
Unable to imagine Seetahal's final moments as she faced down the killers who ambushed her on the poorly-lit street at 12.05 am, everyone agrees that Seetahal did not deserve such a vicious end.
As gunshots erupted that night from what police claimed were high-powered rifles, Seetahal tried to reach for the purse which contained her licensed gun but was prevented from retrieving it as her killers walked up to her Volkswagen Touareg SUV and let loose a volley of shots that killed her within seconds.
Her assassination-styled murder, which sent shockwaves across the country, regionally and internationally, was described as “one of the darkest days in this country's history,” and was compared to the 1995 attack on former attorney general Selwyn Richardson, whose murder remains unsolved to this day.
Now, as T&T, along with the world, continues to wonder if there will ever be a close to this horrible chapter in the country's history, acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams is assuring everyone that the police have reached a stage in the investigation when they will be able to close the case soon.
During an interview earlier this week on CNC3's Morning Brew, Williams said the police had utilised advanced technology to aid in their efforts to locate the killers but he declined to say what it was and how long again it would be before any definitive conclusions were arrived at.
With no answers forthcoming from the police about whether or not foreign security agencies were brought in to assist in the investigation, relatives and colleagues question if anyone will ever be brought to justice.
Senior police officials have since confirmed that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) was assisting with the investigation.
However, this information has not been communicated to Seetahal’s family, as it was only last week that they called for a renewal of the investigation, whether it meant assigning additional resources or accepting the offer of foreign expertise.
During an interview at the senior counsel’s former residence at Gordon Street, St Augustine, last Sunday, Seetahal’s sister, Susan Francois, head of the Financial Intelligence Unit, issued a heart-felt plea for answers as she said it appeared that the investigation had become stalled.
“It’s nearly a year and we have seen no reasonable sign of progress from the police. We hear the same things over and over... that the investigation is ongoing and it is a priority... and yet coming onto a year there has still been no light at the end of the tunnel.”
She added: “Obviously, greater efforts should be made to find her killers. She was a fierce advocate for justice and given her contribution to improving the criminal justice system in this country, she invested a lot of time and effort in trying to get certain improvements, speedier trials and better investigations concluded in a more timely manner.”
Another of Seetahal’s sisters, Elaine Teemul, admitted that her death had adversely affected the entire family.
She said: “It is a depressing feeling and one of hopelessness. There is this void that we thought after a year we would have been able to deal with it. The anniversary is just reopening wounds that never healed, as everything is coming back in full force.”
Teemul's pain at losing her sister increased as she lost her husband in February this year.
Recalling the close relationship Seetahal and her spouse shared, Teemul added: “It is very hard to cope at this point. We are still asking the same questions about why she was killed. I personally am very angry and very disappointed and upon reflection, I think the powers that be just don't care.
“The public has been very kind and supportive but we are looking at the people in office and when we think that we can turn to them to get a response, none is forthcoming.”
Even as speculation and public opinion about why Seetahal was killed continue to circulate, other relatives revealed they had stopped reading and listening to the news because it was “depressing and demoralising.”
Seetahal’s niece, Melissa Persad, explained: “It is too painful to read things and get our hopes up that something is being done.”
She too appealed to the local authorities to keep them in the loop as the investigation continued.
“We would like to be informed by the police when they have something as the family closest to her. We don’t want to remain in the dark,” she added.
Unable to equate the picture of Seetahal presented to mourners on the day of her funeral with the image she normally associated with her aunt, Persad smiled as she recalled that Seetahal was “invincible” and that she still was to her.
Concerned that Seetahal’s killers remain on the loose and continue to be a threat to remaining family members, relatives said they were very concerned about their personal safety and as a result they have had to make certain adjustments.
Remembering his sister’s big heart and loving nature, Kenrick testified to the close relationship she shared with her nieces and nephews as he spoke of her genuine need to always know what was happening with everyone in the family.
Blinking away tears as he spoke, Kenrick recounted the range of emotions he experienced throughout the entire ordeal, from the time he learned about the killing to the day of the funeral and now.
Seeking to explain the level of difficulty he experienced at having to bury his younger sibling, he said:
“It hurt me quite a lot because I always thought being the elder of the siblings, you don’t expect a younger one to die before you. It was hard for me to look at my sister’s face in the coffin because it brought back memories. ”
He could not finish his statement and trailed off.
Agreeing that Seetahal was someone who had brought light into the family, was easy to talk to and always quick to offer advice, both professionally and personally, the family nodded in agreement as Kenrick said:
“We just hope the police will start doing their work and that in the very near future we get some answers. That is all we are asking, we would like something before the anniversary date.”
But the anniversary of her killing is now upon us and the police are yet to make any major announcement of a breakthrough.
Seetahal’s elder sister, Marilyn, also questioned why it was taking so long for the authorities to act and called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and other officer holders to act on their promises, made at the time of her killing, that no expense would be spared to ensure her killers were caught and brought to justice.
She recalled Seetahal's love for home-cooked meals, such as curry cascadoo and peas with sada roti, baigon and tomato choka with bird pepper, and also her attempts at gardening.
In a whisper, she disclosed: “Not many people knew she had a farmer’s badge and could weld.”
The “Om sign” welded on the front gate of the family house at Wilkinson Street, El Dorado, Tunapuna, she said, would forever be a reminder of Seetahal’s presence as it was she, Marilyn and their father who were responsible for putting it up.
Contacted on the matter, lead investigator in the case, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime and Operations Glen Hackett, said: “The matter is continuing to be investigated. I am acutely aware that the anniversary date is impending and I am working feverishly with my team on the matter.”
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