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Foreign officials take interest

Published: 
Friday, August 7, 2015
Minister visits family of missing lecturer...
Helen Bergendahj, daughter of Mission COSTAAT Lecturer Glenda Charles Harris with her daughter Zoe and brother Klas Charles Harris. PHOTO: ANDRE ALEXANDER

Concerned that a member of his extended family had gone missing, Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim yesterday visited the family of missing lecturer Glenda Charles-Harris to offer his support and advise them in their time of need.

Confirming that he had met with Charles-Harris’ anxious relatives at their home in Diego Martin for close to an hour yesterday morning, Karim stressed that it was not a ploy to earn political stripes.

Instead, he stressed that Charles-Harris, a senior lecturer and head of the Environmental Studies Department at the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of T&T (Costaatt), was a member of his ministry and that it was “genuine concern” which had prompted the early morning visit.

Accompanied by Costaatt president Dr Jillian Paul and vice-president of Student Affairs Dr Camille Samuel, Karim said:

“As minister responsible for Costaatt, I am genuinely concerned about the welfare and well-being of all our colleagues in the ministry. I went to express my concern and show support to the family in this time of need as they are very distressed.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Costaatt officials who indicated that the family were appreciative of Karim’s visit and direction.

Today marks 12 days since Charles-Harris’ disappearance.

The 78-year-old mother of four was last seen at the Diamond Vale Tru Valu Supermarket around 5.30 pm on July 27.

Meanwhile, Swedish authorities have expressed an interest in the case as Harris had lived there for over 17 years, while her daughter, Helen, continues to reside there.

Confirmation was also given by the family that Interpol had been notified, while officials both in Canada and the US have also taken a keen interest in the matter.

During an interview yesterday, Harris’ daughter, Helen Bergendahl, and her brother, Klas Charles-Harris, said the last known person to speak with their mother that day confirmed “she was perfectly fine and in good spirits.”

They also said the state of her house at Blue Range did not indicate that she had left “under duress.”

Baffled as to their mother’s continued disappearance, the two agreed that all calls were being treated with priority and that daily searches were continuing in Diego Martin and in Princes Town, where her car was found the day after she was reported missing.

Referring to reports that searches were conducted in the Moruga forest after the police received calls claiming she had been seen in the area, the siblings praised the local police for leaving no stone unturned and sparing no effort to follow every lead brought to their attention.

They also acknowledged the offer of a cash reward by Crime Stoppers for any information leading to Charles-Harris’ whereabouts.

Adding their voice to the outpouring of prayers and support that continue to be expressed by family, friends, students and colleagues, Klas said:

“I know there is someone out there who knows what happened to her. We just want our mother back, no questions asked. We are not about retribution.”

Describing their mother as someone who was in excellent health, Helen shook her head when questioned if she had been suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Pointing out that their mother was acutely aware of the safety concerns which continue to plague our society, the two said the furthest their mother ever went was to choir practice at the St Augustine Girls High School or to the airport in Piarco.

Supportive of the efforts by the Costaatt population as they continue to distribute flyers daily urging the public to pass on any information to the police, Helen and Klas said the entire family was “very involved” in the search, both in south Trinidad as well as the house-to-house checks in the Diego Martin area.

Praying for a positive outcome, Klas said the rumours and unconfirmed media reports were having a devastating emotional impact on the already anxious family.

Faced with the possibility that something sinister had happened to their mother, Klas acknowledged the local criminal landscape as he revealed that they had not received any ransom call or demand.

He added: “We are praying and hoping for the best but fearing the worst. We really want to retrieve our mother so that we can get some kind of closure and start the healing process.”

However, their pain was evident as they asked: “What kind of person would want to harm a 78-year-old woman who has done nothing but to contribute to society?”

Both Klas and Helen confirmed that there had been no financial activity recorded on their mother’s ATM and credit cards since her disappearance.

The family is scheduled to participate in a candlelight vigil at the Blue Range Park from 6 pm today, while another has been scheduled for 6 pm tomorrow at St Mary’s Village, Carapichaima.

Today’s vigil is being hosted by the Blue Range Association while Costaatt will host the one tomorrow.

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