Fresh search at Valsayn house

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A Valsayn resident looks at the Butu Road house where Hannah
Mathura’s skeletal remains were found on March 12. – File photo

POLICE returned to conduct yet another search at the home of missing 18-year-old Hannah Mathura at Butu Road, Valsayn, on March 20. It is unclear whether the five-hour search turned up any new leads in the case that has captured the country’s attention since a gruesome find at the home last week.

Mathura is believed to have been murdered and buried in the backyard of the home in 2017, after police found what appeared to be human bones on the property during a search last week. Mathura is believed to have been shot in the head.

Since then, police arrested two of Mathura’s relatives – one male and one female – but later released them both without charge on the advice of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard.

On March 20, a senior police officer told Newsday that, despite claims on social media, police did not return to the house that day to search for another body.

Police arrived at the house around 9 am, blocking off the road and asking reporters to leave the street before entering the compound with an excavator and a cadaver dog.

They left at around 2.30 pm.

The source said the dog was brought to ensure a thorough search of the compound so that police were “prepared for the possibility” of another body.

Newsday was told police were actually searching for “any other pieces of evidence that will help… judging from what was there in the beginning.”

The officer also dismissed social-media reports that another body had been found on the compound.

Police now say they will wait for DNA tests to determine whether the bones found last week belonged to Mathura, the official said.

“The scientific testing in relation to that is not yet concluded, and so we will not be able to pronounce on that.”

“It is a matter for the science, and we are waiting the final report from the pathologist that would guide us. We do not have a DNA report, and we do not have a final pathologist’s report.”

The source suggested speculation on social media about the identity of the bones might have stemmed from the police’s decision to release Mathura’s relatives.

“What is happening in social media right now is a lot of speculation that may have been fuelled by the decision for us to honor the people’s rights.”

Mathura’s relatives were arrested last Wednesday after the remains were found. The parents were released on Tuesday night on the advice of the DPP but police say the inquiry remains ongoing as they await “specific results” to guide their way forward.

“Because we were unable to cross a certain threshold in our timeline, we had to make decisions which honor their constitutional right.”

Asked if the DPP ordered their release as they had been held for almost a week, the source said the DPP “does not order the police.

“He advises us and we have great respect for that office and his professionalism. So we consider the advice given and act in the interest of all parties.”

While there are no restrictions on the duo, police will be monitoring their whereabouts.

“When somebody is in the free world without charge, we cannot impose conditions. It’s either you’re charged or you’re not charged. When you are charged, we can impose conditions, but when you’re not yet charged, there’s little that we can do.”

The officer said despite this, the police will “do all (they) reasonably can to know where certain persons of interest would be.”

The source told Newsday that while the duo’s freedom of movement “is uninterrupted in the current process,” police would do what they could to ensure the pair did not leave the country.

“The interaction between the state and free persons is a highly regulated business and we will only follow the law on these matters.”

The police are expected to host a media conference on Thursday, with DCP Operations Junior Benjamin, ACP Criminal Division Vena Butler and Snr Supt Homicide Bureau of Investigations Rishi Singh all expected to attend.

Meanwhile, attorneys representing the surviving Mathura siblings say their clients have not returned to the house.

Sanjiv Boodhu said he had not spoken to his clients since Tuesday and had no thoughts from them on the search and their parents’ release.

“These issues are unfolding currently, so that unfortunately, neither Ms Singh (their other attorney) nor I have had the opportunity to properly consult the Mathura children.

“As such, we’re really not in a position to provide (an update). We have to get proper information and guidance from the children first before we are able to address the media.”

Boodhu said he was “observing what’s happening through the media” and intended to meet with his clients this weekend to receive updated instructions.