Retired British actress, 79, found dead in Valsayn home

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Law enforcement officials at the home of Viscella Richards, 79, in Valsayn Avenue, off Ashland Avenue, North Valsayn where her body was found on March 6. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

A 79-year-old Valsayn resident was found dead in her house on March 6 after what appeared to be a home invasion.

The lifeless body of Viscella Richards was found on the floor of her bedroom with her hands bound.

Richards, who lived alone, retired to Trinidad and Tobago 20 years ago after a career as an actress in England.

She was found by a caregiver who went to check on her after calls to Richards’s phone went unanswered.

The caregiver arrived at around noon on March 6 and found the front door unlocked. She went in and saw the kitchen and bedrooms had been ransacked.

Richards was found unresponsive.

The caregiver called the police and a district medical officer later declared Richards dead at the scene.

Richards’ body bore no marks of violence, leading authorities to speculate she may have suffered a heart attack during the incident.

The street on which Richards lives, Valsayn Avenue, is a quiet street with no reports of recent break-ins in the area.

Newsday understands officers from private security company SWAT Estate Police made two patrols in the area on the morning of March 6 around 9 am and 11 am but saw nothing out of the ordinary.

A SWAT officer at the scene said, “It’s very sad to know one of our clients has passed. We don’t know what transpired as yet but we have to be here.”

A friend who said he knew Richards for almost four decades described her as a “beautiful lady” who was also a warm and engaging person.

He said she was a dual citizen who had a successful career as a stage actress in England.

He said she had begun displaying signs of dementia, but against the advice of friends, she didn’t believe she needed any help.

Richards had no children, so friends tried to persuade her to let a caregiver move in and stay with her permanently, but she refused.

“That was the problem, living alone in this place, I felt that she needed somebody in the house with her.”

He said friends even took Richards to a psychiatrist in the hope he could convince her she needed help. However, he said that didn’t work either and Richards refused to change her mind.

“We had people lined up to stay with her. There are people willing to help. They were willing to pay for it too.

“But that wasn’t the issue. The issue was getting her to accept that she needed help.”

He said bandits might have considered her a “soft target,” as she lived alone.

“We tried to encourage her to have somebody with her,” he lamented.

Speaking about the crime situation, he said it was no different in Trinidad and Tobago compared to the rest of the world.

“You have to know where you’re safe, whether it’s Trinidad, whether it’s America. Universally, it’s not like before. Anywhere you are, you can’t let down your defences.”

He said the issue in Trinidad and Tobago was the crime detection rate.

“Our problem here is the forensic rate. Their rate of detection is poor, so it adds to the problem.”

Richards is the second pensioner in a month to be found dead after a suspected home invasion.

On February 5, 72-year-old Hyacinth Gardner was found dead at her home on Lime Boulevard in Santa Rosa. Gardner, who also lived alone, had emigrated to the US, but returned to her Trinidad and Tobago home last December and stayed to oversee repairs to it.

Her body was discovered in her bedroom after one of her workers was unable to reach her by phone and contacted the police.