[UPDATED] Valsayn suspect held in El Dorado

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police and soldiers leave the Butu Road, South Valsayn house of horrors after searching for a male suspect on Wednesday. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

Police assisted by the Hunters Search and Rescue Team have detained a Valsayn man wanted for questioning over what are believed to be the bones of a teenager which were unearthed in her backyard.

The suspect, who had been on the run after the grisly discovery, was held at an apartment building in El Dorado shortly after 9 pm on March 13.

Cellphone footage showed the suspect handcuffed, bareback and wearing short pants as he was taken to a police jeep.

A Valsayn man wanted for questioning in the death of Hannah Mathura was detained by police in El Dorado on March 13. – Image taken from screenshot of video by the Hunters Search and Rescue Team.

On March 12, police found bones buried at the Butu Road, Valsayn South home of the suspect. They are believed to be those of teenager Hannah Mathura.

Police said a woman found on the same compound as the El Dorado apartment was also detained for questioning.

On March 13 police had set up roadblocks and raided the Valsayn house.

Heavily armed police and soldiers raided the compound at Butu Road, South Valsayn at around 2 pm and tried to kick down the doors to the house after they received a tip on the whereabouts of the suspect.

The remains, believed to be that of a teenage girl who vanished in 2017, were found buried in a shallow grave near a tree behind the home on March 12.

A male relative led police to the grave. An excavator was used to dig up the remains.

Newsday was told the suspect was at the compound on March 12 morning but fled before police arrived to exhume the body.

Police also initially said eight children were found in the house on March 12 but on March 13, relatives said only three children were at home at the time.

Police at the house on March 13 said they had received information that the suspect was hiding in the compound.

Three SUVs with police and soldiers turned up and searched the yard and the V-shaped house, which is divided into two separate living quarters.

The children live with their parents in one wing of the house while the children’s grandfather lives in the other wing with another relative.

Police tried to kick down the doors to enter the wing of the house in which the children were found.

After a thorough search, the police and soldiers left empty-handed.

An elderly relative was seen sitting on a balcony on the other wing as police re-assembled in the yard before leaving.

Another relative in a black SUV entered the compound after the search, parked near the door and went inside.

The car in which the suspect was seen leaving the house on March 12 was parked in the yard with the trunk open.

A video of the suspect leaving before the police arrived on March 12 has gone viral on social media.

In the video, the suspect could be heard cursing someone inside the yard of the house and demanding they open the front gate.

A voice off-camera responded, saying, “Don’t talk to me. Go. Leave now.”

The suspect reversed but then drove up to the gate again and mumbled a scripture verse before adding, “I is a God-fearing person,” and demanding again that the gate be opened. The person making the video asked him again to leave and the suspect reversed out of the street and drove off.

Newsday understands the car does not belong to the suspect and it was driven back to the house on the morning of March 13 by relatives.

While other relatives were willing to allow journalists into the yard to photograph where the grave was located, the relative who drove the car home asked journalists to leave.

Community “extremely perturbed”

While Newsday was there, the narrow cul-de-sac became congested with traffic as curious people drove past to catch a glimpse of the house with its front gates wide open.

It looked dilapidated in some parts, with clusters of banana trees, vines growing up the walls, broken windows and faded doors.

A passer-by said she was “extremely perturbed” at the news of what had happened.“I’m extremely worried and concerned that things like this could happen in a neighbourhood like this.”

A resident said while people usually kept to themselves in the community, she believes they should make a greater effort to get to know their neighbours.

“When you live in such huge houses, nobody knows their neighbours. Everybody is caught up with their own schedules so they don’t have time to fraternise and know who have their little problems.”

“I think neighbours should make an effort to know each other and have contact because if anything happens, it’s your neighbour will call the police or fire brigade or help you call an ambulance.”

Another woman who lives one street away said she felt “very scared” as local actress and singer Vanna Girod, who lived at that house, died under mysterious circumstances two years ago.

Girod went missing after going for a walk while on vacation in Tobago in January 2022.Her body was found in Arnos Vale a day after she was reported missing and a post-mortem determined she died from drowning.

Another man said he lived in the area his whole life but now feels unsafe.“It’s very daunting and jarring… it kind of prompts you to want to move away and leave the country entirely because if you can’t live in peace in an area like this, you can’t live in peace anywhere in TT.”

Another neighbour said she never saw the family outside.

“They kept to themselves, they didn’t mix with the other residents, the children never socialised, so you never really knew what was going on in there.”

She said while she heard “screaming and shouting” coming from the compound, because of the size of the compound she never reported it.

“It’s such a big compound and there are so many people living there it was always difficult to tell where the source of the noise was coming from.”

Another neighbour said she and her husband tried to notify the authorities on several occasions but no action was taken.

The neighbour said she called the police several times after hearing fights, screams and people in the house hurling abuse at each other.

“I called police several times. They did nothing. In 2017 or 2018, I called social welfare for them and once the police van came but nothing came of it.”

She said if police had asked the right questions while investigating another incident in 2015 in which an intruder was killed on the compound, they could have uncovered the treatment the children faced.

Her husband said he also called the Children’s Authority but was unable to get through.He said he hung up after he was prompted several times by an automated voice and kept on hold.

In a media release, the authority appealed to the public to report any concerns or suspicions they may have about the safety of children to the police at 999 or the authority at 996.

CEO Sheldon Cyrus said the incident “is a reminder that we all have a responsibility to say something if we see something.”

Cyrus said child protection was everybody’s business but added the authority can only intervene and provide support based on the information it receives.

Cyrus said investigators will also need to determine the circumstances under which the children found at the house were kept.

He said when they are assessed, “the psychological impact of their situation can be determined, in order to provide the necessary interventions”.

WITH REPORTING BY DARREN BAHAW 

This story has been updated to include additional details. See original story below with the headline ‘Cops raid Valsayn house of horrors, set up roadblocks in hunt for suspect.’

Police on Wednesday set up roadblocks and aided the Valsayn house, where skeletal remains were found buried in a shallow grave, as they intensified their search for the suspect in that case.

A senior officer told Newsday the police service intends to release a photo of the suspect on Thursday and called on the public to share any information which may lead to his capture.

Heavily armed police and soldiers raided the compound at Butu Road, South Valsayn at around 2 pm and tried to kick down the doors to the house after they received a tip on the whereabouts of the suspect.

The remains, believed to be that of a teenage girl who vanished in 2017, were found buried in a shallow grave near a tree behind the home on Tuesday.

A male relative led police to the grave. An excavator was used to dig up the remains.

Newsday was told the suspect was at the compound on Tuesday morning but fled before police arrived to exhume the body.

Police also initially said eight children were found in the house on Tuesday but on Wednesday, relatives said only three children were at home at the time.

Police at the house on Wednesday said they received information that the suspect was hiding in the compound.

Three SUVs with police and soldiers turned up and searched the yard and the V-shaped house, which is divided into two separate living quarters.

The children live with their parents in one wing of the house while the children’s grandfather lives in the other wing with another relative.

Police tried to kick down the doors to enter the wing of the house in which the children were found.

After a thorough search, the police and soldiers left empty-handed.

An elderly relative was seen sitting on a balcony on the other wing as police re-assembled in the yard before leaving.

Another relative in a black SUV entered the compound after the search, parked near the door and went inside.

The car in which the suspect was seen leaving the house on Tuesday was parked in the yard with the trunk open.

A video of the suspect leaving before the police arrived on Tuesday has gone viral on social media.

In the video, the suspect can be heard cursing someone inside the yard of the house and demanding they open the front gate.

A voice off-camera responded, saying, “Don’t talk to me. Go. Leave now.”

The suspect reversed but then drove up to the gate again and mumbled a scripture verse before adding, “I is a God-fearing person,” and demanding again that the gate be opened.

The person making the video asked him again to leave and the suspect reversed out of the street and drove off.

Newsday understands the car does not belong to the suspect and it was driven back to the house on Wednesday morning by relatives.

While other relatives were willing to allow journalists into the yard to photograph where the grave was located, the relative who drove the car home asked journalists to leave.

Community “extremely perturbed”

While Newsday was there, the narrow cul-de-sac became congested with traffic as curious people drove past to catch a glimpse of the house with its front gates wide open.

It looked dilapidated in some parts, with clusters of banana trees, vines growing up the walls, broken windows and faded doors.

A passer-by said she was “extremely perturbed” at the news of what had happened.

“I’m extremely worried and concerned that things like this could happen in a neighbourhood like this.”

A resident said while people usually kept to themselves in the community, she believes they should make a greater effort to get to know their neighbours.

“When you live in such huge houses, nobody knows their neighbours. Everybody is caught up with their own schedules so they don’t have time to fraternise and know who have their little problems.”

“I think neighbours should make an effort to know each other and have contact because if anything happens, it’s your neighbour will call the police or fire brigade or help you call an ambulance.”

Another woman who lives one street away said she felt “very scared” as local actress and singer Vanna Girod, who lived at that house, died under mysterious circumstances two years ago.

“I just want to see the person gets captured and that nobody gets hurt moving forward,” the woman said.

Girod went missing after going for a walk while on vacation in Tobago in January 2022.

Her body was found in Arnos Vale a day after she was reported missing and a post-mortem determined she died from drowning.

Another man said he lived in the area his whole life but now feels unsafe.

”It’s very daunting and jarring… it kind of prompts you to want to move away and leave the country entirely because if you can’t live in peace in an area like this, you can’t live in peace anywhere in TT.”

Another neighbour said she never saw the family outside.

“They kept to themselves, they didn’t mix with the other residents, the children never socialised, so you never really knew what was going on in there.”

She said while she heard “screaming and shouting” coming from the compound, because of the size of the compound she never reported it.

“It’s such a big compound and there are so many people living there it was always difficult to tell where the source of the noise was coming from.”

Another neighbour said she and her husband tried to notify the authorities on several occasions but no action was taken.

The neighbour said she called the police several times after hearing fights, screams and people in the house hurling abuse at each other.

“I called police several times. They did nothing. In 2017 or 2018, I called social welfare for them and once the police van came but nothing came of it.”

She said if police had asked the right questions while investigating another incident in 2015 in which an intruder was killed on the compound, they could have uncovered the treatment the children faced.

Her husband said he also called the Children’s Authority but was unable to get through.

He said he hung up after he was prompted several times by an automated voice and kept on hold.

In a media release, the authority appealed to the public to report any concerns or suspicions they may have about the safety of children to the police at 999 or the authority at 996.

CEO Sheldon Cyrus said the incident “is a reminder that we all have a responsibility to say something if we see something.”

Cyrus said child protection was everybody’s business but added the authority can only intervene and provide support based on the information it receives.

Cyrus said investigators will also need to determine the circumstances under which the children found at the house were kept.

He said when they are assessed, “the psychological impact of their situation can be determined, in order to provide the necessary interventions”.