Once a month, every month–for years without fail–Dixie-Ann Seelal and her three children ate a specially prepared supper, played board games and boisterously sang songs at their Brickfield Village, Waterloo home.
While neighbours likely lost some sleep, the tradition reminded the Seelals to keep each other close, no matter what the unpredictability of life sent their way.
However, what that unpredictability threw their way in May will require them to be closer than ever, and with one person less.
Just a few days after their last game night, the most haunting of agonies knocked on their door.
On May 3, 2021, 28-year-old Becker Seelal, Dixie-Ann’s only son, left home.
Seelal never returned and has been missing since.
“Inside me is like emptiness. I know my son is not around. A mother does feel their child, I don’t feel him inside of me. Before, I used to feel him. I don’t ever feel him inside of me,” Dixie-Ann said, struggling to prevent her emotions from overcoming her.
“I forgive them. Just tell me where he is–the body. My son was a forgiving person. Just leave a note for wherever I could find him. That’s all I want, but I know I am getting my son back in bones.”
While her motherly instinct tells her Seelal is dead, she is not certain.
On May 3, the farmer left home, just after 3 pm, to collect money from someone.
He was wearing blue pants and a black jersey. Security camera footage picked him up walking along a road, a short distance from his home.
It is unclear where he went from there.
“Yes (there was a gut feeling). You see when he closed in that door and walked out, I started to get what felt like labour pains. My belly, underneath here, started to pain me, like I was ready to make a child,” Seelal’s mother recalled.
As she spoke to Guardian Media about her son, she fumbled between tenses.
“I don’t know if to say he is or was. I really just don’t know,” she said.
Approximately one month after Seelal’s disappearance, police found a body in a field in Arima. However, the family still doesn’t know if it is Seelal. Investigators took DNA samples to conduct tests, according to relatives, but there has been no positive update from them since.
“It’s about three weeks now that we do that DNA test. I call them. My daughter calls them. All I does ask them is if the clothes match up because if I know the clothes match up, I’ll know that’s my son,” Dixie-Ann lamented.
Long waits for DNA results for the relatives of missing people are nothing new.
Trinidad and Tobago Forensic Science Centre sources told Guardian Media earlier this year that there is a significant backlog of DNA tests.
While DNA testing in local labs resumed earlier this year, some relatives of missing people have been waiting months, and even years, for results to confirm whether stored bodies belong to their loved ones.
“I don’t even want to live here anymore. They want to classify Trinidad like America, but in America when you see somebody go missing, they find them. Trinidad is too small for somebody to just disappear without a clue,” Dixie-Ann said.
The Seelal family also has questions about the standard of the police investigation that began one day after their loved one went missing.
They claimed officers from the Freeport Police Station only visited them in person once–two weeks after their initial report.
According to relatives, they provided a couple of possible leads to police about who could be responsible for Seelal’s disappearance.
But, they believed, their leads are not being taken seriously enough.
They alleged that a person they suspect of being responsible is a relative of a police officer. Given the alleged relationship, they expressed a lack of trust in the process.
“There was another girl. He had two girlfriends at once. I didn’t even know that until everything happened. Only to find out this man threatened my son. He told him, he will make him disappear,” Dixie-Ann said.
Seelal, however, told his sister, Courtnay, that he resolved the situation.
“He said he fixed it, it fixed. Becker could handle himself. Becker is not someone to get into trouble,” his sister recalled.
According to relatives, there is another possible lead that is not being sufficiently looked into. Seelal’s relatives found messages from a suspicious Facebook profile around the date of his disappearance.
The family claims investigators, despite their insistence, are reluctant to take Courtnay’s laptop, which Seelal used, or his phone to examine as part of the investigation.
“My pressure goes up to 209. I’ve started to pray a lot. That’s helping me a lot. I never pray, but since he went missing, a friend of mine told me to pray,” Seelal’s mother said.
Dixie-Ann cannot help but wonder sometimes what one last conversation with her son would be like.
She already knows what she would say to him.
“He will say, ‘What happen to you, boy? Why are you crying? Ent, I always tell you to be happy.’ And, I will say, Bexx, how will I be happy and you are not here? How will I be happy? Inside me is empty.”
The only thing that can fill her emptiness, she said, is closure.
“What would that mean to me? It would give me peace of mind. Not knowing is a hard thing. It’s a hard thing,” Dixie-Ann said.
A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the safe return or the remains of Becker Seelal.
The family is also seeking volunteers to help with the search for Seelal.
There have been no arrests in connection to the 28-year-old’s disappearance as yet.
Police: We followed every lead, investigation ongoing
An officer attached to the case told Guardian Media that the investigation is ongoing and that everything is being done by police to find Becker Seelal. The officer said that contrary to what some relatives claim, every lead was followed. They said attempts were made to collect Seelal’s phone, but they were told it was missing. They added that every time they receive additional information, they investigate it.
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