Almost one year after his daughter was kidnapped and murdered, Randolph Bharatt continues to struggle with emptiness and anguish
“They have taken everything from me,” he said.
Since the death of his only child, Bharatt has started a daily ritual of lighting candles and offering prayers.
In a voice heavy with grief, he said: “It have things I learn in life that people can do to break you. This is something that does change your life forever. My life was turned upside down, but I am leaving everything in God’s hands.”
Andrea, 23, a clerk at the Arima Magistrate’s Court, was last seen alive on the evening of Friday January 29 when she entered a PH taxi for the short commute to her home on the Arima Old Road.
There was nationwide concern over her disappearance which increased as days went by and the police combed forested areas in east Trinidad searching for her.
Six days after she went missing, Andrea’s decomposing body was found down a precipice in the Heights of Aripo on the outskirts of Arima.
Her tragic end triggered outpourings of sadness and shock across the country that quickly turned into anger. For days after her body was found, residents in various communities staged candlelight vigils and rallies, calling for action from the authorities to protect women and girls.
An autopsy done at the Forensic Science Centre was inconclusive but a subsequent private autopsy performed by Prof Hubert Daisley revealed that Andrea died of massive internal haemorrhaging caused when was struck on the head with a blunt object, fell backward and cracked her skull.
Two suspects, Andrew Morris and Joel Balcon, who were arrested for Andrea’s kidnapping and murder died days apart in police custody. Autopsies determined that their deaths were caused blunt force trauma.
Negus George was later charged with Andrea’s murder, while his common-law wife, Giselle Hobson, was charged with receiving items allegedly stolen from Andrea, including a cellphone, ATM card, earring and an article of clothing.
In a recent interview with Guardian Media, Bharatt spoke frankly for the first time about his feelings and how he has dealt with the death of his only child. He wept as he described how it had left him a broken man and changed the course of his life.
Bharatt said the day after his daughter was kidnapped, he sought spiritual help and was advised to place a dry coconut and pink and white candles in his daughter’s room.
“It was to find the child or get back the child through a light. I wanted her alive . . . I wanted her home, but circumstances . . . “
He still keeps candles lit in Andrea’s room
Recounting the six days after Andrea’s disappearance and before her body was found, Bharatt said he was in a deep state of depression, panic and worry.
“That is like a nightmare, yes. That is a total nightmare,” he said.
“This is me every day. Every day I am here doing this (praying) morning and evening. My two knees getting black because I am on the ground. It is for a reason.”
But Bharatt did not get the ending he had prayed for.
Since the tragic loss of his daughter, he has made her room into a shrine. On a table there are lighted candles, pictures, an open Bible, a pair of black shoes, flowers and photographs of the Virgin Mary. Adorning the walls are school certificates and a massive canvas photograph of Andrea. This is where Bharatt spends time every day praying for her soul and for the courage to cope with the traumatic experience.
He said: “I cherish everything. I will never throw away nothing.”
He still finds it difficult to talk about his daughter: “I can’t talk about her. I could do everything else normal. Talking about she is a hell, it is difficult.”
As he struggles to pick up the pieces of his broken life, Bharatt finds solace in prayer but said there are times he would go into a “zone” as he thinks about how his daughter was taken from him.
“They could have let the child go and taken the money. They take the money and killed the child still. That ain’t making no sense. How the people who take them does(sic) live with themselves? Who do they pray to? Which God them does pray to?” he asked
“I didn’t see the spot where they throw the child. The bag of rubbish. And it does come to me where she bandaged, tied strap, kneeling down, face to the ground and crying and begging for she father . . . and as I start to think about it, I does start to pray.”
At times, Bharatt lives in denial that Andrea is gone.
He added: “I does study how people with families, who have three and four children, could sit down and be comfortable and I can’t. I does try and figure out how them is family . . . what is a family when people could take yours?”
Worry and stress etched on his face, Bharatt admitted that he is unable to break some old habits he formed with his daughter. He still opens her bedroom door every morning to wake her.
“I would normally tell her, Mama, good morning, it’s time to get up to go to work, although she is no longer there.”
He recalled: “She was very quiet. Always respectful and polite. Andrea was the perfect child.”