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Shindlar Cuffy

Suzanne Sheppard

The mother of a teenager who disappeared in November 2018 believes she spotted a girl with a strong resemblance to her daughter in a photo of people rescued from a human trafficking camp in Venezuela on Tuesday.

Shondel Shallow last saw her daughter, Shindlar Cuffy, when the Marabella North Secondary student got into a taxi on the Southern Main Road, Claxton Bay, to go to school.

“I just want to find out if that child on the boat is my daughter,” said Shallow, referring to an image which shows people being helped out of a pirogue by Venezuela Navy personnel on Tuesday.

She said a light-skinned girl with blonde hair and wearing glasses seen seated in the pirogue had uncanny similarities to her missing daughter.

Cuffy, who has albinism, was 16 on the morning of November 26, 2018, when her mother saw her getting into a white AD Wagon taxi a short distance from their Rosehill Street, Claxton Bay home. She never made it to school.

The following Christmas Eve, Shallow found a letter in her daughter’s bedroom in which the teen said the Lord had sent her on a mission. After that, a voice note believed to be from the people involved in Cuffy’s disappearance began circulating on social media. On the recording, a woman with a foreign accent, who claimed to be a Christian pastor and leader of Still Small Voice, Heartdwellers, was heard saying Cuffy was “alive and she will not return.”

The family has also received text messages from the religious group assuring that the teen, whom they now refer to as Rainbow, is safe One message sent on December 27 states: “… she is fine dear, doing very well. Praying for you all and trust the Lord he is in control of everything dear. Stay blessed. With Love Mother Mary Elisha (nana).”

Shallow, who forwarded all the texts and voice notes to the police, is frustrated at the lack of progress with investigations. The case has been handled by three different investigators in the 18 months since Cuffy went missing and there have been very few updates from Anti Kidnapping Squad, she said.

Shallow is now appealing for help to contact Venezuelan authorities about the girl in the photograph.

The photograph was among four circulated by the Venezuelan Navy following a military operation on Tuesday, in which three human trafficking camps on the Orinoco Delta were raided and 79 people, including 25 minors, were rescued.