Trinidad Express / Christmas means nothing to the relatives of 19-year-old Shabana Mohammed who was strangled and dumped in a drain behind her Santa Cruz home back in January 2015.
For her mother, Ameera Mohammed, the holiday season brings sad memories of the last moments she had spent with her last child.
The teenager was reported missing on January 3. Her decomposed body was found five days later about 100 feet from her home – the day before her father would have celebrated his birthday.
It’s an open secret who committed the killing but the crime is unsovled.
Mohammed, a mother of four, said her daughter loved Christmas. She would put up the Christmas tree, bake and make sure presents were wrapped and placed under the tree.
“Sometimes she was so excited that she would give us the presents before Christmas day. That year she bought a DVD player for her father and a washing machine for me. But we got it long before Christmas day,” her mother said.
Mohammed said her husband, Raffick Mohammed, had not celebrated his birthday since their daughter’s death.
She said the 67-year-old man would spend his days praying for justice in his daughter’s death.
The son of a police officer was interviewed following the teen’s death but no charges were laid.
Mohammed said the police have stopped visiting her home and there was no leads in the investigation.
“Last year we went to the police asking for information. A few days later they came to my house but had nothing to tell us. They said the investigation was ongoing. There were no witnesses and they were working on it,” she recalled.
But Mohammed is not giving up on the hope that one day the person who committed this heinous act on her child would be held.
“It is hurtful to see the emphasis the police, politicians and public place on certain murders in this country. When my child died no one came to my house. Nobody asked how we were feeling. Look three years will pass and nothing, no one was held. Every day when I see the crime taking place in this country I cry. I feel hurt that people have to go through this pain,” she said.
Mohammed said the apron her daughter used three Christmases ago remained in the same place in her kitchen. Her clothing, favourite shoes and books were untouched. “Yes, we are trying to move on with our lives. But how do I remove these things? I never came around to doing it,” she said.
Mohammed, 64, clearly relived the last moments she spent with her daughter on the night before she vanished – January 2.
“That Friday my daughter went to work. She came home with food. She sat with her father and I and we ate together. I wasn’t feeling well. I sell in the market and she was telling me don’t do to work the next day. But I told her I have to go. She made some ginger tea and gave me. I was sitting on the couch. My child placed her head on my lap and we were watching television together. I left her there and I went to bed. When I woke up at 4.30am she was still sleeping on the couch. I smiled and left her there and went to the market with my husband. That was the last time I saw her alive,” she said.
Mohammed recalled that Shabana had planned to go out that day with some school friends. But when her friends arrived to pick her up she was not there.
“The friends started calling the older daughters but no one had heard from Shabana. They called me around 3p.m. and I knew immediately that something was wrong. She would always tell someone where she was going, she would call her sisters or me. And when I heard no one was in contact with her I knew right away someone had happened,” she said.
The next five days would be the most heart-breaking experience for any parent, she said, as police and relatives searched for the missing teen.
Mohammed said, “My husband sat for five days watching by the gate hoping she would come home. Police came with sniffer dogs and searched but nothing was found. I knew in my heart that my child did not leave home. I kept telling them she did not walk out of here, she was carried. Her favourite slipper, her clothes, everything was still in place.”
It was Shabana’s uncle who walked through the back gate, into some bushes and found the body lying face down in a drain.
An autopsy performed by forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov found that she had been strangled.
He said, “However, what is of note is that she was placed face down in the ground after she had been strangled. We know this because dirt was found in her air passages. Therefore, she was violently strangled, and then when she lapsed into unconsciousness, she fell face forward and remained on the ground for a few moments, still alive. She made a couple of terminal inhalations before she died.”
He said she died most likely on the day she was reported missing.
Back then, Alexandrov said samples from her nail clippings were taken to determine whether there was the presence of foreign DNA. He said swabs were also taken to determine if she had been assaulted.
To date, the results have not been released to the family.
Mohammed said her daughter was involved in a relationship with a man from the area.
He had called Mohammed on the day Shabana disappeared saying he could not find her.
“He said he was standing outside the house and she was not answering. He said he can go inside and look around. I gave him permission to go inside. He told me he was calling out to her and walking around the house but she was not answering. I was later told that he was talking to me from a barber shop. I am not casting blame or pointing fingers at anyone. The police have their job to do and I hope and pray they find the person who did this to my daughter,” she said.