Parents relieved at safe return of missing schoolgirls
Guyana Chronicle
May 1, 2002

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THE three teenaged Essequibo schoolgirls missing since last week Monday from the Charity waterfront have been reunited with their parents who said they are relieved at their safe return.

But Essequibians yesterday urged the Home Affairs Ministry to take action against those allegedly responsible for the disappearance of the girls for almost a week.

The three, Chelesea Jagdeo, 14, of Hampton Court, Mariel Williams, 17, of Queenstown, and Malinie Naipaul, 14, of Better Hope, all Essequibo villages, were found at Bella Vista village just across the border in Venezuela and were returned by boat to Charity Sunday night.

They were questioned at length about their disappearance by Police at Charity and released into the custody of their parents late Monday afternoon.

Police said the girls returned to Charity at about 22:15 hrs Sunday accompanied by members of a search team which included a female from the Pomeroon.

After their intense questioning at the Charity Police Station, Chelesea was taken by her mother Mrs. Camela Jagdeo to her home at Grant Hunter's Delight, Upper Pomeroon, while Mariel went home with her mother to Queenstown village. Malinie also went home with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Chunni Naipaul.

At Chelesea's grandmother's home at Hampton Court, many concerned neighbours had been visiting daily to find out about the girl and her two friends.

Most Essequibians were yesterday happy that the schoolgirls were found unharmed but are concerned about their disappearance for so long.

Some residents, who spoke to this newspaper, are calling on the Ministry of Home Affairs to take action against the young men who allegedly took the girls to Venezuela against their wishes.

An elderly Essequibian said school children must be protected in Guyana.

Other neighbours and close relatives of Mariel and Malini are also visiting their homes.

The grandmother of Chelesea, Mrs. Susheila Jagdeo told the Chronicle she was very relieved at hearing the good news that her granddaughter was found alive.

She yesterday said she did not know that Chelesea had been found and was taken to the Charity Police Station Sunday night.

According to the grandmother, she suffered a lot since Chelesea disappeared. Chelesea has been living with her and is very close to her, the grandmother said.

Mr. Naipaul said his daughter Malinie will have to go back to school because she is very young and has her future ahead of her.

Police were yesterday continuing investigations into the incident and have been questioning several persons in connection with the disappearance of the three.

Police, parents and other close relatives of the trio were on an intensive search of the Pomeroon and other areas after it was reported that they were missing from the Charity waterfront last week Monday.

According to reports, they were at school last Monday, but left before the morning session was over.

The trio changed from their school uniforms into jeans and T-shirts at Chelsea's home in Hampton Court before proceeding to Charity in a mini-bus.

The girls were also seen in an abandoned house far down the Pomeroon River late Tuesday afternoon.

Mrs. Jagdeo said her daughter complained that she and her friends were taken to an abandoned house against their wishes and were forced into a `contraband' boat (a vessel involved in shipping uncustomed goods) late Tuesday afternoon for Venezuela.

The mother said the girls were held at Bella Vista after relatives of those in the `contraband boat' which transported the girls, heard over the radio that the three had been reported missing.

Mr. Naipaul said he was told by his daughter that she and her friends were forcefully taken to an abandoned house down the Pomeroon River late Monday afternoon.

Malinie told him that she was pushed and "bodily" thrown into a `contraband' boat from Venezuela.

The girls told their parents that they had gone to Charity, 15 miles north of their school at Anna Regina, to buy a pair of headphones to use at a cultural show scheduled for last Saturday night at the school.

The girls attend the Anna Regina Multilateral School and said that from Charity, they were heading to Grant Hunter's Delight, Upper Pomeroon, where Mrs. Jagdeo lives.

They got a ride in a boat but told their parents they were taken away and kept in an abandoned house far down the Pomeroon River and later taken across the border to Venezuela.

According to reports, a man at the house in Bella Vista where they had been taken by others, kept them there after he heard on GBC radio that they had been reported missing.

Members of the search party from Pomeroon found them there Sunday and took them back home.

Chelesea's mother said she had visited the school last week Monday morning to check on her daughter's academic performance and while leaving the compound at around 10:00 hrs, saw Chelesea, Mariel and Malinie, also on their way out.

The mother said she asked her daughter where she was going and was told that they were going to collect some "things" at Hampton Court, about four miles away.

The girl said they needed the "things" to use at a modelling show scheduled for the weekend at the school. (RAJENDRA PRABHULALL)