ENRAGED that they could not find money from a church fundraiser to steal on Monday morning, three bandits threatened to cut off the legs of an RC priest they had held hostage and were robbing.
Fr Jose Marie Thekkekute, 66, was asleep in the presbytery of the Our Lady of Montserrat RC Church along Mayo Road, Tortuga around 1.30am when he heard his bedroom door being broken down.
Thekkukute, an Indian national, has lived in Trinidad for four years and was appointed as parish priest two years ago.
On Sunday, the church held its annual harvest and family day, where they sold lunches, snacks and drinks.
Thekkukute said the men, who were wearing masks and had cutlasses, demanded the money raised at the harvest. The bandits eventually made off with the parish’s Hyundai Tucson SUV, several bottles of alcohol and Thekkukute’s money.
“I heard them at first and then they broke in the door and came to my bed, flashing torch lights on my face and asking me for the money. I asked ‘what money’ and they said ‘we come for the harvest money.’ They got angry when I told them I don’t keep that money and I don’t have it.”
The men forced Thekkukute out of bed, tying his hands with a clothesline and threatening him.
“They took away my phone and kept insisting I have the money from the harvest. One of them said I am not a good priest because I had a fete by the church, and I told him ‘is better you shoot me than say all of that to me.’ He replied ‘no we wouldn’t shoot you, we will cut off your legs.’”
The bandits ransacked his bedroom, and after finding TT$3,500 and US$700 on his dresser, they led him to the building’s ground floor where they renewed their search.
“I came back from India two days ago and that was the money I had with me that they took. When we got downstairs, they were still searching for money and they asked for the keys for the parish SUV. One of them was guarding me, and the other two were searching. They stayed for a long time.”
Before the men left, they loaded the SUV, belonging to the church, with bottles of alcohol that remained from the harvest, and locked Thekkukute in a room with his hands and feet tied.
“They were going to tie me to a chair but I begged them not to do it because I couldn’t stay in that chair for so long, so they put me in a soft chair in a room and locked the door from the outside.”
When he was able to free himself, Thekkukute alerted the security guard at the nearby Tortuga Government Primary School and called the police.
Asked how he felt yesterday, Thekkukute said he was shaken but not surprised by the act.
“This is something that is so common now, at least it was me and not a family with children who had to go through that. These men don’t have respect for man nor God. I told them, while they were robbing me, that they should stop terrorising innocent people and try to work for their living. I know they heard me but they never responded.”
While he is thankful for life, Thekkukute does not feel the bandits will be caught.
“Are any of these bandits ever arrested? How many people are robbed daily? If it is God’s will for me to die at their hands, then I have no complaints. But I am grateful they didn’t kill me. I don’t want to sound negative, but I don’t think they will be held to account by police for what they have done.” He is calling for random police patrols in the area.
“This is a lonely area. These kinds of people can strike at any time, and if they know the police are stepping up their patrols and having a greater presence, they might think twice before attacking someone.”