The search for a 32-year-old missing Venezuelan woman, Johanna Díaz Sánchez, ended on Saturday when an estranged boyfriend confessed to dumping her in a cesspit at the back of his home.
Central Division and homicide police immediately went to the house at Santa Clara Road in Preysal and found the decomposing body shortly after 3 pm.
Police said due to the state of the body they could only confirm the cause of death after an autopsy is done.
The man, a 35-year-old mechanic, remained in custody. Police arrested him on Friday afternoon.
Relatives last saw Sánchez on August 28, at about 4 pm, when she left her home at Buen Intento, Princes Town. She told them she was going to San Fernando to meet someone for money.
A friend later spotted her in San Fernando. The next day, all calls and messages to her cell phone went unanswered.
A few days ago, worried relatives reported her missing. Relatives pointed fingers at the suspect, saying he physically abused her.
Neighbours told Sunday Newsday that Sánchez shared an on-and-off relationship with the man over the past year. About two months ago, she appeared to have moved out.
"We had not seen her there for about three months. We did not hear or see anything. The walls are tall, and we were not expecting something like this in this quiet community," a neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
"We saw police came and left with him on Friday. We assumed it had something to do with drugs."
When scores of police returned on Saturday, neighbours learnt of the shocking murder.
"In the past, we saw her with her nose bleeding in the street. She did not speak English. We don’t know if she ever reported it. Some Venezuelans came and were crying," another neighbour said.
Neighbours said the suspect lives with his mother. After his father died about five years ago, she stayed occasionally with relatives. They alleged that due to drug use, the suspect becomes violent and irrational.
Investigators on the scene included ASP Manick, Insps James, Figaro and Ragoo, Sgt Maloo, Cpl Smith, and PC Siewdath. They were searching for evidence and interviewing people. Police seized a white van from the yard after receiving information.
Karla Rodríguez, Sanchez’s cousin, recalled that relatives and friends initially reported that Sánchez might have also been kidnapped.
On Thursday night, several Venezuelans went to the suspect’s house to search for her. They also contacted police, who, when they arrived said they did not have a search warrant.
"Police did not go into the property to search because they did not have a search warrant. We are angry and sad with the laws. The family believed that Johanna was alive on Thursday evening," Rodríguez told Sunday Newsday by phone.
"How is it that police enter homes without authorisation for illegal immigrants but in this case, they did not? That is the problem?"
The family in Tucupita is shocked and devastated, she said.
An autopsy is scheduled for Monday at the Forensic Sciences Centre in St James.
Sanchez's death is the second case of a domestic violence-related killing in a week. On Wednesday, Sherian Huggins was chopped to death by her estranged husband, in front of her children, at their home in Dan Kelly, Port of Spain. The killer, Kevon Harris, then died by suicide. His body was found in Woodford Square.
Another domestic abuse case of a Venezuelan woman dates back to June 2019, when Evelyn Rojas was shot dead by her boyfriend during a party in Carapichaima. No arrests have been made to date.
The latest murder also follows an assault on an 18-year-old Venezuelan woman, who was attacked by three men – the driver and two passengers – in a PH taxi in Fyzabad on August 11. Three men have since been charged with attempted murder and rape.
Several NGOs, among them Womantra and the Living Water Community, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees have condemned the increasing attacks on Venezuelan woman, many of whom arrived in TT over a year ago in an amnesty for migrants fleeing the South American country.