PAULINE Bharat, the mother of murdered six-year-old Sean Luke, bawled out when she saw her son’s clothing on Monday.
Bharat continued her testimony from the San Fernando High Court at the judge-only trial of the two men – Akeel Mitchell and Richard Chatoo – who are charged with Luke’s murder on a date unknown between March 25 and 29, 2006. Luke’s body was found on March 28, in a bushy area in the cane field close to his home.
At intervals during her evidence in chief, Bharat sobbed, but she cried out when she was asked to identify her son’s underpants and a pair of shorts.
“That’s my baby’s underpants, his jockey,” she said, as she almost doubled over in the courtroom, clutching the bar table in front of her for support, stamping her feet, as she was shown the item.
She was also shown the short pants, which she also identified while in tears.
Later on, in cross-examination by Chatoo’s lead attorney, Evans Welch, Bharat denied ever giving her son alcohol to drink.
Asked if she would be surprised to hear alcohol was found in the boy’s system, she told Welch, “I am now hearing alcohol was found in his system. I would never give him alcohol to drink. I am now hearing this.”
At the end of Monday’s hearing, three photographs showing a cane stalk protruding from the anus to the chest area of the boy’s body as it lay on the autopsy table were formally admitted into evidence. So was the statement of the district medical officer, Dr Birjah, who said he was shown nude body of a boy with a sugarcane stake protruding from the anus.
In her earlier testimony on Friday, Luke’s mother said on the day her son went missing, Mitchell was seated close to her in front of her home. She said she had asked him if he saw the boy, and he said he did not.
Shortly after, she went inside, leaving Mitchell outside. She admitted that at that point she was not concerned about Luke, since everyone in the area where she lived, at Henry Street, Orange Valley, was family, including Chatoo’s stepfather Raymond Bruzual, who at one point was married to one of her aunts. Mitchell was staying at Bruzual’s home.
Bharat said she returned outside when Chatoo and some other boys were walking from the trace close to her home, and she called out to him.
“I asked him, ‘You see Sean?’ and he said, ‘No.’”
Chatoo, an older boy named Avinash Baboolal and Mitchell walked to the lightpole in front of Bruzual’s home and sat looking at her, she said.
“I didn’t pay any attention to that. I still was not worried, because of the fact I lived with family.”
She visited her uncle’s home two doors away to see if Luke was there playing in his boat, and then she went house to house looking for him.
“But, I didn’t find Sean. I didn’t stop searching. I was still searching, asking everyone on the road if they saw him.” She saw another boy by the name of Marvin, who told her he had seen Sean with the security guard by the bay.
She went there and questioned the guard who told her he had not seen the child. When she returned home, she said Mitchell came to the gate and told her he saw a “tall man in white clothing walking with Sean in the trace.”
By then, she admitted, she began getting worried and was “sick out of my head by the second, thinking someone kidnap my son.” She later went to the Couva police station.
“Grasping at straws,” she said she also went to Aripo Heights where Sean’s father, Daniel Luke, lived.
“I thought his father came and gotten him and didn’t tell me anything.”
Luke returned to Orange Valley with her and they searched until daylight before she returned to the police station and then to the US Embassy, since the child was a US citizen.
After speaking to a reporter from a local television station, Bharat said, she returned to Couva, where she met a lot of police and people gathered in front of her house.
She said the police called her into the bushes in the cane field in front of her house, and she was shown some clothing.
“It was an underwear and a short pants. The underwear was a light blue, the short pants was blue with red stripes on either side and the string was red.
“The pockets were pulled outside, because Sean like to wear it like that, like dog ears. He used to say, ’Is doggy ears.’
"I recognised the clothes. They belonged to Sean…Police asked me if I can identify the clothes and I said yes, it belonged to my son Sean. I did not touch it. I didn’t see anyone else touch it.”
In cross-examination by Mitchell’s lead attorney, Mario Merritt, Bharat said none of the boys said they saw Sean with Akeel, nor did she pay particular attention to if there was “anything reddish” on his clothing when she saw him.
She was also questioned about some of the older boys in the neighbourhood, and admitted she would not want “someone who had a likeness (sic) for little Indian boys" around her son.
In answer to Welch, Bharat said Baboolal never interacted with Sean, nor would she allow him to take him fishing.
“My son was a mummy’s boy. He stuck with me all the time,” she said.
Testifying afterwards was Nehemiah Ramdhanie, who lived in the village. He found the child’s clothing in a “mashed-down” area of the cane field close to Luke’s house during a search for the six-year-old with about eight other young men from the area.
He said he told the boys to call Sean’s mother, and the child’s grandmother and mother came. Shortly after, the police arrived. He said he didn’t touch the clothing and saw no one touch or interfere withit More police came with their tracker dogs, and Ramdhanie said when he found it, he did not know it was Luke’s clothing.
He, too, was asked about the boys in the area, in particular Avinash, who was with him when the clothes were found. He said Avinash said nothing about Luke or the clothing.
Ramdhanie also said he didn’t see Luke’s body.
Mitchell and Chatoo, who are appearing at their trial from separate locations at the Maximum Security Prison, are represented by attorneys Mario Merritt, Evans Welch, Kirby Joseph, Randall Raphael, Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez.
Prosecuting are state attorneys Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith.