The quiet community of Santa Rosa was thrown into shock when police found 72-year-old Hyacinth Gardner murdered at her home on Monday.
Every year, the US resident returned to her Lime Boulevard home and in December, she decided to remain to oversee the repairs at the property.
Gardner's home is located about 150 metres away from the Pinto Police Station, three houses away from a daycare centre and across from a children's park.
On Monday, one of her workmen showed up and tried calling Gardner to let her know he had arrived. When he got no response and did not see her car, he looked around the house and walked to the Pinto Police Station to make a report.
Officers went back to the house with him, where they found Gardner's bloody body in her bedroom around 9 am.
Around the same time, another group of officers found Gardner's car crashed a few miles away in Wallerfield.
Neighbour Ross George said Gardner returned from abroad to complete renovations on her home. He said she has a son who also resides abroad.
“It's just little fittings and things she has to get done. She lived alone on the property.”
He said his daughter showed him pictures of a car resembling the victim's that crashed at Wallerfield in Arima on Facebook. He speculated her car may have been stolen.
George said Gardner was always the life of the party, and whenever they limed together, it was always a good time.
“She loves carnivals.”
He said Gardner always tried to get him to go to fetes and attend carnival events.
Asked about CCTV cameras located around her home, George said,
“CCTV cameras are really for after the fact. It's not a protection; she used to call and ask me to check on the property when she was away, but as she was here, I had no need to check the property often.
“She would communicate with me all the time when she's coming back and send me pictures when she reached because we were close.”
He said Gardner has a husband living in Diego Martin, but they lived separately.
“After I did her house drawing, our families became close. She would ask me to take care of personal stuff for her when she was out of the country. She used to send money into my account to pay the men who were working on her home.”
He said before her murder, there was no break-in, nor did Gardner express any fear about staying on her own. He said Gardner did tell him she was advised to be cautious because people believed she was well off.
“She has a beautiful home, she lived alone and she always carried herself well. She said people always tell her that this kind of appearance could attract danger.”
He said Gardner's murder was a shock to the neighbourhood.
“No one didn't expect this kind of thing. This is a shock for me. I can't comprehend it. The last thing anyone expected to hear.”
Another neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous, said a week ago there was a home invasion a few streets away.
The woman, who lives with her sister close to Gardner's home, described Gardner as a lovely and pleasant woman.
“We are in a mess, we live so close to her. We are fearful now; these things don’t happen in our community.”
Arima mayor Balliram Maharaj, in a phone interview with Newsday, said he was pained by Gardner's murder.
“To know these crimes are being committed and innocent people are being killed and destroyed is difficult for me as an Arima native. Why do they have to destroy people's families?”
He said he hopes that whatever the government has planned to combat crime, they execute swiftly.
“Unfortunately, today is another sad day for our country. I pray to God that whoever is behind these heinous acts finds a new life and becomes a valuable member of society.”
Addressing the community of Santa Rosa, Maharaj said, “This is the time for the community to come together. Now is not the time for enemies; forgive your enemies and live in love.”
He warned parents about harbouring criminals.
“I send my sincere condolences as mayor of Arima. May God be with her family and give them the courage to overcome this. It's not easy to overcome it, but these kinds of things take a lot more energy and courage from people.”
He ended by urging people to work with the police to fight crime, saying police cannot do it alone.
Arima MP Pennelope Beckles said she went to Gardner's house as soon as she heard about the murder.
“As someone who spent most of my life in Santa Rosa Heights, Gardner's’s home is not far from where I grew up, and it's very sad because I don't really recall something like this happening in the area in recent times.”
She described the community as “pretty close-knit.”
She said she had spoken to the neighbours, who were also in shock.
“We need to continue to look out for each other. We all do. The police station isn't far from there. Neither is my office. Crime is not something that the government or I are happy about, regardless of the community.”
Beckles said the community has an active council and a police youth club, saying they met last week, and she attended and seeing the young people being involved made her hopeful and happy.
“The youth club and council met and merged, the council is made up of people living in the community, and seeing them come together and work with the police is a great thing.”
She described Gardner as very pleasant and offered her condolences to the family.
This story was originally published with the title "Woman, 72, murdered in Arima" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.
An 72-year-old US resident was found murdered at her Lime Boulevard, Santa Rosa home in Arima on February 5.
The victim was identified as Hyacinth Gardner. Neighbours said Gardner returned from the United States in December to complete renovations on her home.
Earlier on February 5, Gardner's car was found crashed in Wallerfied, Arima.
By the time police found out who owned the vehicle, other officers were already at Gardner's home. Her body found in her bedroom with marks of violence.