Family of murdered woman blames the system

Shannon Whyte in an undated photo.  -
Shannon Whyte in an undated photo. -

The family of murder victim Shannon Whyte says her blood is in the hands of the Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds, the judicial system's hands and the government.

In a passionate interview with Newsday on Saturday, Anna Lisa Pierre, the grandmother and guardian of Whyte's nine-year-old daughter, described her relationship with Whyte as that of a mother-daughter.

Pieere could be heard fighting back tears as she spoke fondly of Whyte, who was found dead in a barrel with a gunshot wound to the head at the home of a close male relative on July 1, 2021.

She said Whyte's daughter is doing okay but has moments when she appears troubled by her mother's death, especially on Mother's Day and her birthday, which is just one day after her mother's.

"She’s really into cricket, and we are getting her back into dance classes; she loves to dance."

Pierre said the family has not received any updates from the police in a long time but is still praying an arrest will be made.

"Shannon was a darling. She was like my adopted daughter. She was a light. I mean, she had a little hot mouth, but she was a very loving person. She loved her family, friends, the outdoors and boat rides. She spent a lot of time with her daughter: they were extremely close."

Speaking about the police investigation, Pierre said she understands Whyte's case isn’t unique and called for more to be done to protect women. She believes stiffer penalties would help deter criminals.

"More should have been done in terms of bringing Shannon Whyte's murderer to justice. I rest that squarely on the shoulders of Minister Hinds, he is the head of the security apparatus in TT."

Pierre refuted claims that Whyte’s death was a suicide.

"For other families going through what we are going through, I put the victims' blood in the hands of those in power."

However, Pierre said she does not blame the police.

"There is only so much the police can do. They arrest, charge, and bring people before the court. It's up to the system to follow through."

She believes her family will one day get justice and she said the last person Whyte spoke to was her daughter.

"The day Shannon was murdered, she called my mother around 11.16 am to talk to her daughter. We tried calling her back right after and could not get in touch with her. My mother kept trying until about 12.30, but there was no answer.

"Looking back, I believe Shannon was killed around that time because she never answered or returned the call. Her daughter may have been the last person Shannon spoke to, and she told her to let her grandmother wash and loosen out her hair."

Pierre described the moment she learned about Whyte's death as a nightmare and expressed her frustration with the lack of action from the authorities.

"I want people to wake up. Nobody cares about us. We ought to look out for one another. We have to stop the politics. Persons in high places have their private security, but we have to wait. Protect yourself and your family at all costs, by any legal means necessary. Let us look out for each other. The system has failed Shannon Whyte and others like her. It has totally failed us."

She stressed that stiffer laws are needed for guns, describing them as "the weapons of choice." Pierre reiterated her sentiments about the system failing victims’ families.

"Women have to try and protect themselves. If a man hits you once, he will not stop. Walk away from abusive relationships."

A huge smile filled Sasha Hosein’s face as she spoke about Whyte at Newsday’s office on June 28. Hosein described Whyte as a loving soul who lit up any room she walked into.

"She is the only person I know who doesn’t eat doubles with pepper, not even slight. Shannon was such a joyous and fun person who really loved her daughter."

Hosein said she still grapples with Whyte’s death and calls for justice, hoping it may give her family some peace.

"Her not being here for her child is even more sad. Words cannot describe how much she loved that little girl. Shannon was an incredible mother."

Kafi Nicholas called Whyte her best friend and sister. The two worked together for nine years at Newsday.

"She would come by me and spend the weekend sometimes. We would go out and lime: she loved to dance. She would be the first one on the dancefloor; she would get the party started."

For Nicholas, July 1, the day Whyte was murdered, is bittersweet, as it is her birthday. Asked about the tragic day, Nicholas’s eyes drifted to the floor, her lips becoming tighter.

"She called me around 6 a.m. to wish me a happy birthday. She wanted to know if I was going to dress up, and she told me to make sure and put some makeup on."

Later that night, it was Nicholas's brother who called her to say Whyte had shot herself.

"I told him that was nonsense and hung up. Shannon would never do that. She was a strong woman, she used to tell me I needed to be tougher. She loved her daughter too much to kill herself."

Nicholas said she is in contact with Whyte's daughter and grandmother and says the young girl is doing well.

"She is a brilliant child, an A+ student; none of her teachers complain about her. Sometimes she asks about her mother. They tell her things, not the details of her mother's murder, but who she was."

Through it all, Whyte's family and friends continue to hope for justice as they strive to keep Shannon's memory alive.

Newsday spoke with Sean Dhilpaul, of the Homicide Division, on June 28, and he said Whyte’s death is classified as an "unnatural death," but he did not wish to make any further comments due to not having information on the current status of her case.

An autopsy done on Whyte’s body in July 2021 said she died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

The male relative whose home’s her body was found was questioned, but he was eventually released.

Homicide investigators and pathologists could determine if a person’s cause of death was murder or suicide, depending on the angle of the bullet wound and the bullet’s trajectory.


"Family of murdered woman blames the system"

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