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Community in turmoil

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Charitable mom, daughter slaughtered at Siparia home
The home where Sylvestine Gonzales-Bernard and her daughter Kathyann Bernard were found murdered by police and neighbours on Monday. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Despite having a vigilant community watch and a snarling dog to protect them, two Siparia women met a brutal death at the hands of robbers just before the start of the hectic Carnival weekend.

Police believe Sylvestine Gonzales-Bernard, 87, and her daughter, Kathyann Bernard, 51, were hacked to death sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon last week. Their decomposing bodies, sprawled on the living room floor, were discovered around 7.45 pm on Carnival Monday.

Police believe robbery was the motive, as their home at #1 Gonzales Street, Siparia, was ransacked and an undisclosed sum of cash and jewellery was missing.

Sylvestine’s starved dog, which police suspect was drugged, was found panting at the back of the house. A door on the eastern side of the ground level appeared to have been forced open.

Speaking to the T&T Guardian yesterday, neighbour Narcissa Bermudez said over the Carnival weekend they began experiencing a foul stench coming from the Bernard’s residence.

“I saw them on Thursday when they were going out. I waved to them and they came back home about an hour later. That was the last time I saw them,” Bermudez recalled.

Saying the area had a vigilant community watch group, Bermudez said it was regrettable nobody saw or heard anything while they were being killed. Describing Gonzales-Bernard as a warm and affectionate person, Bermudez said she was always willing to help the needy.

“She did business in Siparia for over 50 years and everybody knew her. She was very active at the La Divina Pastora church,” Bermudez said.

Another resident, Ivor Bermudez, said several generations of Siparia children grew up knowing Gonzales- Bernard.

“She was like the mother in the community. She took care of everybody. She did lots of charity work,” Ivor added.

Gonzales-Bernard’s nephew, Gordon Panasingh, said the double murder had left the entire community in turmoil.

“They were really nice people, very well known and respected. I think whoever killed them must have known their whereabouts,” Panasingh said. He added that Gonzales-Bernard’s two children lived abroad and they had been trying to contact them (mom and daughter) over the Carnival weekend.

“Eventually, they contacted a neighbour and when the police went in they found them dead on the floor,” Panasingh said.

Saying the spate of crime in T&T was uncontrollable, Panasingh called on the police to find the killers.

One of Gonzales-Bernard’s many god-daughters said she was in church praying for an end to T&T’s crime wave when she got the news the women were killed.

“It not easy dealing with this. We are very puzzled because they were never involved in any confusion with anybody,” she added.

This was one in a series of crime in which females were brutally attacked and killed dating back to late last year.

Police said they are awaiting the arrival of Gonzales-Bernard’s relatives before an autopsy is done at the Forensic Science Centre in St James. Officers led by Cpl Darryl Corrie, Cpl Forbes, WPC Joseph, PC’s Charles and Tony visited the scene. The house was dusted for fingerprints.

Anyone with information on the killings can contact Crime Stoppers at 800-TIPS. Investigations are continuing.


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