A miscommunication between the Police Service's Victim and Witness Support Unit and the Ministry of Social Development left the family of a prisons officer who was shot dead without any counselling services.
Minister of the People and Social Development Christine Newallo-Hosein said yesterday ministry officials had "backed off" after they were informed that the police unit was getting involved.
But while head of the Victim and Witness Support Unit, Margaret Sampson-Browne, acknowledged the family's accusations of neglect she stressed that there were "primary and secondary victims and we have to work with all of them."
Revealing that the unit was severely understaffed, Sampson-Browne said it was now a matter of gathering all available resources, including officers who were involved in other matters and reassigning them to work on this case.
On Wednesday, Sherry-Ann Seecharan, 36, committed suicide by ingesting a poisonous substance, two weeks after her husband Robert Seecharan was shot dead by her 16-year-old daughter, during a frenzied domestic fight at Penal Rock Road, Barrackpore.
Hours after her death, Sherry-Ann's mother, Samdaye Rangoo, accused the police of failing to provide counseling for the surviving members of the family following Robert's death. She said she had tried on several occasions to get members of the Barrackpore Police Station to render some kind of assistance but to no avail.
Newallo-Hosein, who described the tragic situation as "unfortunate", said yesterday a team from the ministry had been dispatched to assist in providing counselling and other aid to the grieving relatives of Sherry-Ann.
The Victim and Witness Support Unit was criticised yesterday, with emotional relatives and members of the public accusing them of failing to act in a timely manner.
Stealing away for a few minutes from yesterday's meeting which preceded the post-Cabinet briefing to address this and other issues, Newallo-Hosein said ministry officials had deferred to the TTPS as they "would not duplicate the services being provided to the family."
Asked what had prompted them to get involved now, Newallo-Hosein revealed they had been contacted by an "outsider" around 10 am on Wednesday who was concerned about the family's emotional and mental state and had implored them to assist.
Asked what kind of assistance her ministry was providing, Newallo-Hosein said: "We would provide the funeral grant and assist in counselling for the family."
Pressed to say what would become of Sherry-Ann's children, the minister said if relatives did not come forward to indicate their willingness to accept and care for them, they would become wards of the state and the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development would now become the primary provider.
However, she said if there were relatives who were willing to care for them, her ministry stood willing and ready to support them.
CHILDREN'S AUTHORITY TO ASSIST
Meanwhile, the Children's Authority said it would also be intervening to assess the children following their mother's suicide.
In a release, the authority said a team, which comprised a trauma specialist, social worker and psychologist, had been assigned to provide therapeutic and psycho-social support for the children to help them cope with their loss.
The authority is expected to recommend the type of intervention that they require.
The authority said they were also ready to assist the two young children from Richplain, Diego Martin, who had been charged with manslaughter and possession of arms and ammunition, following the shooting death of 11-year old Ruben Reid last week.