Three elderly women were among 20 people who were rescued from a senior citizens’ home in Arima that was described as a “House of Horrors” by state officials and police officers.
As the elderly people were being escorted out of the flat concrete house, one of them, upon crossing the front gate, shouted: “This is the life.”
He, along with 19 others were escorted from the house by police and officials from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Development and Family Services and placed in a 24-seater maxi taxi. They were then taken to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, where they will be kept over the next few days and assessed. They will also receive medical treatment while there. The elderly people will then be taken to the state-run New Horizon in Piparo where they will be housed.
The State moved on the home after police discovered that the elderly persons there were forced to live in dilapidated and unsanitary conditions. The officers made the discovery when they began to investigate the circumstances in which Margaret Thomas, 47, died from an infection caused by the lack of immediate treatment to burns she suffered while in the care of the home’s owner.
Thomas’ relatives initially said they believe the matter warranted a proper investigation since the homeowner allegedly refused to contact them when Thomas was hurt. Thomas’ relatives were contacted on February 9, the day after she died at the hospital. It is believed Thomas suffered the burns on January 26. The owner claimed Thomas had turned the gas to the stove on as she was due to bake bread and left it for a while before actually lighting it. However, Thomas’ relatives said they did not know Thomas to cook or bake.
Preliminary police investigations suspected foul play, as they said based on the burns about Thomas’ body it looked like if she was doused with a flammable liquid and lit on fire while in a seated position. An autopsy report revealed that Thomas died from sepsis and burns. Tissue samples were also taken for further forensic histology testing.
Yesterday, as the residents of the home were being taken to the hospital, some of them shared jokes with the state officials whilst some were not quite sure what was happening and why they were being moved. Officials from both ministries attempted to give them “clear explanations” which Guardian Media was told they understood.
State officials also took the opportunity to break the news of Thomas’ demise. One of the women became inconsolable, others expressed sadness at the news, as they said they were only told she was at the hospital.
As the officials and the team of police officers moved in on the O’Meara Road home, the owner, who was wearing a hijab, just looked on. The owner was approached by state officials hours before and allegedly attempted to block them but the officials returned shortly before 4 pm with police and produced the relevant documents.
Several residents in the area stood in their respective yards and looked on at the situation.
One resident thanked Guardian Media for breaking the story and exposing the inhumane conditions at the home.
“We have seen and heard many hurtful things and we thank God those people are being rescued. You guys (referring to Guardian Media) are very brave,” one resident who wished not to be identified said.
As the maxi taxi drove off, the owner stormed into her car that was parked on the roadway and while doing so shouted: “Don’t take my photographs…I ain’t do nothing wrong.”
Health officials yesterday warned people who place their loved ones in homes to check on them regularly.
“Not because you cannot take care of them properly and by yourselves don’t just dump them in any and any home. Do research on the homes and check on them to make sure that they are being well taken care of—food, water, medication and are in comfortable and sanitary conditions,” an official said.
Investigating officers confirmed the owner of the home has been questioned but had not been charged pending further investigations.