|The darker side of Blue Basin |
CAROL QUASH Sunday, August 8 2004
BLUE BASIN in Diego Martin was once a place of great pastoral beauty. In many ways it still is, except that man’s behaviour has exposed a darker side to this once serene place. One arrived in Blue Basin by driving down the Diego Martin Main Road to River Estate, then on to the North Post Road, on either side of which there were once cocoa and coffee trees. About half a mile you came to a road on the right where the sign reads Blue Basin Road. Up this road, you drive or walk, and as you get closer you could hear the thunder of water falling from a waterfall in the mountain into a wide pool that is known as Blue Basin. The pool is shaded by trees, and you can swim in the cold clean water and relax on the banks as the sun’s rays penetrate the branches of the trees. Several small rivers flow from the waterfall.
For generations Blue Basin was a place of relaxation for people not only from Diego Martin, but from all over Trinidad and Tobago and beyond. Much of the beauty has, over the years, been destroyed by man’s indiscriminate attitude to the environment and some of the area is now home to squatters and indeed, thieves who prey on visitors. But Blue Basin has always had its dark side, even in the days when it was a coffee and cocoa estate, and the tall Immortelle trees (planted to shade the cocoa) carpeted the roads with salmon coloured flowers. The darker side of Blue Basin emerged in March 2001 when a woman was found dead in one of the small rivers that still flow there. The man who was charged with killing her was last week sentenced to hang.
The trial at the Port-of-Spain Hall of Justice before Justice Rajendra Narine, told a horrific incident witnessed by the victim’s then nine-year-old daughter, Meena Ramnarine, on March 8, 2001. The victim was Polly Ramnarine. At the trial, Meena, now 12 years old, was the main witness. What she used to call home, for the family lived near Blue Basin, is now for her a place of horror and grief, as she saw Ronald Tiwarie, her step-uncle, struggling with her mother in the water. She saw Polly lying on her back in the water, with Tiwarie lying on top of her. She saw her mother fighting for life, blood on her hands, as she fought off a cutlass attack from Tiwarie. Meena told the court she ran to a neighbour’s parlour, some distance away and cried for help. The neighbour, Nia Adams, accompanied Meena back to the river, by which time Polly was dead and lying face down in the water.
Ronald Tiwarie was not there but his pick-up van was parked in a nearby yard. Adams carried an hysterical Meena back to his home and called the police. Shortly after, Polly’s common-law-husband, Dave Tiwarie, brother of Ronald, arrived and heard the shocking news. He rushed over to the river and covered Polly’s body with a black shirt. While Adams and Meena were waiting for the police to arrive, they saw Tiwarie driving away in his van with his wife and daughter. Some time later the police arrived on the scene. They found items of clothing and a towel strewn around the area and observed that Polly’s body bore marks of defensive wounds. A post mortem report later revealed that she had died from drowning. At around 5.30pm on March 8, 2001, Ronald Tiwarie went to the Port-of-Spain CID and said he had heard that a relative of his had been killed and that the police were looking for him. He was later charged with the murder by Sgt Anthony Lezama.
On that fateful morning in March 2001, Meena had gone with her mother to Blue Basin, which was close to their home, for their regular morning bath before Meena left for school at the nearby Patna Village Government Primary School, where she was in Standard Two. She completed her bath and wrapping her towel around her, she headed back to the house to get dressed for school. As she was nearing the house, she heard her mother scream and when she looked back at the river, she saw her mother struggling with Ronald Tiwarie. The frightened child ran in the direction of the river and stood next to a plum tree a few feet away from the river.
From this vantage point she witnessed the killing. Attorneys for the defence were unable to shake her evidence, even when she broke down in tears during the trial. From the witness box at the Port-of-Spain Second Criminal Court, Sgt Lezama said that during an interview with Tiwarie on March 9 2001, Tiwarie had said he was at his home at Blue Basin Road, Diego Martin at around 8am on that day, when he saw Polly bathing in the nearby Blue Basin pool. Tiwarie recalled an incident two years earlier in which Ramnarine had chopped his mother. He said every time he saw Polly he felt the urge to kill her. On the morning that he saw Polly in the river he was overwhelmed by his thoughts of his mother lying in bed with a chop wound to her head. Tiwarie said he took up his cutlass and went to the river to “bust her throat” but she ran when she saw him approaching. However, he caught up with her and held on to her.
As he was about to place the cutlass to her throat, Polly began fighting and she held on to the cutlass. Tiwarie threw her on the ground and rolled her in the water. Ramnarine pleaded with her brother-in-law to spare her life. She told him she loved him and promised to drop the case she had pending against his mother, but Tiwarie submerged her head and saw bubbles rising in the water and when they stopped he knew she was dead. He then went to his home, took his wife and daughter and left. The cutlass had been left at the riverside. Tiwarie agreed to give a statement in writing and arrangements to have a Justice of the Peace witness the recording of the statement were made. However, he changed his mind after he was allowed a private conversation with his wife shortly after the interview. Tiwarie’s attorneys, Odai Ramischand and Thomas Cunningham called eight witnesses, four of whom testified that Tiwarie could not have killed Polly because they had seen him in San Juan at the time of the murder. The jury felt that these alibis were not credible. Tiwarie did not give evidence on his own behalf.
The defence had also requested a visit to the scene of the crime where Meena, now twelve-years-old, was forced to relive the horrible moments leading up to her mother’s death. That visit could have been the deciding factor in the minds of the jury, since there was nothing to obscure the child’s view of her mother’s final struggle with Tiwarie from her vantage point at the plum tree. Meena now lives with relatives in Valencia, miles away from where one of the most traumatic experiences in her life took place over two years ago. The Blue Basin Road already has its place in criminal history, for it was the site in the mid 1850’s of the brutal murder of the parish priest of St John’s RC Church in Diego Martin. The priest, a Frenchman from Martinique, was lured to the spot by a jealous wealthy sugar cane estate owner, who lived at Blue Basin, on the pretext that his wife (the estate owner’s) was dying and needed the last rites of her religion.
Saddling his horse, the priest rode from the church to Blue Basin Road, where he was set upon by several estate workers and chopped to death. His body was discovered in a ditch. The estate owner was eventually charged with the murder, the witnesses being the very estate workers who had committed the crime. Before the case could be heard, however, one of the witnesses - an estate worker was thrown into a large copper vat of boiling sugar cane. During the trial the estate owner’s attorney asked the jury whether they would take the word of “lying coolies” before that of the prominent and highly respected estate owner. Not surprisingly for that time, the estate owner was found not guilty and the only memory of the cruel crime is a plaque in the St John’s church, bearing the priest’s name and the date of his untimely death. There have been other murders in Blue Basin which today is still regarded as a serenely beautiful place but one with an evil side to it.