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Amy’s death haunts villagers

By AZARD ALI Monday, March 5 2012

click on pic to zoom in
House burnt down: The house in Marabella (above) where Amy Annamunthodo lived with her mother and stepfather. In 2006 residents burnt down the house a...
House burnt down: The house in Marabella (above) where Amy Annamunthodo lived with her mother and stepfather. In 2006 residents burnt down the house a...

TWO days after Amy Annamunthodo was cuffed to death, residents burnt down the two-bedroom wooden house where she suffered mental and physical abuse.

Following Thursday’s death sentence on stepfather Marlon King for the little girl’s murder, relatives and residents living in close proximity to the abandoned plot of land where she suffered before her death, along Ste Madeleine Road, Marabella, recalled her cries and tears.

“Amy will just hang her head over the window and watch children passing on the road from morning till evening,” Sagan Ramkissoon Maharaj, a neighbour, told Newsday.

In 2005 when the four-year-old girl was taken to San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) with cigarette burns about her body and a broken limb, a social worker thought it best to put Amy back into the care of her parents. Thereafter, the girl was savagely beaten, to the extent that every vital organ in her body bled, according to forensic pathologist Dr Hughvon Des Vignes.

After the guilty verdict against King last week, Dr Austin Trinidade, SFGH’s medical director in 2005, spoke to Newsday and vented anger over the child being taken out the hospital via a court order.

“When the doctors saw the extent of abuse of that child, they recommend she be sent to a home for children. When Amy was killed, I called in the Social Welfare Department and questioned them. I said to them that I found it ridiculous that a social worker would have gone to court and testify that she saw no reason why Amy should not be sent home. As medical director I had no power to override a court’s decision,” he recalled.

Three days after Amy was killed on May 15, 2006, former Prime Minister Patrick Manning appointed a one-member commission of inquiry to examine system failures in the health and social development ministries which could have led to the child’s death.

The commission was headed by retired Justice Monica Barnes, her findings were never revealed because King was charged with Amy’s killing.

To add insult to injury, Amy’s records from the SFGH subsequently went missing.

A short road, Ste Madeleine Road separates the modern homes on residential Union Park East on one side, and the busy Marabella shopping town on the other. Small wooden houses line the flat Ste Madeleine Road, which appears to drain the two communities owing to the wide concrete soakaways that run erratically between the wooden homes. King, 39, common-law wife Anita Annamunthodo and Amy lived in one of the water-logged plots which they owned as State land. Today, pieces of the burnt wooden house they once lived in stick out through tall “bull” grass, an eerie reminder of Amy’s horror.

Ramkissoon Maharaj and wife, Indra, lived next door and remember the child. Demonstrating with her hand last week, Indra said, “For a four-year-old, she was so small. We used to give her pieces of roti and biscuits.

“One morning we see she sitting on the step alone. It had a bandage on her foot. I used to over feel sorry for that child, but we used to be afraid to say anything.” The couple believe that on several occasions, Amy used to stay alone in the house.

In King’s trial in the San Fernando First Assize Court, Amy’s aunt, who is Anita’s sister, Anna Jattan, testified that Amy was so undeveloped that for a child her age, she hardly spoke.

The testimony of Des Vignes also told of Amy’s suffering over a period of time.

“There were old wounds of lacerations, tears, bleeding, scrapes and bruises on the eye, neck, shoulder, palm and back of right hand. There were fresh wounds on the back of right hand, heart, lungs, spleen, liver, adrenaline gland, kidney, abdomen, pelvic area and upper mid and lower back and bottom,” the court heard during the trial.

A group of family members who operate a vegetable stall and parlour near the overgrown lot where King lived with Anita and Amy, admitted life was no bed of roses for the child. Requesting anonymity, the proprietor, a man in his 60s, said everybody along the road knew what was happening with the child.

Believing the question of Amy’s melancholy stirred a feeling of guilt in the community, the parlour proprietor said, “We feel sorry for the child, but we have a business running here. You can’t get involved in other people affairs just so.”

A former neighbour, who once shared a shack on a back lot, recalled a moment of Amy’s sadness to Newsday.

Devan Soogrim said, “Boy, I used to see Amy early in the morning before the sun come out, resting her head on the windowsill. She just would stay there and look out. I feel she used to be there alone sometimes ...what you want we to do boy?”

The huge mosque opposite to where Amy lived is a busy place, where youths dressed in Islamic garb often play football in the courtyard. They attend the madrassa (Islamic school) to become teachers of the faith.

Lou Ann Davis, King’s first wife, had testified in the trial that a group of Muslim men had picked up stones for King, while he was beating her naked on the road in front the mosque.

Alim Ali told the Newsday people complained to some members of the mosque about Amy’s abuse.

“I don’t think anyone want to get involved,” Ali said.

Dr Trinidade told the Newsday that when Amy was warded at SFGH for a broken limb, doctors discovered the extent of the child’s abuse by the marks on her body. Trinidade said, “The doctors had said that they could not send back the child to such a dangerous situation. She needed to be sent to a home for special care. When the social workers recommended Amy could go back, I became angry about it. I called in the social welfare department and dealt with it.

“Based on the doctors’ findings, I could not accept it and I asked them (social workers) what was their basis. The next thing, an application was made in the court to take back Amy. Based on the social welfare department evidence, the magistrate made a decision. It is ridiculous. But as hospital medical director, my hands were tied. I cannot challenge a magistrate’s order.”

It was Amy’s mother, Anita, who had made the application for custody of Amy whilst the child was being treated at SFGH in October 2005 for a broken limb, and where doctors noted the marks on her body.

Amy’s abuse did not escape comment from even trial judge, Justice Anthony Carmona. Critical of the evidence of the child’s grandmother, Chanardaye Basdeo, 65, Justice Carmona told the jury in his summation of the case: “The grandmother was less that truthful in her explanation of the injuries Amy suffered. She was cagey about what happened.”

The Barnes Inquiry into the systems and operations by government agencies that may have failed to prevent the death of Amy, recommended a number of measures to beef up the social welfare departments at hospitals.

Corporate Communications Manager in the Ministry of Social Development, Carol Ann McKenzie, had disclosed in 2008, that the Barnes inquiry recommended the need for more social workers. Barnes also recommended increased opportunities for professional enhancement via scholarships, to facilitate specialised training for social workers.

Legal experts told Newsday that King’s case has to be ventilated in the local appellate court and in the Privy Council in London. As such, to release Barnes’ report now, an attorney said, would be subjudice to his pending appeals.

South-West Regional Health Authority chairman, Dr Lackram Bodoe, said he intends to launch an investigation into what was revealed in King’s trial of Amy’s missing medical notes at SFGH’s medical records department.

In an interview on Thursday, Amy’s mother said she wants to move on with her life. For those who knew Amy on Ste Madeleine Road, however, the burnt-out house in which the little girl lived is still a little comfort to those who had the courage to set it ablaze, never mind the collective community action came too late for her.

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