Why did it take the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) two years to lay a charge against a nursery school teacher following the drowning death of a five-year-old girl in 2014?
Was it so complex that the police took two years to compile a report? In that period, the mother of the dead girl must have been wondering if her daughter’s death, through alleged negligence, would go unresolved.
So why then haven’t the police taken action against those responsible for the death of 11-year-old Akiel Chambers in the upscale neighborhood of Haleland Park, Maraval, on May 25, 1998? The case is similar – Akiel was not properly supervised.
In Akiel’s case, the evidence is very clear.
On June 2, 2014, Jemimah Agard was taken to Sharon’s Pre-School Nursery as usual. As part of the weekly schedule, the pre-schoolers would be taken to the YMCA swimming pool on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
Around 10 a.m. that day the swimming class was completed and all 17 children exited the pool and were taken to the change room. It was here that Jemimah told an instructor she wanted to use the bathroom and the instructor allegedly allowed her to go off on her own.
About five minutes later, police said, a teacher with the group, Euralia Thomas, performed a head count and noticed Jemimah was missing. She raised an alarm and instructors at the facility, as well as teachers who came with the group, went in search of the child.
Within five minutes of their search, they observed Jeminah’s body lying face down on the bottom of the south-western end of the pool.
Teachers and instructors dived into the water and pulled the five-year-old onto the tiled surface.
The police and emergency health services (EHS) were contacted, but in the interim, personnel attempted to perform CPR on the child in the hope of reviving her. When the EHS arrived, they too attempted CPR as they rushed the child to the Port of Spain General Hospital.
However, despite the best efforts of paramedics and doctors at the hospital, Jemimah was officially pronounced dead around 11 a.m. – one hour later.
When residents of Rose Hill, East Dry River, heard the news, they blocked the roadway with burning debris, as they demanded to know how a five-year-old child could be left unsupervised.
However, the protest was quickly dispersed due to the swift action by officers from the Besson Street Police Station and the Inter-Agency Task Force.
A relative told the media, “We are still trying to come to terms with this because Jemimah was Jamila Forde’s only child. She was her one and only, and now she is gone. She was a loving child. Such a light for this family. Always wanting to give hugs and kisses, and she was always so helpful.
“We still don’t completely understand how this entire incident could have taken place, and to make matters worse, she only turned five a month ago (May 2). A month ago to the day of her death,” explained the relative.
She said the family was questioning why young Jemimah had been left alone, and they were demanding answers from both the school and the YMCA so that they could get closure.
“Thus far we have been in contact with both Marcus Solomon from YMCA and the principal from the nursery. Both have offered their condolences and said they would try to help us in this difficult time. But what we want to know is why she was left alone.
That is all we really want to know so that we can get some kind of closure in this matter,” explained the relative.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, pre-school teacher Euralia Thomas appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar charged with manslaughter and wilful neglect of a child in the drowning death of Jemimah Agard.
Thomas, 56, was granted bail in the sum of $75,000 when she appeared on the charge in the Port of Spain 8th Court.
The matter was postponed to August 17.
On July 19, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, instructed that charges be laid against Thomas.
The charges were laid by Cpl Dirk John of the Central Police Station