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INTO A TAXI, NEVER SEEN AGAIN SINCE JULY 2020

LIKE Andrea Bharatt, Grace Esther Roberts was last seen alive getting into a taxi to head home.

That day was July 9, 2020, and there has been no trace since then of the aspiring beautician of Diego Martin.

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Her father, Ceril Roberts, a pastor, prays for her every day, sometimes with no words but just tears and hurt, for the daughter he has lost.

“Every day I get up wondering, praying. I say, ‘God, where is she?’ said Roberts in a phone interview with the Express last Friday.

Roberts recounted the ordeal of his daughter’s disappearance, which he said started with the 6.9 earthquake that rocked Trinidad on August 21, 2018.

The father said following the earthquake, Grace went to stay at the family home of a friend from their church.

He said he had trusted the family since they were church members, and Grace lived with them for more than a year.

“I realised the hard way that we live in a world where we cannot trust anyone. In late 2019, Grace came back home to live. She did not want to say what happened to cause her return, just made excuses that the people were not cooking anymore and things like that. After a while, I found out that she gotten involved with one of the church leaders. The man was divorced and in his 40s. She got pregnant for him and had an abortion,” he said.

“I had trusted him as a person in the church and as a father figure to my daughter. But it turned out that he was with her in secret. She got tangled up and tried to cover everything up with him. When they found out at church that he was involved with Grace, he was disciplined, and taken out from ministry. When the news broke, he came to me and we talked. I still tried to be a peacemaker despite everything that I was feeling inside,” said the father.

Roberts said he appealed to his daughter to steer clear of the man, but she remained drawn to him and got a job at a barbershop where he worked.

“I told her she had a lot of schooling, work experience and ambitions and she could do anything she wanted,” he told the Express.

Media worker

Roberts explained that his daughter was previously employed in the media in St Vincent and the Grenadines, where she had lived with him and her family for several years.

She was the last of her four siblings and she began her school life at the La Puerta Government Primary School in Diego Martin.

In 2001 when he returned to St Vincent to do missionary work she went with him, and there she attended Sandy Bay Primary School and then Sandy Bay Secondary School in the North Windward Community.

After graduation, she trained as an announcer/host at a St Vincent radio station.

In 2016, Grace’s mother, a diabetic and renal patient, died of heart failure.

Two years later the family returned to Trinidad.

Despite her father’s wishes, Grace went to work at a barbershop and salon where the man was also employed at Rich Plain Road in Diego Martin.

“At the end of the day, Grace could not get over things. She used to come home and cry. I later found out it was because the man had proposed to another woman. But it seemed he was still dragging her along. I was so sad for my daughter and tried to help in my way. It was also so disappointing because I am a pastor and this man was supposed to be a man in church ministry,” he said.

Nevertheless, Roberts said his daughter enjoyed her job in hairdressing and styling, especially braiding women’s hair.

Sometimes she worked late depending on her workload, he said, so on the evening of July 9, 2020, when she did not return home by nightfall he believed she was working late.

TTPS bulletin

The next morning when he did not see his daughter, Roberts thought she had overnighted at a friend’s house. That afternoon, Grace’s sister told him that her (Grace’s cellphone) was going straight to voicemail.

“I showed up by the shop. I asked the man, ‘Where is Grace? She did not come home last night’. He said he did not know and he did not see her,” said Roberts.

The father searched for his daughter that night and evening, called everyone he knew, and with nothing to go on, he went to the police station the next day to report her missing.

“I later found out that the night she disappeared, she bought food at an outlet around 6 or 7 p.m. in Bagatelle. She went back to her workplace. Then later, the man said they left work around 8.30 that night. I was told that she and the man took a white car to leave Rich Plain. The police had (closed-circuit) television footage of Grace and the man entering the white car near where she worked. The man said he dropped out in Bagatelle and Grace remained in the car and went on with the driver. But there is no footage of what happened after Grace entered the car.” said the father.

The TTPS issued a social media bulletin informing the public of her disappearance.

The bulletin read that the West End Police were actively searching for her, with a description of her physical appearance – of African descent, slim built, dark brown in complexion, five feet tall, with tattoos on her left upper arm and chest. She was last seen wearing a black short sleeve jersey, light blue jeans and pair of black slippers.

The TTPS bulletin about Grace’s disappearance was also posted on the social media page of One News St Vincent.

Emotionally torn

Roberts said he later found out that Grace might have been holding another secret.

The night before his daughter went missing, she called a close friend and said she had something to tell her.

“The friend said she had extracted a tooth a day earlier and she was not up to talking at that time and told Grace to call her another day. She regrets not hearing what Grace had to say because things might have been different today,” said Roberts.

The father said his daughter’s disappearance has emotionally torn his family apart, and left them traumatised.

“Grace’s sister does not want to return to Trinidad to live. She is a registered nurse and can get a good job but she is fearful that whoever was responsible for her sister’s disappearance might come after her,” he said.

After more than a year without his daughter, he does not know if she is alive.

If she is, he believes she may be held against her will and unable to access a phone to tell her family and friends where she is.

“I dreamt of Grace twice. In one of those she was walking behind her deceased mother. Grace was crying,” he said.

Roberts said he has posted flyers with his daughter’s picture across the country. He has followed every lead from every caller, without success.

The police had been in regular contact with him in the weeks and months after Grace’s disappearance, but those regular communications have gone.

Eight months ago, the disappearance of Bharatt and then the discovery of her body, consumed Roberts and the trauma and grief for his daughter resurfaced.

“I sat in front of the television with tears washing my face. I remember that my daughter is out there, and still nothing. Andrea was 23, and Grace 24. They disappeared so similarly. But I am still praying for a miracle. Only God knows what happened,” he said.

Anyone with information on this case can contact Crime Stoppers at 800-TIPS (8477), 555, 999, or send information to the TTPS app.

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