Mahdia schoolgirl to be charged with murder of 19 schoolmates

Last Updated on Sunday, 28 May 2023, 15:19 by Denis Chabrol

The Mahdia Secondary School student, who allegedly burned down the institution’s dormitory and caused the death of 19 schoolmates, would be charged with murder, police said Sunday.

“Legal advice was obtained to charge the suspect with 19 counts of murder,” Head of the Criminal Investigations Department, Assistant Police Commissioner Wendell Blanhum said.

Police had earlier alleged that the girl started the fire after the dorm mother and a teacher seized her phone Saturday night.

Government sources said she had been communicating with a man.

Though the girl is older than 14 years old and would be charged as an adult, Guyana’s juvenile law prohibits the naming of accused or convicted children.

Guyana’s Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand named the victims as Tracil Thomas, Lisa Roberts, Delecia Edwards, Lorita Williams, Natalie Bellarmine, Arriana Edwards, Cleoma Simon, Subrina John, Martha Dandrade, Loreen Evans, Belnisa Evans, Mary Dandrade, Omerfia Edwin, Nickleen Robinson, Sherena Daniels, Eulander Carter, Andrea Roberts and Rita Jeffrey. Five-year-old Adanye Jerome, the lone male victim, was the dorm mother’s son.

The DNA results for the burnt unrecognised remains have since been returned, and so their identities have been confirmed. The bodies are to be handed over to families for burial.

The dormitory windows were grilled and the dorm mother was unable to identify the keys to any of the five doors when she realized the building was on fire.

The Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn last week said although the fire service is four minutes away from the dormitory, firefighters were alerted to the blaze 15 minutes later by someone who had driven to the station.

The guard on duty reportedly did not know the fire service’s phone number.

President Irfaan Ali has promised a Commission of Inquiry into the fire, but the opposition has since demanded that it and other stakeholders be involved in picking the Commission and crafting the terms of reference. This, the opposition has said, will allow for broad acceptance and credibility of the process.

Government has pledged its unlimited assistance to the families and survivors.