Three years have passed since Candice Riley spoke to her daughter for the last time. And while she tries to heal, she admits the process can be difficult as memories of the kidnapping and subsequent murder haunt the neighbourhood.
Riley’s daughter Ashanti Riley was abducted when she boarded a PH (private hire) taxi near her Sunshine Avenue, San Juan, home on November 29, 2020.
Ashanti’s decomposing body was found in a forested area of Santa Cruz, days later on December 4, 2020.
Her murder prompted a nationwide outcry to end violence against women and girls and preceded the kidnapping and murder of 22-year-old court clerk Andrea Bharatt in Arima months later in February 2021.
On Wednesday evening a memorial and prayer service commemorating the third anniversary of Ashanti’s kidnapping was held. Family, neighbours and well-wishers gathered at the house she once lived to pray for her soul, celebrate her life and keep their fond memories of her alive.
Her mother said she was reminded of the tragedy every time she walked outside.
Looking at a banner outside the house which had a picture of Ashanti on it, Riley fought back the tears as she tried to describe the grief of living in the same area where her daughter was last seen alive.
“It’s hard just to walk outside on the road there every day. Because that’s the area where she was last seen… I still can’t talk about it,” she said
Riley said she was promised a home by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) shortly after Ashanti’s murder in 2020.
She said she visited three sites before she agreed to move to a home in Malabar, but to date, she has not received any further word on when the home would be available.
Riley said despite repeated attempts to contact the HDC, she was no closer to learning when she could move.
“They said we would have been able to move into the HDC house in January 2021 and it still hasn’t been done.
“The person they assigned me to is no longer in that department and I cannot get to see anyone.
“When you go in person they say you have to get an appointment online and when you go online you still can’t get anything,” she lamented.
Riley said the last correspondence with the HDC was through an email requesting an appointment earlier this year.
Ashanti’s uncle Glenn Riley said he sympathised with the grieving mother, noting that while he did not live in the area, the thought of remaining there was unsettling.
“It is really sad to see that Candice has to go through this thing. Imagine you coming here and walking out the road and seeing the last place she was last seen. It’s very depressing.
“I don’t live here but when I come I see it and feel it, and nothing was done to ease any pain,” he said.
Guardian Media sent an email to HDC seeking a response to Riley’s concerns, but did not receive a one up to late yesterday.