On January 8 this year, a 23-year-old woman was kidnapped, tortured and brutally raped for five hours by Joel Balcon, aka Devon Charles.
She found out his name after being shown his picture by a relative on January 31.
The picture was circulating on Facebook of a suspect held in connection with the kidnapping of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt.
Balcon, who had as many as 70 charges against him, including rape and kidnapping, died in police custody on February 8 while under interrogation by police for Bharatt’s kidnapping.
“Aye, you saw the picture of the man suspected to have kidnapped Andrea (Bharatt)? Look! It here all over Facebook,” the relative said.
Glancing at the picture, she started crying and shaking violently.
“I said, Oh my God!, this is the same person who kidnapped, tortured and raped me for hours. This is the man I described to police. The same police who shrugged and dismissed me. This is the man,” she told the Sunday Express in an interview last week.
She recalled that her mother, who was nearby at the time, asked if she was sure.
“I spent the entire time while he was raping me and (falling) asleep looking at his features; he even has a scar behind his neck. Yes, that is the man,” she said.
On January 9, less than an hour after being released by Balcon and accompanied by her family, she entered the Arima Police Station around 5 a.m. to report what had happened.
Armed with a mental description of Balcon, the woman, though physically, mentally and emotionally wounded, was ready to relay her hours of torture by Balcon to the police, in a bid to spare other women from falling victims.
The police dismissed her.
She said Balcon “ended up raping me over and over again. When he was finished, he took a tie-strap, tied both our hands together and he fell asleep”.
Through tear-soaked eyes, “I just kept looking at him, memorising everything about him; I thought if I got back home, I will be able to describe him when I make a police report.
“I stared at him. I started praying. I cried. I started to feel sick, but I kept staring at him,” she said.
“The cries soon turned to sobs and in between prayers, he jumped up from sleep. He was acting crazy. Our hands were tied and he started cussing, asking where I went,” she said.
Balcon then took off the tie-straps and checked the time.
“I asked whether I can make a phone call, he said no. I tried to reason with him. He was acting crazy and laughing, then came back on the bed where he again raped me. I could not stop crying,” she said.
Having left work a little after 10 p.m. on January 8, the victim remembered a taxi pulling up on the Brazil stand in San Rafael.
“I asked if he was going Manuel Congo, he said yes,” she recalled.
On entering the taxi, she sat behind the driver.
She then observed a man across the road heading in the direction of the car.
He opened the front passenger side door, threw a bag on the seat and sat in the back seat.
“Before the driver drove off, I thought it weird the passenger threw his bag in the front seat and then came in the back. I tried to open the door, but the child lock was on and the driver drove off,” she said.
The driver asked if she was going to Manuel Congo and she responded in the affirmative, with the driver saying he would release the child lock when they got to their destination.
“I was on the phone with my mom and best friend; I told them I am in a taxi and coming home just now since I left work already and I was hungry.
“I asked that she take out the food when I reached home.... I found it weird the guy in the back was only looking at me,” she said.
The woman said the driver, a slim-built, dark East Indian man, went off route and was supposed to have passed on Cocorite Road, but instead sped along O’Meara Road.
“I was telling my mom on the phone I think something is wrong, I feel I will drop out from the car. The man in the back heard me and looked at me. I asked mom whether my brother was home and she said he is sleeping. She asked why. I did not say anything because the man in the back kept looking at me.”
She said she kept getting an uneasy feeling and did not know what to do, but kept giving her mother and friend as much information as she could.
Her mother’s cellphone disconnected and her best friend remained on the line.
“I told my friend I was feeling frightened and that I will drop off at FT Farfan. I knew something was wrong,” she said.
By now, the driver was racing and the man next to her, who was pretending to be a concerned passenger, started questioning the driver on directions.
“My friend on the phone asked whether I was feeling safe, I said no and asked that he stay on the phone with me. He said okay. I told him I was almost home.”
Upon reaching the La Horquetta traffic lights, the man in the back seat asked her if she had ever seen the driver before. She said no.
“When we reached in front Penta, I placed my hands into my pocket to take out money; same time he grabbed away my phone, grabbed my two hands together and started cussing. The phone fell on the ground and he placed a knife by my neck, asking what I was pulling out my pockets. I told him cash to pay the driver and they both started laughing,” she said.
Taken to guest house
She was told to lie face down on the seat.
Zip-ties were used to secure her hands and feet.
Her face mask was used to blindfold her.
The driver had exited the car while the man in the back seat placed a knife to her neck demanding her bank cards and money.
“He started quarrelling when he realised I did not have a bank card on me. I told him if he wanted money to carry me home where there is money. He started laughing, asking if I felt he was stupid.”
He drove off with her lying face-down in the back seat.
“He took me by a guest house in Petit Bourg (name called), telling me he is taking me to his boss and if I tell his boss where the money is, he will let me go.
“He said, ‘Don’t try to run, my boys right there with guns’. He said he will call his boys to come stay with me and they real dread. He left for less than a minute, saying he is taking me to see his boss.”
She was taken up a flight of stairs and into a room.
She was told to strip and related unprintable, graphic details of her rape ordeal.
She said she begged to be released since her mind was on being reunited with her toddler.
She said she told Balcon she would not make a police report so he would free her.
Instead, “He told me the last time he spared someone, the person swore they will not make a report and police locked him up. He spent three years jailed.”
Balcon also told her she was lucky his boss was not around as he had gone to look after a container of “Venes arriving in the country”.
“You real lucky my boys not here; they would have had a field day with you and kill you,” she said he told her.
The woman added that she pleaded again to be reunited with her son and Balcon “tripped off”.
He started crying, saying she did not look as though she had children, and he even apologised.
“I regret taking you...,” he told her.
She was then dropped off on the Arima taxi stand at 4.35 a.m. on January 9 where she asked an elderly man to use his phone and called her mother.
Her mother took her home and demanded her daughter make a police report.
Ignored by police
Her mother, who had reported her missing earlier, took her to the police station to report the rape, but the policeman on duty dismissed her with a flick of his wrist.
At that point, she said, “I just wanted to go home.”
The woman said upon entering the Arima Station, an officer kept looking at her.
“My mother had reported me missing and he was just looking at me...like I don’t know what he was thinking, but he was just looking at me.”
Her mother indicated to the officer, “They got me back; he still did not say anything. He just walked off.
“I wanted to go home, I felt guilty for no reason. The silent judgment the officer was making. I just wanted to leave and forget this,” she said.
But her mother remained adamant, and called out to the officer, asking him for the form to take to the hospital for a medical.
“He gave her the paper and dismissed us again. By the way he was acting, I kept telling my mom forget it, I just want to go home.
“I spent whole day in the hospital and reached home after 2 p.m. (January 9). I still did not say anything to anyone. The nurse said I was not supposed to be here alone and questioned the location of the police,” she said.
Admitting that her sister knew a policeman who worked in the Port of Spain Division, the woman said a call was placed and a WPC arrived at the Mt Hope hospital.
“I briefly told her what happened; I didn’t give her any info until a week after,” she said.