Her name was Monica Reece. She had neither fame nor fortune, but on April 9, 1993, the 19-year-old security guard became known to all Guyanese after her body was dumped from a speeding pickup vehicle in the vicinity of the Geddes Grant building (now Courts) on Main Street, Georgetown. It was Good Friday night.
Today, 10 years after her death, the crime remains unsolved. The ashes of the investigation seem to have gone cold and a brutal killer continues to walk free. Nonetheless, one person - Monica's mother, Shirley Reece - remains hopeful that someone or some persons know why, and by whom the young woman was murdered and might be willing to come forward after all these years.
After a lengthy search, Stabroek News was able to locate Ms. Reece.
As she sat there in her sitting room, I couldn't help thinking how lonely Shirley Reece appeared. Apart from her husband, who was out at the time, her only other source of comfort appeared to be the dogs. But one thing was constant on her mind - despite the pledges made by former Commissioner of Police Laurie Lewis, the woman does not believe that her daughter's murder will ever be solved.
"It is now 10 years and up to now, nobody is making any contact with me. The Commissioner of Police had promised to solve the [crime]...it has never been solved. Nobody is making any contact with me, nobody is telling me anything. It seems that Monica was not a Guyanese, because if she was a Guyanese, many Guyanese people would have been doing something for her. But nobody is doing anything, anything what so ever."
Monica's death was very shocking
"I feel the same way today as how I felt when I saw her body lying on Main Street...The police picked me up about 10 pm the night and took me there, and I saw her body on the ground, covered with a white sheet, in front of Tower Hotel, on the opposite side and I felt the same way I am feeling right now, because Monica was my only child," Shirley Reece stated.
According to her, Monica's death was a shock, not only because of the way she was brutally murdered and dumped, but also because her death followed shortly after that of a younger sister.
"There was another sister, but she died with cancer...The doctor said she would not be able to live for more than 12 years. She born with cancer in the stomach, so we were expecting her death at anytime...but Monica's [death] was very, very shocking...very shocking."
Shirley Reece's younger daughter, Sharon, succumbed to the disease on January 8, 1993, at the age of 12. Three months later, she was left without the two children she had brought into the world.
The woman said Monica was making arrangements to return to her home on the very day she died. Shirley Reece said her daughter had moved in with a woman who is now before the court on an unrelated murder charge, then she had gone to live with another girlfriend.
"The Friday before, I called Monica. She asked me to come back home...I don't know if they had a problem or anything, but she just ask me, 'Mommy, can I come back home?' and I said 'Monica, whenever you ready to come back home, you are welcome...your family will definitely accept you and everybody will treat you the same way, but you mustn't make that same mistake again.' And on that Friday afternoon, that was when Monica promised to come home."
When I asked her what "mistake" Monica had made, Shirley said it involved going to live with the woman on the murder charge.
"She was the person who encouraged Monica to move out and live at her and Monica was moving back at me...After I did not see Monica around 7 o'clock, me and my nephew went down by Big Market looking...We did not know she was working, 'cause she tell me she is going to be off. We went down there and I didn't see Monica and I went back [home] and lie down. Then about 10 o'clock the night, I hear a rap on the door."
It was then some persons, accompanied by the police, turned up to take her to the scene. Shirley Reece said no one told her that her daughter was dead. They just asked her to accompany them. One woman, who she knew from the group, coaxed her into going and it was not until the police car turned by the cenotaph, Ms Reece said, that she realized that something was definitely wrong.
"When I look around, I see the crowds on both sides of the street and I said, 'What happen? What happen?' And nobody is telling me anything. But when I look on the ground, I saw the white shoes and I say, 'Something is wrong with my daughter?' And nobody would answer me...I was unable to get out the car...I saw her feet, apart from her feet I recognized her from shoes I bought for her. I didn't see her face then. I could not have seen her face, but a cousin that was with me went and he look and he said yes, Monica," the woman recalled.
Thereafter, she said, it was "up and down, up and down" to the police stations. But from there onward, it also marked the beginning of living in fear.
Threatened after making police reports
According to Shirley Reece, she was threatened each time she made a report to the police on any lead she had regarding her daughter's murder.
"Every time I tell the police something, I does be threatened before I get back home...People would be driving up in cars, different vehicles and threatening me. I could not report it, because...if I go to the police in confidence, by the time I could leave Eve Leary, I would be threatened.
"I know a lot of things went wrong then, because I was threatened on many occasions...That is why I am living here. People used to be coming at my home and threatening me and sometimes, as soon as I leave the home, people used to come with guns, used to come with knives. People used to always be there threatening me, sometimes I am in the market and people used to walk up to me and tell me I am next."
Apart from herself, Shirley Reece said almost every member of her family was threatened at one time or the other.
Shirley Reece said she received the threats for well over six years after her daughter's death. Although she hardly goes out, the woman said the fear remains.
"They have people out there who know. Some of them maybe don't even want to say anything because of the threats. Everybody who say something concerning Monica's death always be getting threats...A lot of people come to me and tell me that they want to say something, but they would be threatened."
According to the woman, two persons with whom Monica left a message the night before she died were killed in a "hit and run" accident about two weeks after her daughter's murder.
She added that another of Monica's friends left the country soon after the incident.
Fond memories of a daughter gone forever
At one point during my interview, it became quite evident that it was still very painful for Shirley Reece...her eyes became clouded over and her voice, a little choked. But pride stepped up to the play for the first time in our conversation when Shirley Reece started to recall some of the fondest memories of her murdered daughter.
"Oh gosh!" she started off, "Everything...everything about my daughter was good. My daughter and me used to go everywhere together, we do everything together - we shop together, we wash together, we cook together - she was like my best friend. I feel like a part of me is dead, like part of me is missing..."
According to the woman, had her daughter lived, she was confident that Monica would have been successful in her pursuits in the fashion world.
"She did designing and she liked hairdressing, she did that. She liked hairdressing, designing, fashion. That was the kind of life she wanted to be in...she would have been a professional by now, because that was what she really interested in."
The murder is 10 years old and hopes of it ever being solved seem bleak, but Shirley Reece hopes that one day she could write a book about her daughter and the life she lived.
"What people hearing about Monica...was not everything. Because somebody was murdered, everybody say a lot of bad things. But that person don't be bad...is not that a person looked to die, or want to die...is just that there are people out there who are really cruel...I hope that by bringing up back the story people would come forward."
The major players back in 1993
Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis (now retired)
Crime Chief Winston Felix (now retired)
Government pathologist Leslie Mootoo (now deceased)
Homicide boss was Michael Marks (now retired)
The SN reports of 10 years ago:
April 9, 1993 (Good Friday)
Monica Reece's body is dumped from speeding 4X4
A source said a dark-colour pick-up, with spotlights, dumped the body at about 10:30 pm.
At the time, Reece was reportedly dressed in a pair of tights and shirt
Reports said her head was bashed in.
An official from a guard service which employed Reece said she was assigned to the Ministry of Health and had worked the 7 am to 3 pm shift on the day she was murdered.
April 13 1993
Sources said the owner of Chinese restaurant was assisting the police with investigations.
April 14 1993
The Crime Chief Winston Felix reported that a number of vehicles had been searched for clues. No one as yet detained. Sources said one person was considered a prime suspect and was questioned several times.
April 15 1993
Felix said no one arrested up to then but several persons were being questioned
Businessman files habeas corpus for son.
He had been held on April 9 and released after giving a statement
Race car driver Ray Rahaman reported seeing part of the incident
Rahaman's statement to police said he was outside of Hotel Tower with his wife, waiting for his children who had gone inside to purchase pizza.
SN reported that Rahaman said he had given chase, but the vehicle disappeared
A pickup belonging to the son of a businessman was impounded
April 17 1993
In an interview with SN, man claimed he had never known Monica Reece and had nothing to do with her death.
April 18 1993
Police start looking for red pick-up vehicle.
Police detained red 4X4 belonging to well known city businessman.
Fingerprint, hair and carpet tests were carried out.
Two self-proclaimed witnesses walked into Stabroek News with conflicting stories - One man signed a statement saying he was at Trenthouse building on Good Friday night. He claimed that it was a dark grey Toyota left hand drive...said he saw three men and someone with long hair in the cab. That 'witness' said the vehicle had no headlamps and carried a silver grey stripe on the side. He claimed to have seen Rahaman give chase.
The other 'witness' claimed that the vehicle was black with square spot lamps on the cab. One man held for questioning, told SN he went to police, was prepared to file habeas corpus proceedings.
April 20 1993
Police stumped. - Red 4X4 owned by businessman released. He said police did not ask for statement from him, only took his vehicle for tests
Car watchman 'Tourist', who might have been a witness, died suddenly
April 21 1993
Police source says murder was drug-related, that Reece was dead before being dumped.
Murder linked to 117-pound cocaine bust on a GAC plane in the US in March of same year.
Police announced $100,000 reward for information.
Crime Chief said "we have nothing new to work on".
He said no new vehicles had been picked up.
Reports said another Main Street prowler was found dead behind South Ruimveldt on April 20.
April 22 1993
Cop silent as manhunt continues, split into five separate teams.
May 1 1993
Reports that Monica Reece was having affair with 'drugged out' rich kid.
Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis said prime suspect identified, refused to give details.
Lewis said no response from US, Trinidadian authorities on appeal for assistance
One suspect had reportedly fled country after murder.
Lewis ruled out drug connection, said 27 pick-ups were taken in by police, but no trace of Reece's presence found in any of them.
Some 200 persons were questioned, among them some prominent businessmen
PGS guard stationed outside European Commission office on High Street on Good Friday night reported seeing a black pick-up hurtle past at high speed and turn into Barrack Street.
May 4 1993
Police plead for patience in Reece killing.
Crime Chief Winston Felix said approaches were renewed for technical assistance from a foreign country.
Direct checks with the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigations and other police precincts in the US indicated that no request had been received from the Guyana Police Force to track a possible suspect who fled Guyana illegally.
May 5 1993
Aircraft pilot was called in by police for questioning
May 6 1993
Police sources said pilot not involved
May 8 1993
Police ordered to produce next man who was detained on May 6, before Justice Prem Persaud. Later released.
Felix issued release stating that further assistance from a sister Caricom state was being sought. He did not state which country.
He said a number of persons who could assist police investigations were still to be questioned
May 9 1993
Lewis said all information in Reece's probe could not be disclosed.
Home Affairs Minister Feroze Mohammed said police doing good job.
May 11 1993
Police said they were progressing 'satisfactorily'.
Felix said Government Pathologist Leslie Mootoo was in a neighbouring Caricom state "pursuing the scientific aspects of the investigations."
May 13 1993
Authorities are honing in on suspect, certain lines of questioning followed to disarm the individual
Mootoo back from Trinidad
Felix in press release said "insensitive questioning" continues of those persons whom it is believed could assist in investigation.
Police said a number of vital clues are being examined.
There were no substantial leads after this period.
A reprint from the Stabroek News of April 09, 2003