KINGSTON – There was a heady mix of tears and anger inside Bedward Garden Seventh-day Adventist Church yesterday, where the family, former classmates and teachers of slain 13-year-old Shanoya Wray, their hearts clearly broken, struggled to say goodbye to the girl they described as bright, funny, always smiling, and whose ambition was to become a teacher.
The 13-year-old grade eight student of New Day Primary and Junior High, who they called Diffy, went missing after she snuck out of her house on the night of July 15, her remains turning up in a bathtub filled with a corrosive substance at premises on Walley Close in Mona, St Andrew, five days later. The premises are believed to belong to that of her alleged killer, Sanju Maharaj.
The police have theorised that the corrosive substance was used in an effort to get rid of the teen’s body.
Maharaj, who had a previous sexual offence case in the High Court with Wray as the complainant, is to reappear in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on a murder charge today, along with co-accused Leonardo Madden who is charged with accessory to murder.
At yesterday’s memorial service, some mourners said they had a sense of foreboding about Maharaj, who was on teaching practice at the school.
Cleveland Street, dean of discipline of New Day Primary and Junior High, said there were clues, but the school didn’t know the type of person he was.
“One day I saw a tattoo under one of his eyes, and I said to Miss Rose, ‘what da tattoo deh fa?’ and as strident and inquisitive as she was, she asked him and he was so defensive; he was so upset. I knew [then] that the critter from hell was up to no good,” Street recounted.
“When I was waiting on the bus, Miss Pauline, one of the ladies who sell at the gate said to me, ‘Sir, a da bwoy deh. he come out one day and him see a lady in a shorts and he was so excited’, but we didn’t know,” he added.
Street added: “I am very angry. A society which fails to protect its children, the physical and mentally challenged, the young and its elderly is not a self-respecting society, and as a society we have failed Shanoya,” he added.
Wray’s best friend and schoolmate, Angel James, who cried throughout the service, was also angry and expressed a strong desire for Wray’s killer to suffer. Like Street, she said she had a feeling of apprehension about Maharaj.
“He had some nasty tattoos on his hand and he wore long sleeves to cover them. I never trusted him,” she said.
James said her aunt is helping her cope with her best friend’s untimely death.
She also remembers her as being kind, caring, always smiling, funny and active in school.
Before the intervention of her godmother, James said, “I wasn’t eating much food; I was crying every night before I go to my bed and every morning when I wake up. I was also writing badly in school because I was just shaking.”
However she said, “Me a get through it. My godmother’s husband has died so she knows the situation, so she cry with me and tell me to calm down.”
Wray’s father, Starkey, whose emotions made it difficult to get through his remembrance, ended his speech prematurely.
He briefly recalled his last conversation with his daughter, who had asked him to purchase braids for her to do her hair and a new outfit to attend a class party.
Meanwhile, Wray’s aunt, Yashema Forbes, who delivered the eulogy, said she believes her niece had every intention of returning home on the night she left the house, as she left without her slippers.
“Some fools allow the devil to fool them and rob us of our precious gift, but her life ended when she met the monster and she never knew the plans he had for her because she was just a child.
“I wish people could see you are the victim and not the cause,” Forbes said.
Children’s advocate and convener of Hear the Children’s Cry, Betty-Ann Blaine promised to help the family get justice for Wray, noting that she has already asked an attorney to represent the family.
“We are heartbroken and every one of these cases is personal,” she said, “It is unnatural for children to die before their parents.”