Basseterre, St. Kitts – Officials in the Ministry of Education are making pleas for the safe return of Leanna Napoleon, a Basseterre High School student who disappeared more than two weeks, stating the unresolved issue sends a bad message about the area.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Shawn Richards said in a press conference that officials in that ministry are distressed and concerned with the teen’s disappearance after sitting only one exam.
“It is very alarming for me that a young lady could go missing in the federation,” he said. “I have being praying for her well-being and safe return and I am hoping that she would be located very soon.”
Richards made a passionate appeal to those who have information in locating Napoleon to pass it on to the authorities, as well as calling on individuals to desist in speculation and gossip.
“It only serves to increase the distress of the relatives and friends of Leanna and it also serves to frustrate the efforts of the authorities in their investigations,” Richards said.
Napoleon was last seen on Fort Street and in Buckley’s on Monday, May 8, following CXC examinations at the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College. Richards said those close to Leanna may be affected by her disappearance and may need counseling to get through this difficult time.
“The best friend of Leanna is actually one of her classmates,” Richards said, “and this is a classmate who is also currently undertaking exams. One can therefore put his or her mind to the state of play for this particular student at this point in time, having to share a room with someone, live with someone, and having at this particular point in time sitting exams with your best friend being missing.”
He added that the status of Napoleon’s whereabouts is unsettling to her family, friends and the community as a whole and it sends a wrong message.
“It not only sends the wrong message for us as a federation, but it also says that those who may be those involved in her disappearance can get away with it,” Richards said. “It encourages other people within society to not only target any one of us, but to target the youngest amongst us. This, as a society, we should not tolerate. This, as a society, we should not allow to continue. This is about the future of our nation.”
According to Lyndita Powell, officer of the Special Victims Unit, the teen was last seen with her brother, who is among three who are considered “persons of interest” in the disappearance. Powell said there are no positive leads.
“So far we have conducted about five major searches in areas that Leanna might have been seen,” Powell said. “Unfortunately, to date, we have no concrete evidence; however, we have three persons of interest in police custody and one of them is her brother. This is the fourth time that we have had him in custody. We are doing all that is necessary; we are not leaving any stone unturned in trying to find Leanna and bring her back safely to her family and friends.
“We are still trying our utmost best to see what information we can get from the brother,” she said. However, she noted, so far “his information is not forthcoming. That’s why we had the need to re-arrest him. We’re not giving up.
“As to whether she is dead or alive, we are hoping that she is alive. We have no evidence to suggest that she is dead and we are hoping that Leanna will be alive, but we are pressing forward with the brother and we will continue to press until we get something that will lead us to where she is.”
Powell added that the individuals in police custody may have seen the teen before her disappearance.
“These people are persons of interest who might have seen Leanna before she went missing and because the investigation is ongoing, we prefer not to reveal certain things at this moment,” she said.
She said that they received information that indicated Napoleon was last seen with her brother. “They were talking and there might have been an exchange of cash,” she said. “Our information is that he might have sold a vehicle that belonged to his mother and he would have made arrangements to meet her to give her the portion of what the vehicle was sold for.”
Basseterre High School’s principal, Maurice Benjamin, indicated that Napoleon had sat one exam only before her disappearance and said that the entire situation is unfortunate for the entire fifth form body.
“The students of fifth form are very troubled at this time,” Benjamin said. “At the school, we did a special assembly for her. We prayed for her and we ask all students to keep her in their prayers.”
He added that guidance counselors of the school have been speaking with students in order to get them to calm down and remain focused for the exams.
“At this time, people in St. Kitts feel that it doesn’t take a village to raise a child anymore, and that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with people’s children,” he said. “You see them walking about and it is not a concern for you, and some parents do inform others, not to look at my [child], [just] look at yours, which is very unfortunate.”
He also pleaded for the safe return of Napoleon, describing how her teachers saw her.
“Leanna, as I was told, was a hardworking student and she was strong willed, but playful at times,” he said. “She was focused; she had her subjects to do and she really wanted to pass all her subjects.”
He added that following the death of Napoleon’s mother two years ago, the student’s marks dropped, but she bounced back this year. “This year, for sure, Leanna rebounded and she was doing her work,” Benjamin said. “She really wanted to sit her exams. She was hard working.”