Gran Couva police are currently investigating a robbery at the presbytery of Our Lady of Montserrat church, Tortuga. The incident took place at around 1.30 a.m. Sunday. Hours earlier, the parish celebrated their annual harvest at the church grounds.
Parish priest Fr Jose Marie Thekkekutte MSFS told Catholic News that he was asleep upstairs when he was awakened by the noise of the bedroom door being prised open. Three assailants wearing masks and gloves, one armed with a cutlass, tied Fr Jose’s hands and ordered him to surrender the money from the harvest.
“…They told me to be quiet…They asked me for the money for the day and I told them it was gone. [But] they didn’t believe,” Fr Jose said via phone. The funds raised at the harvest were secured at another location to be deposited to the bank.
The men escorted Fr Jose downstairs and began searching the parish office, intent on getting cash. “One was guarding me, and the others were ransacking. They saw my passport, my visa was there with loose cash, about $4000TT…. Some US$700 they took”. The bandits also took an undisclosed amount of cash from harvest Mass “offerings”.
Almost an hour into the ordeal, Fr Jose tried to recline but the intruders demanded he get up and locate his van keys. As they furiously searched for cash, they also ate food that they found. Leftover alcoholic beverages from the harvest was taken.
They “sped off” in his vehicle around 3.15 a.m. not before “bolting” Fr Jose inside a room. He managed to free his hands and open the door.
During the robbery, he requested that if they wanted his cellular phone to leave the SIM card. “But they didn’t take the phone,” he revealed. After they left, Fr Jose said he could not find his phone because the office was completely ransacked.
He used another phone to contact the Chairman of the harvest committee Police Inspector Dane James. He also alerted security at the school nearby. The police arrived within ten minutes.
Inspector James, via phone commented “It was terrifying to hear that info…We were there two hours before. I came immediately. He was traumatised [but] in good spirits. They didn’t harm him.”
Fr Jose, though tired, assured that he was okay. He said that during the break-in he was not worried. “I was cool about it. Somehow I didn’t feel frightened…..Even when I was tied I didn’t feel that way. It was risky.”
Since the incident he has barely slept. The police were still on the scene Monday afternoon conducting investigations.