On Saturday afternoon, billowing black smoke could be seen over the George Price Highway in the village of Teakettle. That’s because frustrated residents placed burning tires across the highway, blocking traffic for about half hour until police arrived and cleared the highway. The reason? To get the police’s attention in the case of a missing man from their community. According to family members, Markey Mendez has been missing since Wednesday June 21st sometime after 11 p.m. Police say they have been searching for the missing man but villagers believed that cops were not doing enough. When our camera arrived at the scene of the burning tires, police and villagers were in a heated discussion as villagers say they believe Mendez was murdered and his body washed away by the flooded river. They wanted police to help them locate the body by providing divers. They took us on a trail where some villagers had discovered a cement block with blood on it. According to the residents, there was a trail of blood that they also found leading to a large ditch right next to the river. There wasn’t a body in the ditch but its proximity to the river gave rise to speculations that the flooded river may have carried the body way. The rains had washed away the blood trail by the time the villagers returned with help. Mendez’s mother told us more about the ordeal of her missing son.
Verna Mendez (Mother of The Missing): He left from here at 2:00 on Wednesday, and he said he was going to fix his slippers at the shoe maker at Teakettle, and from he left here 2:00 he hasn’t come back. I texted him around 9:30, but he didn’t answer me and that’s not like him. When he leaves home and if he’s not coming back he would usually call me and tell me he will stay at a friend or a family member but that night, no. Up to this day he hasn’t come back. Well, we went and we told them that we have this missing person.
She also told us about the reason for the road block.
Reporter: Why did they burn the tire?
Verna Mendez (Mother of The Missing): Because they want the police to come out and find the guy and help look for him.
Verna Mendez (Mother of The Missing): Yeah that’s what we think because they should search for this guy. Go to all his family that he knows, he must be around.
Reporter: You were telling me about a cement block that was there that was full of blood, from when was it there and when did the police come to pick it up and take it.
Verna Mendez (Mother of The Missing): The cement block was there from the Friday and the police just came to take it, but the rain has already washed most of the blood away right?
Reporter: And the villagers are talking about what they see and what they know.
Reporter: But that person has been questioned and released.
Verna Mendez (Mother of The Missing): Oh yes, just yesterday he was in Teakettle and they released him. I was not there but the villagers say it was his aunt that took him.
According to Officer in Charge of Belmopan Formation Supt. Howell Gillett, while the villagers were demanding more help in locating the body in the flooded river, police do not have divers and depend on the Coast Guard. The problem is that the Coast Guard does not permit their divers to dive in flooded waters due to strong current and poor visibility, which was the case. He told us more.
Howelle Gillette ( Officer Commanding Belmopan Police): Ever since the report was made we have been doing our very best, as you and the public know, the police department does not have professional divers. So we have to enlist the support of the Belize Coast Guard, and it is standard protocol that whenever there is flooded water the divers from the Belize Coast Guard are not permitted to dive for two basic reasons, and those reasons are that the water has strong current and there is poor visibility. We did not have the use of the Coast Guard until I believe it was Sunday of this week. What happened ever since the report has been made we’ve been doing searches on the land and yes, we’ve been on the river also but not diving because of the conditions of the water at this time, but since Sunday the water is better to dive and I believe yesterday and today we have the Belize Coast Guard with us. We have to try locate if indeed the person is dead and if the body is in the Belize River.
Today, a family member of Mendez told the media that a short pants, shirt, and slippers were found in the area. They believe it may be the property of the man they believed murdered their loved one. Police say, they are looking into it and investigating the case as a murder.
Howell Gillett, OC Belmopan Police: To say blood trail, it doesn’t amount to that to say a trail but yes we found what we believe to be blood and that will be tested to see if it belongs to the person who we deem to be responsible or the person missing. But that has not yet been done, so we can’t comment any further on that.