The search for 

It’s difficult to talk about Anna Evans.

The missing George Town landfill worker hasn’t been seen since noon on 27 January, when she was spotted by a relative at her work place. She left her handbag behind, but no traces of her or her cell phone have been found in the more than two months since.

Anna’s mother, two sisters, one brother, numerous other relatives and even more friends and colleagues have long since begun to expect she’s never coming home; but largely for the sake of her five children they don’t often say so.

Alden McLaughlin, the George Town MLA who is a close friend of the family, perhaps puts it best: “I think even those who had the greatest hope; that hope has faded. We have to come to the realisation that we don’t know what happened to Anna, but we know something bad happened to Anna.”

Yet the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service cannot find any clear evidence of that; at least not so far.

Police know Anna’s husband was assaulted just a few hours after her family members learned she did not show up at the end of her work shift at the landfill on 27 January. The assault, according to Chief Inspector Richard Barrow, happened because the individuals involved believed the man had something to do with her disappearance. He was hospitalised after the attack and has been questioned by police. He cannot even be named, according to the Observer on Sunday policy, because he has not been charged, arrested or even formally accused of anything.

All Anna’s family has to go on is their belief that one or more of the several landfill workers present on 27 January must have seen something of what happened to her.

“I don’t understand why somebody does not come forward,” says Noreen Dixon, Anna’s sister. “They just don’t want to talk.”

Noreen is taking care of Anna’s five children, Christopher, Celina, Chelsea, Cody and Cruz, at her home in West Bay. Her mother is staying there as well to help out. Doreen’s own son lives there as well. The children are going to school, wondering often where mom is; trying to cope. They sent her cards on Valentine’s Day. They note her 38th birthday is coming up Monday.

“The kids are breaking down every once in a while,” Noreen says. “They’ll think back to when they last saw their mother…and cry off and on. A frowning expression is always on their faces.”

Difficult, for everyone involved.

Reward problem

Another difficult thing for Anna’s family to deal with has been the lack of a public reward offering by authorities or Cayman Crime Stoppers.

Crime Stoppers Chairman Eric Bush says this isn’t out of apathy or malice. The organisation just doesn’t offer rewards in cases where no crime has been alleged, according to its bylaws.

“There have been questions from the press about why Anna isn’t getting a $150,000 reward [offered] like Estella Scott-Roberts did,” says Crime Stoppers board member Stuart Bostock, referring to the 2008 rape and murder of Scott-Roberts, a well-known community activist and corporate communications manager for what was then Cable & Wireless. “We need to answer those questions.”

At a Crime Stoppers meeting with the press last month, local radio host Gilbert McLean put words to what has long been speculated since Anna disappeared.

“I don’t believe there’s anybody in their clear minds who believes that that woman has not been murdered,” McLean says. “At what point will it be taken as something that’s criminal?”

“Crime Stoppers international does not recognise missing persons as a reward scenario,” Bostock says. “The police give us the direction on a particular incident and the board decides how much a reward is going to be offered.”

So, in the past few weeks Anna’s family and at least one local company have taken matters into their own hands and independently offered their own incentives for information that could help find Anna.

But that, in itself, has led to some more disappointment.

Family members and friends of the missing landfill worker managed to raise just more than $2,000 at a March weekend gathering held on Public Beach. They have since managed to raise $5,000 from other sources.

But several who attended the gathering noted the turnout was a bit light; made up mostly of family and friends wearing purple T-shirts with pictures of Anna on them and yellow-clad children from Prospect Primary. Anna’s two youngest sons, Cody and Cruz attend there.

“I just want to say thanks to the public who did come out,” says Gina Ebanks-Delcid, Anna’s sister. “But we were a bit disappointed that more didn’t show up.”

Civil Service Association President James Watler told the crowd that it is important for anyone who has any information to speak to the police, if they have not already done so. Otherwise, Watler said, they have no right to complain about the investigators’ work on the case.

“Here is a daughter of the soil, who toiled for you and I day and night,” Watler says, referring to Mrs. Evans.

“I know the police tend to get a bad rap…most of the time. But the….Royal Cayman Islands Police does solve crime, it may not be all the crimes, but neither does the United States police solve all the crimes.

“One of the reasons why they cannot solve the crimes is because of people like you and I. We may have information but we keep it back.”

In the weeks following the event, dms Corporation independently put up a $50,000 reward for information leading to Anna’s whereabouts.

Dms Organization chief Don Seymour said that money would be offered as a reward for either helping find Anna or for information that leads to an arrest in connection with her disappearance, if it does turn out to be a criminal case.

“We have watched the family struggle for many weeks and appeal to the community at large, and we want to do what we can to help and assure them that they are valued and we what to help them during this difficult time,” Seymour says. “We hope for a good outcome; but in the event that a crime has been committed, then we want justice for the family.”

Search problems

A full volunteer and police search of the George Town landfill started just hours after it was confirmed that Anna had gone missing on 27 January.

Volunteers searched throughout the night on that Thursday and into the early morning hours of Friday. Teams went out again all day Friday and again on Saturday, scouring through massive mounds of trash looking for clues.

“Whether she is dead or if she’s alive, we just want to know,” said Margaret Carmola, Anna’s aunt. “We’re not going to leave her.”

But what might have been a key piece of evidence – some CCTV cameras at the landfill near to where Anna was working – weren’t all in operation.

In fact, a third of the security cameras – three of nine – at the George Town landfill were not working when Anna disappeared, according to Director of Environmental Health Roydell Carter.

Carter said the footage from the six other cameras had been handed over to police, who had reviewed the images.

He said the three cameras that were not working had been awaiting the importation of parts, adding that his department had installed the surveillance equipment in July last year to help with “management and security issues”.

Carter also urged the public to refrain from circulating “malicious and untrue rumours that pointed fingers at Anna’s colleagues”.

“These rumours are causing deep distress among the staff; all of Anna’s colleagues are heartbroken over her disappearance,” he said at the time.

K-9 search teams were brought in from Florida the next week to sift through the landfill site again. Nothing was found. Eventually, the search operation closed off and landfill operations resumed. Anna had still not turned up.

Civil service-led volunteer searches were done in ensuing weekends near Anna’s George Town home, but again nothing was turned up.

The children still hope their mom will turn up one day, but it’s tougher as time goes on, Noreen says.

“They want to know what’s happened. We have to get closure somewhere.”

It’s difficult to talk about Anna Evans.