Nelly Stharre: Not Forgotten
Family members of Reggae singer Nelly Stharre Raffoul wait for closure
Talk to Emile Raffoul about his sister Nelly Stharre and even with the hardest of hearts you cannot help but shed a tear, even with the coldest ice running through your veins you cannot help but feel his pain, his family's pain.
"How do you think we feel?" he retorted when asked by The Sun to describe what the family was going through since the grim discovery of the yet to be confirmed remains of Stharre in the ashes of the house she called home deep in the interior of Mahaut last month. There was no aggression in his voice, no hostility in the response, just the reaction of a man whose hurt is deep, delivered in a tone that reflects raw and biting pain. Clearly, the family has been going through what no one else can really feel, internal turmoil that even Raffoul has struggled to find words to describe.
"It's not something a family is prepared for, to lose a family member. It's hard. Especially when you don't know what happened. We do not know what happened. And it is sad to swallow," Raffoul told The Sun, the agony so real it penetrated the phone lines.
If there was anger, it was impossible to tell. Raffoul was calm throughout the interview. And respectful. However, there was no doubt that he was troubled and frustrated. While all the evidence suggests that it was Stharre and her partner Trevy Felix who perished in the flames, the origin of which is yet unknown, the police are yet to confirm the identities of the two since everything was burnt beyond recognition.
"Right now it's frustrating. How do you deal with something like that? I know they [the police] took DNA samples from our family so that they can identify whether it's she or not . . . How can you imagine? The family is hurt. Of course the family is hurt. To wake up one day and to realise . . ." This thought remained incomplete. "I can understand if an accident happened or she was ill. Just to sit down and to visualize what could have happened," he continued.
The public relations officer of the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force Inspector Claude Weekes told The Sun the DNA samples must be sent abroad but up until press time he could not confirm if they had already been sent, or to where.
"We continue our investigations. We have not yet reached a conclusion but the investigation continues. The physical evidence has been collected but we have not identified the body. We do not have the capacity here in Dominica to do that (DNA testing) so most times we send either to the United States or somewhere else. I'm not sure if it has left yet," Weekes said.
The police spokesman said the force has had to concentrate its efforts on coping with the impact of Tropical Storm Erika but "that doesn't mean we have abandoned the investigation but we have been caught up with the storm."
Raffoul has recognized that the storm would have impacted on the investigation, but the waiting does little to soothe the grief and the sadness. The images of his sister's remains are as vivid and powerful as they are traumatic. And coping is a trying exercise even for a family as close and as strong.
"I was up there and all I saw was bones. Not even a flesh. It's not an easy thing to swallow," he stressed. "I myself am trying to visualize how I am going to deal with it for the rest of my life. It does something to you. But we're doing the best we can. We are a close family and we are doing our part. All we want, we want closure, we want to know what happened. I don't think it's fair for her, her legacy, her humanitarian efforts. She deserves [better] than that."
Talk with Emile Raffoul long enough and you will virtually see the pain in his heart, you come so close to feeling it. The pain is deep, the hurt is biting, the scars are raw. And, as he stressed to The Sun, the family needs closure. And while it won't bring back Nelly Stharre, they can begin to deal with the pain.