Girl, 12, hangs herself over school boots

by Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
September 13, 1999

A 12-year-old girl has committed suicide apparently because she did not like the new sneakers her mother bought for her to return to school.

Samantha Cunningham, the youngest of five children of a family residing at Old Road, La Grange, West Bank Demerara, reportedly hanged herself from a beam in the house Saturday. The suspected suicide followed an incident with her mother over the footwear the parent had bought for her to turn out to school today.

THE grieving family: From left, Philbert Cunningham, daughter Penelope, 14, wife Rose and daughter Annie, 25. (Picture by Robin Pieters)

"I don't know why my baby do this to me. Why? I give her everything she want," the distraught mother, Rose related yesterday.

The father, Philbert Cunningham, a driver at a Georgetown taxi service said he received a call from Samantha's sister on Saturday afternoon, summoning him to the West Demerara Hospital on the West Coast, where the young girl was first taken after the incident.

According to the mother, Samantha, who attends the West Demerara Secondary School, told her about a `brand name' sneakers she saw at a Regent Street store for $13,000 and said she wanted those shoes to go to school.

The woman said she knew a friend who is an acquaintance of the store's owner and he arranged for her to get two pairs of sneakers for $20,000. The other pair would have been her 14-year old daughter, who attends Brickdam Secondary.

But the mother tearfully said when she arrived in Georgetown on Saturday, the store was closed.

"I went to another store and buy an LA Gear (another sneakers) for $6,000," the mother said.

When she returned home, Samantha did not like the shoes.

The mother said she then decided to take it back to the store, thinking that she would return on Monday to the other business which had the sneakers her daughter liked, and purchase them.

Unfortunately, while she was still in Georgetown, her daughter hanged herself from a beam in the three-bedroomed house.

The woman said she got the message from her eldest daughter while she was still in the city and she rushed immediately to the hospital.

The girl was still alive when she was taken to the Georgetown Hospital where she died about three hours later.

The neighbour downstairs said Samantha was a "nice little girl who worked hard in the yard".

The equally distraught father said the mother used to "give Samantha everything she wanted".

"She was like a spoilt child (but) she was growing so nice," the man said, adding that Samantha was very bright in school.

He explained that he gave up his job as a miner in the interior a short time ago so that he "could watch his girl children grow up".

"I said I want to stay home and see my girl children go to school," the distressed man related.

The mother said sometimes she used to "hide" from the father so that she could buy the expensive things her daughter wanted.

"She was always my baby. I gon (am going to) grieve until I die," the mother said. She showed how she had bought the girl's school uniform, socks, and under garments. She had even gotten her daughter's school badge laminated in preparation for the opening of school.

The older sister, Penelope, said she was lying in her bed after her mother left to return to Georgetown and she heard the bathroom pipe dripping.

"I called out to Samantha for her to turn off the pipe, but I didn't hear no answer," she said.

Penelope said she came outside and kept calling, but still got no response. The girl said she then went back into her room, climbed on the bed to peep over the wall to see if her sister was hiding in there, when she saw her hanging from the beam.

The room was locked, and so Penelope appealed to the neighbour downstairs who came and jumped over the wall, untied Samantha, and immediately rushed her to hospital.

One friend of the mother said she knew the children since they were little, because they were all born at that house.

"She (Rose) used to bring them by me all the time," the woman said.

The room where the girl hanged herself is used as a storeroom, the male Cunningham said.

He said the rope his daughter used was there to tie bags when he had anything "to fetch".

The father complained that the family was not told until 21:00hrs that the girl had died, even though she is said to have passed away one hour before.

"I went to Dr Joseph in Meadowbrook about 8:30 (20:30 hrs) after they weren't telling us anything at the hospital, and after he telephoned, he tell me she dead already," the man said.

The neighbour who took Samantha to the hospital said he felt the doctor at the Best Hospital did his best but he did not have the necessary equipment to do more.

But the man felt at the Georgetown Hospital the family was treated "crudely" because they were told to stay outside and no hospital official was communicating anything to them.

Samantha's body is likely to be buried at the end of this week. She has two other siblings, a sister and brother, living abroad, and they are expected in Guyana for the funeral, the father said.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples