Police warn of ‘risk’ to missing girl

  • Police hunt: Destiny Winters (Photograph supplied)

    Police hunt: Destiny Winters (Photograph supplied)

Police warned yesterday of a “potential imminent risk” to a 14-year-old girl missing from a care home for 11 days.

Destiny Winters was thought to be with an older man when she was spotted last Sunday as she travelled in and out of St George’s by bus.

Last night, Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, asked the public to help find the schoolgirl.

He said: “While I am addressing the community in my ministerial capacity, I am also a parent. I’m a father.

“To all of the parents, imagine if this was your child who has been missing for ten days.

“So I am making a personal plea to our community, to our mothers, fathers and grandparents — please help us to locate Destiny so that we can provide her with the safe and secure environment that she needs.”

Mr Caines added that the police had a team from the Vulnerable Persons Unit involved in the hunt for the missing girl.

He added: “They are keeping in contact with her family and they have been monitoring social media.

“While the BPS have stepped up their efforts to locate Destiny, we still need the public’s assistance.

“Bermuda is only 21 square miles and we know that on this island news and information travels incredibly fast. So we need the public’s eyes and ears to help us return Destiny to her place of residence.

“I think it’s also important to stress that this young girl is a minor. From a national security and public safety stand point, I want to remind the community that it is a criminal offence to harbour a minor.”

A police spokesman said: “The latest reported sighting of Destiny indicates that she travelled into and out of St George’s by bus on Sunday, January 19, and was apparently with an older male.

“The Bermuda Police Service is also aware of information that suggests that there is potential imminent risk to the 14-year-old CedarBridge Academy student based on the association with this male.”

Destiny left a government-run care home without permission on the evening of January 10.

It was the sixth time she has gone missing in less than two months.

She was seen with an unknown man in the Flatts Village area around noon four days later.

A police spokesman said that uniformed officers had made daily checks on all the areas Destiny was known to visit often.

He added: “Police are acting on any leads such as sightings of Destiny.”

The spokesman explained that officers went to the spot where the schoolgirl was seen in the St George’s area on Sunday after they received information about her whereabouts.

But, he said: “Unfortunately, the results were unsuccessful.”

The spokesman added: “If members of the public have any information that can assist in locating Destiny, or to identify who she is associating with, it will be most helpful.”

The Department of Child and Family Services declined to comment on the missing girl.

Sheelagh Cooper, a child welfare campaigner and former head of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said: “It’s clear that we need more therapeutic intervention for these children.

“It seems obvious that the existing facility is a place that is not therapeutic, or at least not effective as a therapeutic intervention, and is a place that these young people keep running away from.”

Ms Cooper, who said she knew Destiny and her family, added that the case was one where a litigation guardian, would be “very helpful”.

She added: “This is exactly the kind of situation that we’ve seen over and over where the child’s direct input was not part of the decision-making process.”

Martha Dismont, the executive director of Family Centre, said it was worrying that “as a community, we have yet to address the conditions that put people in the care of the Government”.

She added that Destiny was “not in the care of those who have been charged with caring for her, that’s what’s problematic”.

Ms Dismont said: “Why is that? Is it because we really don’t have enough support in place to take care of these young children when a problem arises in their family?”

A panel was set up last year by Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Minister of Legal Affairs, after the Court of Appeal ruled last June that the Government had shown a “flagrant disregard” for children through a failure to pay for them to have independent legal representation.

Ms Dismont said: “To this other point about litigation guardians — are we working together to resolve this as a community of providers, from Government to non-profits?

“It feels like we are all in our little silos or in defensive postures and, at the end of the day, children don’t need this.

“They need us working together to identify the care that they need.”

Destiny is brown complexioned, about 5ft 6in tall, weighs 130lbs and has short, curly hair dyed black. She was last seen wearing a black rain jacket, shorts and black Nike sneakers.

Police said Destiny was known to frequent locations in Pembroke including Fentons Drive, Parsons Road, St Augustine Hill, Middletown, One Way Deepdale and The Glebe Road.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts should contact police on 295-0011 or her care home on 292-3699.

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