May: Help us find Chavelle – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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May: Help us find Chavelle

Missing person: Chavelle Dillon-Burgess (Photograph supplied)

The disappearance of 26-year-old Chavelle Dillon-Burgess dominated headlines in May after police appealed to the public for help at the start of the month.

Friends, family and concerned members of the public scoured the island for the mother of an 18-month-old baby and partner of lawyer Kamal Worrell.

Ms Dillon-Burgess, not seen since April 11, was reported missing by Rose Belboda, her mother. Eight months later, she still has not been found.

She worked at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel and was newly recruited as a Royal Bermuda Regiment soldier.

The alarm was raised by her mother on April 30, about two weeks before her 27th birthday.

Mr Worrell first appeared in court on charges of assaulting her in November 2018. The accusation was withdrawn three months later, but further charges were laid — all of which Mr Worrell denied.

Ms Dillon-Burgess withdrew her complaints a second time in February of this year.

Her allegations centred on a home in Hillview, Warwick, which she shared with Mr Worrell.

In the wake of her disappearance, police combed the property, and a wider search included the use of drones and CCTV.

Ms Dillon-Burgess vanished while the island was under lockdown because of Covid-19. May also marked the island’s seventh, eighth and ninth deaths from the disease.

Phase 1 restrictions were eased on May 2, which aided the search efforts.

Ms Belboda, who joined the search parties, told the community: “She’s my one and only, and I really want to find her.”

The missing woman’s friend, Antonio Belvedere, was also at the fore, organising search parties, which were joined by regiment soldiers.

Mr Belvedere, who was “exhausted, physically, mentally”, said: “It’s definitely not about me; it’s about us as a community.”

Also that month, 60-year-old Henry Santucci was stabbed to death on the streets of Hamilton.

As the month wore on, the tenor of the investigation changed, and police announced on May 23 that they believed Ms Dillon-Burgess has “come to the gravest of harm”.

It became a case of suspected murder. Her partner was arrested and bailed days later.

Police commissioner Stephen Corbishley made a point of calling on others in the community whom he believed knew what had befallen her.

Mr Corbishley said that it was not necessary to have found a body to start a murder investigation.

Later in the summer, police acquired a cadaver sniffing dog from overseas, and a submersible device fitted with a camera was used to probe Warwick Pond.

The search prompted a national conversation on domestic violence.

That month, police statistics for the lockdown in April showed a surge in domestic abuse, with 81 cases reported after 35 incidents in March.

A reward of $3,000 offered for information leading to Ms Dillon-Burgess’s discovery was later increased to $50,000.

Participants at an unprecedented demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter movement donated to the reward — and “Chavelle” was among the names chanted as thousands marched through the streets of Hamilton in June.