Marcia Henville, 51, a well-known journalist and host of the gritty television series, Point Blank, died early yesterday in a fire at her upscale Fidelis Heights home in Santa Margarita, St Augustine, almost opposite the Hugh Wooding Law School.
However, up until news time, it was unclear as to whether Henville’s death was murder or accidental.
Henville’s friend and cameraman on Point Blank, Sheldon De Shong, claimed her death was not an accident and was awaiting an opportunity to speak with the police.
“I know exactly what it is was going on with her,” he said, “And I am just waiting to get an opportunity to talk to the authorities to let them know who I believe is behind this based on a number of discussions that we would have had and some text messages and some voice notes.”
“At the end of the day, justice shall be served,” De Shong added.
Henville’s charred remains were found by authorities in a bedroom of the apartment, shortly after 6 am yesterday. A close male relative, who was reportedly with her at the time of the incident, is said to have sustained first degree burns to his hands and legs.
The man is currently warded under police guard at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mount Hope. The television host’s children, son Chioke and daughter Nekiyah, who were both at home, escaped unhurt.
There are also unconfirmed reports that the fire was deliberately set. Police are yet to ascertain the cause of the fire.
Reports are that loud arguments were heard coming from the third floor of Henville’s apartment, at about 5.30 am yesterday, after which there was an explosion.
This was corroborated by a resident from a nearby housing development.
“I heard a loud scream and bawling around half-past five (yesterday morning) and then about 15 minutes later, I heard an ambulance coming. But I could not say what had happened,” the resident said. When Sunday Newsday visited the scene at about 10 am yesterday, large concrete portions on the exterior of the burglar-proofed bedroom window of Henville’s apartment were blackened with soot, evidence of the tragedy which unfolded hour earlier.
Police investigators and fire officers from the Tunapuna Fire Station, who responded to the distress call, were also seen combing the area for clues to determine the cause of the fire. One fireman said the fire appeared to have originated from the bedroom. He said further investigations needed to be conducted.
A visibly distressed Chioke, a former student of Trinity College, Maraval, greeted relatives and friends.
Chioke, 20, had a brush with the law last January when he appeared in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court, charged with five offences, including firearm and ammunition possession, driving a vehicle without a licence and without insurance. The incidents were said to have taken place in Barataria.
Chioke, an avid football player, was granted bail at $10,000 with a surety to be approved by a clerk of the peace or a cash alternative of $10,000. The matter is pending.
Up until news time last evening, Chioke was said to have been giving a statement to investigators at the Arouca Police Station.
Henville’s daughter, Nekiyah, is a student of Bishop Anstey High School in Port-of-Spain.
Yesterday, a security officer at the main entrance to Fedelis Heights monitored the flow of persons to the apartment complex. An autopsy is expected to be performed on Henville’s remains tomorrow at the Forensic Science Centre in St James. Homicide detectives are continuing investigations.
An eccentric individual, known for her outlandish hairstyles, body piercings, outspokenness and deep compassion for the plight of the disadvantaged in the society, Henville fearlessly addressed social injustice in her popular series, Point Blank, which aired on CCN TV 6.
There, she developed a forum for bringing to fore issues relating to gang warfare, the impact of the illegal drug trade, police brutality and the trials many people encounter simply to survive in hotspot communities.
Henville’s shows, which bore a frank and in-your-face style, have taken her to some of the grittiest parts of east Port-of-Spain and Laventille. She also clashed occasionally with police who often resented her brazenness and determination in pursuit of truth and justice. Born in the United Kingdom to Trinidadian parents, Henville moved to Trinidad and Tobago in her early 20s. She later worked briefly as a reporter at Newsday and later, the Trinidad Express (1995-2000) doing everything from crime and court reporting to feature writing.
Her court pieces, outside of presenting the hard facts of the matters she covered, often depicted a human interest element. Henville subsequently rose to the rank of assistant news editor at the paper.
Fluent in French, Henville delved into the arena of producing and presenting at Radiovision and NBN before moving on to Gayelle the Channel, and most recently, CCNTV6 as the host of Point Blank, a social-issues television programme.
Yesterday, Dominic Kalipersad, Group Head of News at CCN Limited, said the company was devastated by the news of Henville’s gruesome death.
“CCN is devastated by this shocking turn of events. The TV6 family is saddened by the loss of one of its members,” he said in a brief telephone interview.
Kalipersad said Henville had what he regarded as a unique style of advocacy journalism.
“She sought to give voice to the voiceless and she will be sadly missed,” he added.
President of the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Curtis Williams, said Henville’s untimely death was a reflection of the challenges faced by many in the society.
Williams called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death.
“It is unfortunate the way she died and one hopes that the circumstances will be investigated and that the perpetrator/s will be brought to justice,” Williams said, adding that he had known her for more than 20 years in the media.
Social activist and former Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Verna St Rose-Greaves, also called for a thorough investigation.
“A thorough investigation must be done into what happened to Marcia and justice must be served and if we see it going any other way, we must insist,” she said while addressing a function yesterday to mark the 30th anniversary of the group, Working Women for Social Progress, in St Augustine.
She said Henville loved her children and worked hard so that her children’s lives could be “gentler” than hers.
Media personality and comedian, Errol Fabien, with whom Henville worked at Gayelle-The Channel, struggled to come to terms with her death.
Speaking in barely audible tones, he recalled that Henville had started her television career at Gayelle.
“We met while she was in radio and we befriended each-other,” he recalled. “When I invited her to become a part of Gayelle, she was reluctant at first, but Marcia could never back down from a challenge.”
Fabien remembered that Henville was initially a news presenter at Gayelle, working alongside Carla Foderingham. She later did two civic-oriented shows, Gayelle Ho-To-To and On Guard.
“With On Guard, I remember she got a house built for a family in Valencia,” he said, adding she later began an illustrious career at TV6.
“She was perhaps the first journalist to go into Laventille with a video camera to genuinely help people,” Fabien observed.
Radio talk show presenter and activist, Sherma Wilson, who worked alongside Henville for about three years on Power 102’s current affairs shows, The Bold and the Boldface and The Evening Drive was heartbroken. Her voice cracking, Wilson said Henville was involved in a volatile relationship, which she had often talked about.
“She had a very difficult marriage and she just used to keep a brave face doing her programmes. Behind her smile, she was hiding all of her tears, her pain and her worries,” she said.
Wilson said Henville, an only child, had touched many lives through her work.
“She had a big heart. She always wanted to know how somebody else was doing and she was not doing good, drowning her sorrows,” Wilson said, adding that she had lost a true friend.
So far-reaching was Henville’s influence on the country’s socio-political landscape, even the politicians weighed in on her passing.