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Jun 1, 2004

Who killed Astrid Perera?

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There was no bloodstain on the street, no hysterical witnesses, no signs of violence on her body–in fact, there is no body…and thirty-seven year old Astrid Perera is not legally dead. But the Belize City businesswoman, who disappeared almost a year ago, is widely believed to have been murdered. The question is: by whom? News 5′s Jacqueline Woods has been investigating the disturbing case and tonight has an update.

Iris Williams, Sister

?We really need the help of whosoever can help us out there. We have gone to the F.B.I., and the F.B.I. said yes we can help but we need an official request from the authorities from Belize. And that is asking for a lot because with all the red tape and everything that is a waste of time. People have advised us to go to ministers, go to this go to that the Chief of Police.?

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

It’s been nearly a year that thirty-seven year old Astrid Perera, co-owner of the technology shop, U.S.Com and the mother of a seven year old daughter, disappeared without a trace. Today, the Perera family’s hopes of ever finding her alive have all but faded. Astrid, they believe, was the victim of murder.

Iris Williams

?No word from her, she hasn’t used any of her credit cards, there is no record that she left the country. Nobody saw her leave her office on Saturday, July nineteenth.?

?My sister always wanted a child and she had problems getting pregnant it took her a few years, three, four years before she managed to get pregnant. She wanted that child so bad and I noh think she would not have been able to have anymore children, so she use to kill herself working late at night and say everything will be for my daughter for her future, for this, for that and everything was that child.?

On July twentieth, 2003, Perera was scheduled to leave for Miami on a business trip and return at the end of the week, but she never showed up at the airport. The family contacted Belize Global Services, the travel agency where Perera booked her airline ticket and that is when they were told that there is no record she ever left the country.

Jacqueline Woods

?Iris Williams says her sister was last seen by a female employee on July nineteenth working at her business around one that Saturday afternoon. The police questioned the Perera family, company employees, and business partner Julio Cheng–who also happened to be her ex-husband. During this time Cheng produced a diary, allegedly belonging to Perera in which she allegedly wrote that Cheng should take everything, including the baby, because she would be leaving the country with someone else.?

The information certainly added credibility to the original conclusion that Perera ran off with her alleged lover and employee twenty-two year old Luis Valdez.

However, investigations reveal that Valdez was never scheduled to leave the country with Perera. Instead, he departed one day later on a business trip to Honduras. Valdez returned to the country on July twenty-fifth, but then he too mysteriously disappeared on his way home to San Ignacio.

Iris Williams

?I even understand that the day he came back from Honduras he called his family in Cayo and says, I am back, and I understand that his girlfriend had a dinner prepared for him and they were going to have a party when he arrived. And the following day his family called and said he did not arrive, where is he.?

News 5 has been unable to confirm reports that Valdez was last seen alive by Cheng, who reportedly offered him a ride to the bus station. The Perera family strongly denies the rumour of any love affair and alleges that Cheng knows exactly what happened to the couple.

At the time of the preliminary investigation, police told News 5 that Cheng was their only suspect, but due to lack of evidence they had no choice but to release him. Last August Cheng left the country with his daughter Iris Simone Cheng and both are presumed living somewhere in the United States. The Perera family claims the police botched the investigation and that is why her killer is still at large.

Iris Williams

?They said everything was circumstantial, but you did not look for anything. They didn?t go around searching, they did not go around digging or asking, they didn?t even question the neighbours. They only questioned the employees and the family and then two days later they come back and said your testimony has been lost or destroyed and you need to give the testimony again. It was poor, they just said it was one of those cases that the woman ran with another man and only time will tell if was not so.?

The Perera family says crucial developments in the case have caused them to become even more concerned about their niece?s safety. According to Williams, the police have confirmed that the handwriting in the diary that Cheng handed them is not their sister?s.

Iris Williams

?The police claim that they did consult an expert and that the writing is not hers. They compared her writing to the rest of the diary, and my sister was very good at English, grammatically and all that. And what was written was awful; a lot of mistakes with a lot of scratches with a lot of bad English and the police say they confirmed that that was not her writing.?

Williams says her former brother-in-law, who is suffering from a terminal illness, never expressed any concerns, but was only interested in selling the business and going to China. She alleges that Cheng has been making threatening calls to them.

Iris Williams

?Not for a moment he said let’s look for Astrid, what happen to Astrid. She just left, she ran away with somebody else and that’s it.?

?He threatened my family, he told me to stay away and just move on with my life. He threatened my family, he threatened my brother’s family and said if we don’t let go everything it?s going to be a really rough road for us. He is away and he said he can get away. He has four passports and he can get away, and there is no way we can find him, but he can find us.?

The Perera family says they will not stop in their sister and her killer as well as have her daughter returned safely to them. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

At the time of last year’s preliminary investigation, News 5 contacted Cheng at his business place and he said that he was not obsessed with his ex-wife and he does not know anything about what may have happened to Perera. Meanwhile, News 5 understands that Cheng has since sold the business. The police say they have not closed the cases of Astrid Perera and Luis Valdez and are appealing to anyone with information to contact them. News 5 repeatedly tried to get an interview with the police to comment on the case, but so far the authorities have not responded positively.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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