When Melissa Hui, 34, didn’t show up for work as usual on Wednesday morning and couldn’t be reached on her cell phone, her employers knew something was wrong.
Hui lives with her mother, Jane Harding, 62, in Salt Pond, Long Island, only a few hundred feet away from Long Island Petroleum, the gas station where she’s been working for years.
David Harding, a relative of the pair, said he received a worried phone call from Basil Fox, owner of the gas station, around 6:30 a.m.
Harding said he walked over to the women’s house, where he discovered that the door was unlocked and lights on, but nobody home.
Their car was still parked outside.
“Uncle Basil called me at like 6:30 on Tuesday morning and told me to check on Melissa and them,” Harding said.
“I was sleeping by Mummy, you see, and her house is only about 50 feet away from [Jane and Melissa’s] house.
“Uncle Basil told me to check on Melissa because she didn’t come to work.
“So, I called them several times and no one answered. So, I went to the window and I looked in the window and I didn’t see anyone. I knocked on the door, and I called them again. And then when no one answered, I saw a light was on the outside and it looked like lights were on inside the house too. I tried the door and it was unlocked. I went inside…and everything was open. The room door was open. I didn’t hear anyone. So I went into the room and looked and looked in the bathroom and no one was there.”
He added, “The car was right in the driveway where it normally is and everything seemed normal, but they weren’t there.”
Harding said he went to the gas station and, after speaking with Hui’s employers, decided to call the police.
“I said maybe we should call the police, because, you know, it’s very, very unusual. She doesn’t miss work, and two people are gone and nobody said nothing.”
News of the women’s disappearance sent shockwaves through the typically quiet Family Island.
Joyce Beede, 77, Jane Harding’s half-sister, said she can’t help but think the worst. She said Harding’s walking stick, which she needs to get around, was still in the house when it was discovered empty. So was an untouched cup of tea.
“I just miss them so much,” she said between sobs.
“Just when we think of what could be going on with them, it’s so unbelievable. They could be suffering. We don’t know. I’m sure that they are suffering because what else could it be?”
She added, “What in the world could have happened to these girls?
“Those girls, they stay away from everybody. They don’t have boyfriends or anything like that. They are two women that stick together, mother and daughter.
“She takes such good care of her mother and it’s just unbelievable that this could happen to a person, and it’s sad.”
Beede, who has been in the U.S. for a month before arriving back on Long Island on Tuesday afternoon, said she just wishes she had seen them.
“I don’t even know anything that I could say to help anybody out other than I didn’t get to see them and they’re gone,” she said tearfully.
“And we have no idea what is going on.”
Beede said the community response was overwhelming. She said everyone gathered together to help search the area.
“Everybody from Salt Pond had their story about where they went looking,” she said.
“‘We went here. We went there. And we checked this, and we checked that.’”
Harding’s sister, Loretta Perez, 64, who is a teacher at Sandilands Primary School, said she hasn’t been to work in two days after she got the news of the disappearance.
“It’s awful just waiting and waiting,” she said.
“…I told the principal I’m going to come in tomorrow, because staying in the house here waiting is just…
“At least if I just keep a little busy, it might make the time go a little faster.”
Perez said she just can’t understand what happened.
“We don’t know what we’re going to hear next,” she said.
“But I never would have expected this in a trillion years. First of all, Janey and Melissa, they’re both very humble and they don’t bother with anyone. So, to hear that they just disappeared into thin air, it’s very disconcerting.”
She said she feels certain that somebody took them.
“I feel like I am 110 percent positive [that someone took them],” Perez said.
She added, “Janey and them don’t go crabbing.
“…She has a knee problem and Melissa’s knees hurt her. They don’t go [walking] north side in the night. Janey can’t even walk far with her bad leg. Why would the car not be gone? The car is there. The car key is there. Even Melissa’s wallet and bank card is still there.
“I’m telling you, I am thinking deep, dark thoughts now.”
Royal Bahamas Police Force Superintendent Shanta Knowles said police on Long Island have been searching for the women since Wednesday.
“Police and the good residents of Salt Pond, Long Island, and of course the whole community of Long Island began to search for the women,” she said.
“Using boats, they’re searching the shoreline and of course, at one point they had a dog which was assisting them. So far, they have not turned up.”