ANANDA Dean's father says he has forgiven her killer, despite the brutal manner in which she was murdered and her body dumped in bushes in Belvedere, St Andrew five years ago.
"We forgive them, because it makes no sense to have them up in our hearts. That won't make the pain of losing her any easier," Richard Dean said after a teary address at the Good Tidings Mennonite Church on Whitehall Avenue, Kingston, yesterday.
The special service marking the fifth anniversary of the 11-year-old Swallowfield Primary and Junior High School student's abduction and murder was attended by Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, representatives from the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) and Ananda's family, friends, and neighbours on Whitehall Avenue.
Three weeks ago Dean welcomed another daughter, Peyton, into the world. He is still upset, however, that no one has yet been arrested and charged with Ananda's murder.
"No one has been arrested, no one has been charged. I feel bad about it because it has been a long time since it happened and still we don't have any real closure," said Dean, who earlier broke down in tears and had to be led from the altar when he attempted to read a tribute to his late daughter.
Minutes later he returned, still crying, but composed enough to speak about Ananda's Godly qualities.
"It has been five years and it still hasn't been any easier to deal with. She was a special child, a gift from God," said Dean. "Nobody can say Ananda was disobedient or that she had an attitude problem. She was just this bubbly little child.
"After 11 years of taking care of her she was just awesome. I hope my baby daughter will possess all or some of Ananda's qualities," he said.
Earlier, stepping in for Dean after he left the altar crying, Rochelle Cawley, Ananda's cousin, described her as someone who was always smiling, had an amazing impact on family, and loved cornmeal porridge and steamed cabbage.
Ananda's bicycle still hangs inside her parents' home, a testament to a life that ended too soon, she said.
"We would love to know what your teen life would have been like. We want to hug you but we can't. The thought of you makes us stronger even though we never spent enough time together," she said.
Tributes were also offered by Greg Smith, registrar from the OCR, who spoke of the smiling image of Ananda in her uniform, which warmed hearts across the nation during the police's search for her.
Meanwhile, Hanna, offering empathy as a mother, recalled her grief after Ananda's decomposing body was found in October 2008.
She reported that her ministry was successful in returning a large number of missing children back to their homes due to the bolstered Ananda Alert system introduced after Ananda's murder.
Hanna expressed concern about the large number of children who are made to walk on the streets to school, and urged parents to find safer ways to transport their children.
Minister of youth and culture Lisa Hanna (centre) smiles as she looks at young Peyton Dean, daughter of Richard Dean, who is also the father of slain Swallowfield Primary and Junior High School student, Ananda Dean at the Good Tidings Mennonite Church on Whitehall Avenue, Kingston, yesterday. Holding Peyton is her aunt, Antoinette Dean. (PHOTO: GARFIELD ROBINSON)