Rose Kimberly, the seven-year-old elementary student who was raped and killed two weeks ago in Kavieng was finally laid to rest yesterday.
Her funeral witnessed by her school mates and family brought many to tears as they remembered the girl who brought a lot of joy to her adopted parents during her very short life.
Named after her grandmother, Rose Kimberly was born in 2010. She was four months old when 51-year-old Steven Gilnig and his wife, Tivi began taking care of her as babysitters. Tivi is an aunt to Rose Kimberly’s biological mother.
“Sometimes her mum wouldn’t come for days,” he said. “We would take Rose to our neighbour to be breastfed.”
During her first year, the couple decided to take in Rose as their own.
“She became my daughter. We got her baby bottles and we used to feed her.”
Like many similar cases in Papua New Guinea, Rose Kimberly’s biological mother resumed regular contact with her daughter when she got older.
“My wife would get angry about it. But I said, we should let her go and let her judge what kind of parents we have been to her.
“Sometimes, she would not be brought back on time and we had to go and bring her back.”
On one of her visits two weekends ago, Rose Kimberly didn’t go back home. At around 5pm, her biological mother called asking if Steven and his wife had already collected their daughter.
After more than 12 hours of searching, news came that she was dead.
“I was on my way to where they had taken her and when I found my wife, she was crying. She said Rose was gone.”
Steven arrived late and was not allowed to see his daughter’s body after police collected her. He was only told what eyewitnesses saw when they found Rose Kimberly’s body.
“They told me she was raped and killed. There was no blood. But they must have strangled her. They broke her front teeth and cut her genitals.”
“She was a baby. How could they do this?”
Steven said Rose Kimberly was a responsible girl who helped her mother a lot. She sang hymns and had big dreams to become a doctor.
“I knew she was going somewhere. We put her to school. This was her first year.”
Three suspects have been arrested, and are now in custody.
As the family grieves, the rape and murder have brought to light the widespread cases of child abuse and sexual offenses in Kavieng.
Steven Gilnig has sent out a call to the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill for the judiciary to enforce the death penalty for child rapists and murderers, as well as longer jail terms for drug offenses.
“I am making this call to the Prime Minister who is head of this government. I will be satisfied if the killers are given the death penalty.
“We must make them afraid of committing crimes like this.”