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I’m not kidnaper – accused person

BY: Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu & Augustina Dzodzegbe

One of the two Nigerian nationals standing trial at the Sekondi High Court for the murder of four missing girls in Takoradi, Monday denied ever kidnapping and murdering two of the girls he described as his very good friends.

During cross-examination by his counsel, Mr George Essiful-Ansah, the accused told the court “I have never kidnapped before and I am not a kidnaper, when I heard of the kidnapping I was shocked myself,” the suspect, Samuel Udoetuk-Wills, told the court.

I know only two

Out of the four missing girls, he said, he knew only two – Priscilla Blessing Bentum and Priscilla Mantebea Koranchie, “but I don’t know Ruthlove Quayson and Ruth Abaka”.

The accused explained that he first met Ms Bentum at Effiekuma Methodist Church and they became friends in 2017, while he and Koranchie me in an area called Phastor Block Factory in 2018.

“I was a casual friend to both girls and I exchanged contacts with each of them.

“I got to know about their missing when my girlfriend called to inform me while I was far away in Koforidua.

“My girlfriend, Emily, informed me that the family of one of the girls in Takoradi had called her and that the girl who are my friends have been kidnaped and that I should come home,” the accused said.

The girlfriend

The accused continued that upon his arrival in Takoradi, his girlfriend asked the family of the said girl to call him.

“I arrived in Takoradi, I called my friend Paapa and Abacha to meet me in town. We returned to the house very late and I have to pass the night at Paapa’s house where I was arrested at about 5 a.m. while I was fast asleep together with my two friends,” he told the court.

At the police station, Udoetuk-Wills said he was asked if he knew the girls “I told the police ‘yes’ and that I knew only two”.

He said he got to know about the other two girls while in police custody.

Lawful custody

The accused person said after his first arrest, he did escape from lawful custody; saying, “I did not run home or sleep at home because I was scared. And I did not also run to Nigeria because I know I did not commit any crime or kidnaped my two friends and two others as alleged.”

The accused also said while in the custody of the National Investigation Bureau (NIB) he was greatly tortured to say things that were not true.

He said the NIB operatives did not believe him and that he was forced to say things under duress, including saying he knew the whereabouts of the girls just to be free.

Torture

The accused said due to the severity of the torture, he was forced to mention his childhood friend John Oji and some of his friends in Koforidua as his collaborators, which in actual fact was not true.

“The NIB officers made me call John in Nigeria. I was directed to ask John the whereabouts of the girls. Then I gave them John’s number and they called and put the phone to one loud speaker,” he said.

“I asked John the whereabouts of the girls and John was puzzled and asked me which girls and that he doesn't know what I am talking about and asked me to call later since he was busy at the market place,” he said.

Baby factory

On the issue of baby factory, Udoetuk-Wills said he knew about the term baby factory — but in the scheme of things the words “Baby Factory” was first introduced by the NIB and not him.

“The little I know about baby factories is that it is a place where women are kept for producing babies for sale but I don’t know why the NIB linked it to kidnapping,” he said.

On the discovery of the remains of the victims, Udoetuk-Wills told the court that he was not present when the cesspit was opened and the bones discovered and that he was taken to the scene near his house and they showed him the remains of the four girls.

“They showed me the bones and one of the policemen brought one of the skulls of the said remains and made me kiss it,” he said.

The calls

The state prosecution team, led by Chief State Attorney, Ms Patience Klinogo, suggested that the accused knew the other two girls contrary to what he wanted the court to believe.

She said the accused had on several occasions exchanged telephone calls with the girls and that, between October 29, 2018 and December 4, 2018, he had placed many calls to Priscilla Bentum.

She told the court that after establishing rapport with the girls, he promised his victims job, mobile phone and kidnapped some on her way to the meeting place.

The claims

The state prosecutor disputed the claim that the police took $3,400 and GH¢764 from the accused person’s room.

She said the claim was false and that after the accused was arrested and searched at the police station the police found GH¢764 concealed in his boxer shorts.

They said the amount the prosecutor told the court was part of the proceeds from the ransom he took from the families of the victims.

No case

The High Court earlier overruled a submission of no case by the counsel for one of the accused persons.

The counsel for Oji, the second accused, Mr Mark Bosia, in last sitting submitted that the prosecution was not able to provide enough evidence linking Oji to the case and that his client should be acquitted and discharged.

The court, presided over by Justice Richard Adjei-Frimpong of the Appeals Court with additional responsibility as an high court judge, overruled the application and ordered the accused persons, Oji and Udeotuk-Wills to open their defence.

Torture?

Before the trial, the counsel for Samuel Udeotuk Wills, Mr George Essiful-Ansah, drew the attention of the court to the bruises all over the body of his client who is dressed in only boxer shorts and tattered T-Shirt, indicating torture.

He prayed the court to adjourn the sitting since his client was not in the right frame of mind to stand in the dock or ready for the day’s proceedings.

When Justice Adjei-Frimpong enquired of what happened to the accused person, the Chief Inspector Dorcas Ansah, told that court that on their arrival at the prison premises to convey the two accused persons to court, Udeotuk-Wills refused and told the police he would not go to court.

She said the accused refused to cooperate with the police and struggled with them.

Justice Adjei-Frimpong said it was too early to adjourn and, therefore, suspended sitting for an hour to enable counsel to prepare his client for the process to continue.

Hearing continues on Tuesday, February 2, 2021.

Background

The accused persons in the case were both Nigerian nationals and friends. The first accused Udoetuk Wills who claimed to be a trader was resident in Kansaworado in Takoradi, while the second accused person, John Oji, also claims to be a salesman at a tobacco dealership form in Port Harcourt, Nigeria but often visits Udoetuk Wills in Kansaworado.

The first of the four to be kidnaped was identified as Ruth Abeka 18 and resident at Diabene with the grandparents and other siblings, followed by Priscilla Blessing Bentum, 21 and a student of University of Education, Winneba, and resides at Diabenekrom with the parents.

The third victim, Ruthlove Quayson, 18, was a student and also resides at Diabenekrom with her parents, and the fourth Priscilla Mantebea Koranchie, 15, who also resided at Fijai Hills with her parents.