By Amby Uneze in Owerri
The unexpected happened, Friday morning at the Owerri high court premises as gunmen stormed the complex in a commando style, sent people scampering for safety with sounds of sophisticated weapons and rescued a notorious kidnapping kingpin, Henry Chibueze, (alias Vampire) and two others.
In the ensuing melee, about five prison officials who led the suspects to the court received gun shots wounds and were rushed to the hospital.
The suspect who was arrested by the Department of Security Services (DSS) in 2015 after about five years of unsuccessful manhunt has been remanded in prison custody since the case was charged to court.
According to an eye witness, the gunmen laid siege on the court premises waiting for the arrival of their target and as soon as the vehicle arrived, the suspects alighted and were about to be led to the court room by some prison officials, they struck, shooting sporadically in the court.
“The gunmen came into the court premises posing like DSS operatives that came to give evidence in the trial of Vampire until the prison officials arrived with the suspects and they opened fire on the unsuspecting security men. It took us by surprise and funny enough, they escaped in a Pathfinder jeep.
“How they could have beaten all the checkpoints on either Orlu, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Umuahia and other roads to escape is not only a surprise but scandalous. We have to mount another manhunt for him. We suspect he would want to run outside the country”, a security source said.
Information alleged that even the suspect, Vampire seized the opportunity to snatch a gun from one of the prison officials, added to the one the gunmen gave him and released volley of shots.
THISDAY also gathered that the gunmen must have made their way into the court premises through one of the exit gates along Orlu road and carefully avoided the major entrance to the court where a military armoured tank manned by military men was stationed.
The court premises is located at the middle of the city having Imo State Government House in front, the State Police Command, the State Prison Command, the former office of the DSS and the residence of the Brigade Commander of 34 Brigade, Obinze around it.
When contacted, the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Taiwo Lakanu said that even though it was not the police that was prosecuting the case; he personally led other officers on rescue operation to the scene of the incident when the shooting was on before the gunmen took to their heels.
Every effort made to contact the State Controller of Prisons or the Prisons Public Relations Officer proved abortive as th Vampire (28) who had confessed to being involved in several kidnappings in various parts of the country, said that he operated from Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire, and other west African countries.
Fielding questions from reporters, Okorocha who personally interrogated ‘Vampire’ when he was apprehended disclosed that he had collected N110 million from one of his victims in Rivers State and thereafter killed him.
Shedding more light on his nefarious activities, Vampire who always look unruffled even while in prison custody also admitted to have abducted an official of the Imo State Environmental Transformation Commission, ENTRACO (name withheld) equally collected N50 million, even as he similarly murdered the victim.
Furthermore, the seemingly unrepentant Vampire said that he murdered his girlfriend for allegedly stealing the sum of N45 million belonging to him.