SATURDAY SPECIAL REPORT
Since July, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has been awash with news of the mysterious murder of young women, especially in hotels. However, the police yesterday paraded a young man, Gracious David-West who confessed to having killed seven young women, reports Ernest Chinwo from Port Harcourt
- I’ve killed seven girls
The nightmare of fun-seeking young women in Port Harcourt may soon be over as the police have paraded a 39-year old man, Gracious David-West, from Buguma in Asari Toru Local Government of Rivers State as the alleged serial killer of girls in the state.
Since July when the first case of the gruesome murder of a young girl in a hotel along Peremabiri Street, D-Line, Port Harcourt was reported, not less than 10 women have been found dead in the city, mostly in hotels.
Worried by the development, female youths, last week, marched through the streets of Port Harcourt to the state police command in protest against the serial killings of women in hotels, ostensibly for rituals.
They demanded that the police take stronger measures to protect women in the state.
Also, a worried state Governor, Nyesom Wike, while addressing the state security meeting, mandated security agencies to work with hotels and their management to implement measures that would end the ugly trend in the state. He promised that in no distant time the culprits would be apprehended.
The efforts of the security agencies appear to have yielded fruits, as the police command arrested the suspect, Gracious David-West last Thursday on his way to Akwa Ibom State.
Parading the suspect before journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday, the state Commissioner of Police, Mustapha Dandaura said they had a breakthrough following the enforcement of directives to hotels in the state to install Close Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras.
The police commissioner said, “One of the hotels in Port Harcourt who complied with our directive to install CCTV cameras in the reception and hotel corridors was monitoring the camera and saw the picture of the suspect, Gracious David West and uploaded the video on-line and it went viral on social media.
“The hotel later reported to the police about the development and released to us the telephone number he dropped with the hotel. We began to track him on his phone, and with God on our side, he was arrested along Bori, Ogoni axis of East-west road while on his way to Akwa Ibom, yesterday (Thursday) afternoon.”
On how the suspect was arrested, Dandaura said, “The command’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) team was on their usual stop and search duties when they intercepted a commercial bus heading towards Uyo, Akwa Ibom state. When they offloaded the passengers of the vehicle for one on one search, with the help of the viral photo, they saw the suspect in the same attire (strip T-shirt and blue trousers), on the video, which he is also putting on now.
“The SARS team called my attention to it on phone and I asked that he should be brought straight to my office. They brought him in handcuffs. The moment he stepped into my office, I called him by his name, David-West, he answered, and I said to him, welcome to my office. He then said to me, please sir, I am ready to tell you the truth; I don’t want any problem.
“It was at that point that I directed that they unlock his handcuffs so he could relax and be free to talk and give me all the necessary information that I need.”
He explained that the suspect then confessed to most of the killings in the state and even beyond.
His words: “During the interrogations, he confessed that majority of the killings done in hotels were done by him.
“To be sure of what he said, we asked him to name the hotels where he had killed. He brought out the list which marched with the hotels where the killings took place in the state. “Then we demanded to know the reason, motives for the killings and why young and unmarried women. He said he does not know, that the urge comes to him just like that, and that when it comes, he will make arrangement with a Lady, go and book a room in any hotel of his choice and take the woman to the room, kill her and leave the place.
“He also said that he was a member of Deygbam cult confraternity, but has left the group.”
Speaking further, the CP narrated the efforts the suspect said he had taken in seeking solution to the problem;
“He said that he went to some churches last year to seek solution and rehabilitation, but as that was yet going on, he suddenly left and went to another church still in Port Harcourt; he had wanted to stay within the church but there was no space for him to stay in there, so he left and continued with his killing spree.
“Asked how many women he has killed in the state, he said that he killed five women, but that he had earlier killed one person in a hotel in Ikeja, Lagos state and one in a hotel in Owerri, Imo state.”
On the white cloth that is usually noticed around the neck of the victims, the police boss said they were hotel pillow cases which the suspect sliced and used parts of it to tie the victim’s hands backwards and other parts before leaving the room.
According to the police commissioner, on why the suspect hides some of the victims inside wardrobes as was the case when the police went to recover one of the victims, David-West said, “He wears just the same cloths everywhere he went, and that he does not go with any extra cloth, so when he moved into that hotel that day, he removed the cloth for dry cleaning and gets it back in the morning, meaning that by then he had already carried out the killing and would not want the room service officer to see the dead body on the bed when he comes to return the cloth to him, so he had to conceal the body inside the wardrobe.”
He noted that the other suspects earlier arrested in connection with the killings were still being investigated and would also be paraded if found culpable.
Danduara assured the public that the suspect voluntarily confessed to the crimes, and that all the styles of killing he disclosed to the police marched what officials of the hotels where the killings were recorded also told the Police. “There is no contradiction between his confession and the report from the hotels where the killings took place, there is nothing like kangaroo investigations in this case.
“David-West is a confirmed serial killer which he has confessed to without any hassle, torture or intimidation,” Dandaura said.
While speaking to journalists, David-West confirmed that he had actually killed five ladies in hotels in Port Harcourt and one each in Ikeja, Lagos and Owerri, Imo.
On his killings, David-West said, “I don’t know what is making me to kill. Immediately the urge comes on me, I kill and after killing, I will start regretting. I even went to Lord Chosen Church, and told the pastor that I have been killing girls in hotels and the pastor said that they have a crusade programme and invited me to see the senior pastor but I waited and couldn’t see him so I left the church and went back and lodged in a hotel. Seriously, I don’t know what makes me to kill, whenever it comes on me that is when I kill, later I regret and feel sober but after, I will still go and kill again.”
On his modus operandi, the suspect said: “When we (him and the girl) go into the hotel, after eating and making love, we sleep. When she is sleeping, I will put the kitchen knife on her neck and ask her not to shout. I told her if she shout I will kill her with the knife, so the girl out of fear will not shout and I will tell her that I will not kill her but she should just cooperate and see what I will do to her; that I will just tie her and keep, and she will cooperate by relaxing. Then I will tear the pillow case and tie her hands and legs, and as I strangle her, she will not have any power to struggle with me.
“While this will be going on, some of them will tell me, what do I want it, that they have money in their accounts, I will ask her how much, they will check it before me, when I confirm, I collect the pin number and after the day breaks, when I must have killed them, I will go to ATM and collect the money in the account.
“I will use the money and get other girls. I have killed five girls in Port Harcourt, one in owerri and one in Lagos. I started the killing in Lagos, that was where I got money because the first girl had N52,000 in her account. After that I went to Port Harcourt, then Owerri, and returned to Port Harcourt. I met the last girl at a club.
“After that I will collect their phones, and sell at waterline, another at MTN office.”
On how he carried out the act, “according to him, he does not have or carry gun, but uses a sharp knife, so when his victim is asleep, he will try strangulating her, if she wakes up, he will use the knife to threaten her not to scream otherwise he would stab her, and he will increase the volume of the television in the room so much that even if she manages to scream, nobody will hear her voice.
“At that point, he will demand for her ATM pin if she had the card with her, while he continued with the killing by strangulation, until she dies.
After the victim had given up the ghost, he will then strip her of all the vital items in her handbag, her phone, cash, ATM card, among others, before he will leave the room and the hotel.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Security Council has commended the Nigeria Police for arresting the prime suspect of the ritual killings targeted at young women in parts of the state.
Addressing journalists yesterday at the Government House after an emergency meeting of the Security Council presided by Governor Wike, Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo, said the council was impressed by the successes recorded by the police in the last few days, especially the arrest of three suspects.