There is need for a thorough investigation into the killings

The recent arrest of the alleged serial killer in Port Harcourt and the confessional statements attributed to him demand urgent attention. The media circus by the police is also unhelpful. What the situation demands is a thorough investigation and diligent prosecution.

Over a period of three months, from July to September, the arrested suspect, Mr Gracious David-West, 39, reportedly lured seven young ladies with high-risk lifestyle across Lagos, Imo and Rivers State to hotels. After sexually molesting his victims, he would then strangulate them. Like the infamous “Boston Strangler” (who strangled 13 single women in the United States between 1962 and 1964 in a similar manner), the Port Harcourt killer often left a vicious trade mark white clothes with which he tied up the victims’ legs, hands and throat. “I don’t know what is making me to kill people. Immediately the urge comes, I kill, and after killing, I regret and feel sober. But later, I will still go and kill again,” David-West reportedly said.

While the killings lasted, panic and anxiety gripped the nation, particularly among residents of Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Many outraged women groups took to the streets to protest the killings, particularly after the deputy commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Chuks Enwonwu, narrowed the crime to the lifestyle of the victims. Soibi Ibibo Jack, who led a group of women protesters, said the women were worried that police profiled all the victims, adding rightly: “Even if they were sex workers, their lives matter because they were human beings too.” They challenged the officer to be more scientific when reeling out information.

Now that an arrest has been made and the suspect is under investigation, there are questions as to the motive. What could be the cause of this horrifying act of violence against women and indeed, the society? What could motivate one to take the life of another human being? What could be done to contain the violence? A day before David-West was arrested, Rivers Police Commissioner, Mustapha Dandaura, told reporters that two suspects had been taken into custody for their roles in the deadly attacks. Are there some other serial killers at large? These are issues that need to be resolved and that explains why we consider the media drama rather unhelpful. The information they have released thus far are suggestive of the enormous danger out there.

While we await police reports on their interrogation of David-West, it is safe to conclude that a normal person would not engage in the crimes he allegedly committed. There is need for a medical evaluation of the suspect to ascertain his mental health. This is against the background that the country, according to experts, has a high burden of people with severe mental disorders — moderate to severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. And those afflicted–mostly unattended to–perhaps contribute to the violence being unleashed on society. Mental disorders such as schizophrenia–a disease with a wide range of symptoms like disordered thinking, hallucinations and inner voices, are prevalent. Drug abuse could also trigger some devastating thoughts and actions.

Sadly, Nigeria is already troubled on account of depression and suicide. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) the country is suicide-prone, ranked 30th out of 183 nations. Some of the theories often advanced implicate the enormous emotional and financial stress as well as pervading poverty in the land. There is no doubt that given the socio-economic situation in the country, many citizens are reaching their breaking point. While we urge a thorough investigation of what pushed the Port Harcourt suspect into killing innocent women, the authorities must act with dispatch to lessen the burden of violence on society.

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