Controversy as police arrest another ‘serial killer’ in Port Harcourt

Nigerian Police on patrol
Nigerian Police

The police in Port Harcourt have announced the arrest of yet another suspected serial killer linked with the recent killings targeting women in the city.

In an announcement late Thursday, the police described Gracious David West as “the notorious serial killer” behind a string of fatal assaults on young women in Port Harcourt and its suburbs.

The police have not provided specifics of the murders linked to Mr David West, especially on the motive, the victims identity, when and where she was killed.

Residents have been gripped by fears since the first body of a woman was reportedly found at a hotel three months ago.

Residents said at least 10 female bodies with a similar pattern of strangulation had been found in separate hotels around Port Harcourt within the period. The police said they were only aware of eight cases.

Police said Mr David West had allegedly admitted responsibility for smothering one of the women.

The police identified him as a member of Degbam, a cult gang dreaded across the state for its crude tactics, especially beheading of targets.

The police erroneously named the suspect’s local government of origin as Buguma, which is actually the headquarters of Asari-Toru Local Government Area and not an LGA in itself.

The police also circulated a video showing Mr David West owning up to an attack on a woman with whom he had checked into a hotel. The suspect’s face appeared to match the one seen in a viral footage from a hotel security camera on September 18.

Still, the short confessional video posted online by the Force Headquarters did not contain Mr David West’s admission to the remaining suspected serial murders.

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A day before Mr David West was arrested, Rivers police commissioner, Mustapha Dandaura, told reporters two suspects had been taken into custody for their roles in the deadly attacks.

Reporters were also told at the briefing that one of the suspects was arrested in Port Harcourt and had made ‘confessional statement’.

The suspect reportedly tried to smother a sex worker during dispute over payment, police said.

The commissioner’s announcement on September 18 appeared aimed at placating irate women who had besieged the Rivers police command office in Port Harcourt to condemn him for seemingly downplaying the attacks “because the targets were commercial sex workers”.

The women said the police should be more scientific with their handling of the murders rather than feeding the public with speculations.

They also demanded better security at hotels and other public facilities in order to curb the violence.

Mounting fear

Although the police had received commendations for making arrests, the confusion being created by the officers’ marking of every suspect as “the serial killer” could aggravate fears of apprehensive residents that the killer remained at large.

While Mr David West admitted stabbing his victim before strapping her with a pillowcase, the police said the suspect arrested on September 18 “tried to smother his victim”.

Still, neither narration matches the pattern of strangulation observed in most of the cases linked to the Port Harcourt serial killing.

Police spokespersons in Port Harcourt and at the Force Headquarters did not return requests seeking additional details about the murders and arrests late Thursday.

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