Thursday, 05 July 2012 23:02(Column) – Last week saw the conclusion of the murder trial of three Nigerians who were charged with the murder of Ian Stokes, a Briton resident in the Gambia whose lifeless body was found abandoned in the front seat of his car.
Born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, Stokes, who was one of the pioneers of microlighting in the UK, retired to the Gambia in 2002 to set up a microlight school. However, his precious life was brutally and prematurely cut short by Michael Ifunaya Churwbiken and Stanley Agbazee Ugochukwu.
During the trial, the court heard that Michael Ifunaya Churwbiken saw a lot of cash in Stokes’s safe and later hatched a plan to rob him. Together with Stanley Agbazee Ugochukwu, they proposed a gold business deal to Stokes.
While in his car, Stanley who was sitting at back seat held Ian’s neck from behind and pinned him tightly against the driver’s seat, while Michael who was sitting at the front seat repeatedly stabbed him victim until he went cold.
The men later tried to set the car on fire at a remote place but abandoned their plan after the vehicle got stuck in sand.
Both Michael Ifunaya Churwbiken and Stanley Agbazee Ugochukwu were sentenced to death by hanging by Justice Emmanuel Nkea of the Special Criminal Court.
A third accused, Collins Chijioke, who was asked by Michael Ifunaya Churwbiken to get fuel which they wanted to use to set the car containing Ian's body was acquitted and discharged for lack of sufficient evidence.
I am against capital punishment, but would like to commend the Inspector General of the Gambian police and his team of detectives for a job well done.
Although Michael Ifunaya Churwbiken and Stanley Agbazee Ugochukwu committed the crime in the cover of darkness without living any clues behind or being seen by any eyewitness, detectives were able to arrest them within 72 hours while they were trying to flee the country into neighbouring Senegal.
This is not the first time our police officers have arrested and successfully prosecuted murder suspects, who at the time of committing their acts were not seen by any witnesses or left clues at the crime scene.
Looking at the way the case was handled, the Gambian police have demonstrated that despite the lack of resources and challenging conditions they are faced with, they can still perform a good job when they put their hearts into it.
And looking at the way the Ian Stokes murder investigations was handled; the Gambian police should reopen the murder investigation of journalist Deyda Hydara, who was shot dead while driving home from work by unidentified men.
Since his killing in December 2004 and despite investigations by both the police and the National Intelligence Agency, no one has ever been arrested or charged with his murder.
Police are still in possession of the evidence they collected at the murder scene and the two women (Ida Jagne Joof and Nyansarang Jobe) who were with Deyda in his Mercedes Benz 190 when he was shot and other witnesses are still alive and ever willing to help the authorities.
Investigations into Deyda’s murder should not be abandoned or ignored by the Gambia police simply because his killers were not caught red-handed or with a smoking gun in their hand. The police and the Gambia Government should not be selective with murder investigations.
Deyda was a Gambian, a decent gentleman and a professional journalist who have always tempered his opinions with a noticeable degree of restraint and respect for whoever was the object of his critiques.
By continuing to turn a blind eye on the case, the professional integrity of the Gambian police will always be questioned and the Gambian authorities will always be accused of having a hand in his death and are simply trying to it cover up.
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