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SSS, Agbeyegbe's family disagree over autopsy

Posted by By Tunji Oketunbi, Wole Shadare, Yemi Adepetun, Alex Olise and Sunday Odita on 2004/10/14 | Views: 1613 |

SSS, Agbeyegbe's family disagree over autopsy

CONTROVERSY trailing the death of the foremost aviation safety activist, Capt. Jerry Agbeyegbe, continued yesterday as the State Security Service (SSS) and the family disagreed on how to handle his body and the autopsy.

CONTROVERSY trailing the death of the foremost aviation safety activist, Capt. Jerry Agbeyegbe, continued yesterday as the State Security Service (SSS) and the family disagreed on how to handle his body and the autopsy.

The autopsy was done yesterday and the report is expected by Friday, said a source at the hospital.

Some officials of the SSS had stormed the Eko Hospital in Ikeja where the body was being kept ostensibly for a post-mortem result.

However, some family members, including two of the late pilot's children, resisted the request and demanded to speak with the wife, Mary, who in turn referred the matter to their uncle, Mr. Fred Agbeyegbe, a lawyer.

The family rejected the request, vowing that 'all of us would have to be killed before they could take his body away'.

The late Agbeyegbe had been a guest of the SSS before. He was to organise a conference to review the tenure of a former aviation minister which the security agency insisted must not hold.

Some of the guards who manned the gates of the hospital told journalists that there were some unusual movements of people at the premises, stressing that it was not impossible that the security operatives came there.

A top official of the hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity said she was not aware of the presence of security personnel.

She, however, did not rule out the possibility that they came for the removal of the body as alleged.

She explained that the hospital, as a private one, could only release the body as professionally demanded to the persons who brought it.

But a member of Agbeyegbe's family told The Guardian at the deceased's 1004 residence in Victoria Island, Lagos, that there was a threat to take away the body, but expressed confidence that the hospital would not release it to unknown people.

Fred Agbeyegbe had told journalists who besieged his Ikoyi residence in the morning that the family would only make a statement after the release of the report. "It would be unwise to make a statement until the autopsy report was out", he said.

Among the callers at the late Agbeyegbe's residence were friends, professional colleagues and relations. Virgin Atlantic officials, including Country Manager, Peter Barry and Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, also called to pay their condolences. Barry, who described the pilot's death as a shock, commiserated with Mary and encouraged her to take heart.

At Agbeyegbe senior's residence were friends and colleagues, including former National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain Chief Ayo Opadokun.

The Guardian learnt that several bullets were yesterday extracted from the remains of the late aviation safety activist.

As at press time, The Guardian learnt that the doctors who carried out the autopsy had already extracted nine pellets with 29 bullet holes.

A source also disclosed that his right lung was badly punctured with thick blood clot.

His wife, Mary, declined to grant interview to journalists, saying she was not competent to say anything yet.

She, however, directed journalists to Fred Agbeyegbe, who is the family head.

Mary said that the police handed over N9,000 in N500 denomination to her which was said to be money recovered from his car, with blood stains.

She disclosed that the late Agbeyegbe's BMW car in which he died was already vandalised, stressing that his car was like a moving house, and that she was surprised that few things were handed over to her.

Fred said members of the family stood for the truth, no matter the consequence.

The lawyer, who was in tears throughout the visit, said the family would address a press briefing after the autopsy result.

However, a statement signed by the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr. Israel Ajao and made available to The Guardian, gave police account of how the late Agbeyegbe died in an auto crash.

The statement made reference to "the hole found on the right side of the windscreen" but was silent on the perforations on the late pilot's shoulders and chest.

The statement declared "that a girl, Juliet Okonkwo, was in the vehicle during the whole episode, from take-off point at Victoria Island through Third Mainland Bridge to Alapere where the Captain Agbeyegbe Jerry died..."

Full text of the statement read: "Yesterday, being October 12, 2004, at about 0305 hrs, a loud bang was heard at the Oworonshoki/Alapere Expressway, Lagos. The Police were attracted to the scene where they met a lone fatal motor accident involving Captain Jerry Agbeyegbe as his BMW saloon car, silver colour, with reg. No. DB 244 EKY crashed into a curvet along the road. Found in the car was a young lady, Miss Juliet Okonkwo, in her late twenties. She was unhurt inside the vehicle.

"On interrogation, Miss Juliet Okonkwo volunteered information to the effect that Captain Jerry picked her up at about 0230 hrs, at Sanusi Fafunwa Street, Victoria Island and headed straight to Alapere-Ketu through the Third Mainland Bridge. She claimed that she slept off during the journey until she was woken up by the loud bang caused by the accident. The call girl has made useful statement to the police. She is now in police custody while the body of the airline pilot had been deposited in the morgue for autopsy.

"The Commissioner of Police, Israel Ajao 'CP', with two Deputy Commissioners of Police, Operations and Investigation respectively, the Area Commander 'H', Ogudu and other Senior Police Officers visited the scene of accident involving the Airline Captain, interviewed the call girl who was with him in the car and also inspected the car thoroughly, especially the hole found on the right side of the windscreen. In view of this, the State Criminal Investigation Department S/CID, Panti, Yaba has taken over the case for a discreet investigation of the incident with a view to examining the relationship between the hole on the windscreen, the accident story and the death of the captain. It is pertinent to point out that what was reported to the Police was a case of accident.

"It is also important to highlight that Juliet Okonkwo was in the vehicle during the whole episode that is, from take off point at Victoria Island through Third Mainland Bridge to Alapere where the Captain Agbeyegbe Jerry died. The said Juliet Okonkwo is alive and in Police custody. Her evidence is very vital in this case as she is assisting in the investigations.

"At this juncture, the Command is advising the Press to refrain from speculations and await meaningful progress in the investigation of the incident while the Commissioner of Police will brief journalists on the progress in the case in due course.

"In another development, on the ongoing strike, we are re-assuring members of the public generally, the NNPC Personnel at Ejigbo, all the Banks, public/private companies in Lagos that their safety and protection are guaranteed by the Command. They should go about their lawful businesses without any fear of molestation from any quarters whatsoever, please."

Meanwhile, police have concluded plans to carry out forensic tests on his body.

A top police source at the Lagos State Police Command confirmed the plan to The Guardian yesterday.

According to the source, there is need for such tests to satisfy members of the public who are eager to know what actually led to the Agbeyegbe's death.

The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, who also spoke to The Guardian vowed that the police would carry out full-scale investigation into the death.

The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) Alapere Police Station, Mr. Gabriel Udoh, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), who spoke to The Guardian yesterday, said his men went to the scene on hearing the noise when the vehicle hit the culvert and tried to save the man but he died.

According to him, police would do everything to get to the root of the man's death.

He assured that the vehicle and the girl whom the police said was in the car with the deceased before the accident would remain at the station.

Meanwhile, the police in Lagos have beefed up security to check street urchin otherwise known as "Area Boys."

Patrol vehicles were permanently stationed at the Ojuelegba, Ikeja and Maryland roundabout.

However, Lagos has remained peaceful since the beginning of the strike.

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