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Death in the office:Controversy trails guardís death

Posted by By Tessy Okoye on 2005/08/26 | Views: 1094 |

Death in the office:Controversy trails guardís death

A bitter controversy has been trailing the death of a 32-year-old man, who allegedly died at his place of work and was embalmed and dumped at a morgue by his employers without the knowledge of his family.

A bitter controversy has been trailing the death of a 32-year-old man, who allegedly died at his place of work and was embalmed and dumped at a morgue by his employers without the knowledge of his family.

The man, Uche Ehimatie worked with Elite Guard, a security outfit in Lagos, on July 15, 2005, he had prepared lunch and dinner for his wife, Mrs Grace Ehimatie, who just had a baby, before bidding her goodbye. He left home for a meeting in his office not knowing that it was the last time he would set eyes on his family.

Mrs Ehimatie, said when her husband left home, at 3:20pm for a meeting at his office, there was nothing to show that danger was ahead. But four hours later, she got the news of his death.

She said:"His colleagues said he slumped and died during the meeting in his office and his body already embalmed and deposited at St Paulís private mortuary, Oyingbo. All these were done without my knowledge or that of his relations". She says, the company has a case to answer for complicity in her husbandís death, as well as the police for hurriedly coming to conclusion without due investigation.

Mrs Ehimatie said: "My husbandís name is Uche Ehimatie from Ibusa in Oshimili Local Government Area of Delta State. We have been married for three years with two children. My husband had always been an easy-going man, and had lived in peace with neighbours and friends. His maturity in handling issues endeared him so much to people. He was full of life and energy that day and had no premonition of what was coming as he went about to make food for his family. He was not sick when he left home for his office".

"Ha! Life has not been fair to me oh! It has deprieved me of my crown. Why are people this cruel? God, why did you decide to make me a widow in my prime?," she cried. Regaining her composure, she continued: "My husband had been receiving threats from one senior colleague in his office. There was a day he came back from work looking downcast. He said they had a meeting in the office and their Managing Director nominated him to be promoted to the post of a supervisor, which according to him, was vacant at the time. My husband told me that one man strongly opposed the idea and saw him as not being competent for the post".

According to Mrs Ehimatie, the man had suggested that rather than having her husband occupy the post, there should be a fresh recruitment for the job.

"After the meeting, the management went ahead to make my husband a supervisor and since that day, it has been hell for my husband at his place of work, and no day passes without him complaining about the man". "His mother and my younger brother are also aware of this incident. Most times when he returned from work, he would tell me to continue praying for him as he did not know what he had done to incur the wrath of that man".

Mrs Ehimatie said that the company has not given a good reason it hurriedly embalmed her husbandís corpse, adding: "The distance from the house to his office is barely a 20-minute drive, and the first thing she expected them to do in such a situation after he slumped, was to come and inform the family of his death before he was taken to the mortuary and embalmed.

"Moreover, they cannot say they donít know his house because, when I gave birth three months ago, the colleagues came to the house to visit us. Why was it then difficult for them to bring the news of his death to us? Why were they in so much hurry to cover their track, by embalming him without any of his relations being there or aware of his death? When they came to break the news of his death to us, and people were crying, they mixed up with the crowd and disappeared. If their hands were clean, they would not have left without informing us.

"After we were informed of my husbandís death, my uncle, Mr Segun Okeowo, delegated some people on July 16, namely, Demola Taiwo, Emeka Chuhwura and Patrick Chukwura to go to the mortuary and confirm the death. When they got there, the mortuary attendants would not allow them to see the corpse. They said there was a stiff instruction from the relations that deposited the corpse not to allow anybody see the body without their consent. After pleading for a long time to at least identify the corpse, they were asked to pay some money and the body was exposed to them from the bust. It was then they noticed that he had a dark depression on his shoulder, very close to the neck.

They were later told by the doctor that embalmed him that he had the mark on him when he was brought in, and that only the wife was in a better position to explain if the husband had a mark or not. My husband did not have any mark on him. That must have been where he was beaten to death. Uptill this moment, the clothes he wore to the meeting that day, his shoes,wristwatch, LASU I.D card and his mobile phone have not been seen, neither has his company come to see us about his death.

"The case was reported at Denton police station Oyingbo on the 18th of July, and the investigating police officer, Inspector Richards took our statement. Some people were arrested.

The next day, being 19th when we got to the station, the policemen asked us to go and settle with the company as they had promised to sponsor my two children up to the university level. We could not believe our ears. The police did not consult us on anything, there was no investigation or interogation. They just concluded with those people and told us what they wanted. Because of the way the case was handled at Denton police station, we got a lawyer who wrote a petition dated 22nd of July requesting for the case to be transferred to Panti.

"At Panti, a police woman, called Bose was given the case to handle. After taking down my statement, I was asked to go, that I would be contacted when they were ready. On the 26th I decided to call after waiting endlessly for their call, and the police woman told me in a harsh tone not to bother her with my calls, that the case can take one month, two months or as long as they wanted, and that she would only call me when she was ready.

On the 28th of July, this same police woman called me and told me not to bother myself about the case as my husband had died and there was nothing that could be done about it. This is quite absurd, although I have heard about the way police treat issues when money exchange hands, but I never thought about it happening to me. This is the third week my husband has been lying in the mortuary and the killers are working around free with the help of the police. Panti did not conduct any investigation, nor make any arrest. They came to a hurried decision without calling us.

Are they to tell us what we should do about my husbandís death? They should leave that to the court to decide.
When Daily Sun visited Elite Guard Security at Ebute Metta, and met with the Managing Director, Mr Richard Ogundele, he confirmed that Uche was a security guard in his establishment for five years, right from the time they had their office at Agbara Estate. According to him, on July 15, there was no management meeting, contrary to what the wife was told, and the husband was on a permanent shift of which was a concession given to him as he was doing a part-time programme at Lagos State University, Jibowu campus. He said Uche got to work after four in the evening, signed in and left his handset to charge, after which he went downstairs to resume his duty. At about 5pm, he said he heard a commotion and people screaming "Uche! Uche! Wake up."

According to Mr Richard, the first thought that came to his mind was, electrocution because, according to him, Uche liked carrying out electrical repairs. But he got to the ground floor to see a large crowd gathered around Uche. He said Uche might have fainted and in trying to revive him, water was poured on him. He revealed that the guard was immediately rushed to St Stephenís Hospital, Glover Road, Ebute Metta, where a doctor attended to him and confirmed him dead.

"It came as a shock to everybody and even up till this moment, I find it difficult to believe he is dead. He was like a son to me. When he died, some delegates from the office were sent to the deceased house led by the Manager, Mr Dina to inform them of what happened, while I went with the corpse and some people to Lagos Island mortuary as St Stephenís Hospital did not have one. At the morgue, his corpse was rejected on the basis that the cause of death was not written in the death certificate given to us at the hospital", Mr Ogundele said, adding: " We were then referred to St Paulís private mortuary in Oyingbo. When we got there, the doctor told us that they specialise in dry preservation of the corpse and if we were sure we would claim the corpse within 24 hours, we could deposit it. He added that if the corpse was not claimed within 24 hours, it would be embalmed to avoid decomposition". He went on to say that the decision to have the body embalmed was not first instant choice, as they took the decision based on the type of relationship they had with the deceased.

"He was like a son to us in the office, and we did what we had to do out of goodwill. We did not want his body to decompose before any of his relatives arrived as he told us they reside in Ibadan. The relatives told the police that they saw a scar on his body when they visited the morgue. He has never removed his clothing in our full glare. How will we know he had a scare on his body?" With what was said at the police station, we have found out that he was not happy with the job. Five years was enough for him to pull out. The family has been giving us multiple attack. We have been making plans on how to help the immediate family. This is not just fair. It has been from one authority to the other. Right now, we have been issued a second invitation by the presenter of ĎLabe Oruní, Chief Segun Adisa on MITV. For goodness sake, how can anybody think us capable of killing Uche? He was loved by everybody".

Mr Peter Okolo, the operations manager of the company said: " Uche was very close to me. He was the one that always bought my food. That can show you the level of relationship. How can the family claim I have been having problems with their son?" He explained that when Uche was confirmed dead in the hospital, he went with some of his colleagues to his house to inform the family. And when I got to the house, they thought it was not nice to break the news to her directly, after waiting for almost an hour, someone came out from one of the rooms. They explained the situation to him and he took them to the elder brother of the deceased, Mr Okeowo, a medical doctor.

"He was the one that told us to hold on that they would get back to us", Okolo said, adding: "The only thing we saw were policemen coming to arrest us later. I canít believe the death of Uche could cause all this problem."

Speaking with a key witness at the scene of Ucheís death, Mrs Josephine Ohiokpehia, a lawyer in the same building housing Elite Security, said:"It was barely five minutes Uche came into my office to greet me, I heard a shout downstair. Getting outside, I saw Uche slump on the chair, with people gathered around him praying and pouring water to revive him".

The lawyer said that he was later rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was confirmed dead by a doctor. She said: " I just could not believe that Uche who I saw some few minutes ago was dead, itís not possible for him to have been killed by his employers.
He could have died of heart attack, because the type of stress he had been going through was much for his age."

Daily Sun visited St Stephenís Hospital where the deceased was taken to. The doctor, who spoke on condition of anoymity, confirmed that the deceased was brought to his hospital without any bodily injury, although he was brought in dead. He also said that since they didnít operate a mortuary, he had to refer them to Lagos Island mortuary to deposit the corpse

At the State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID), Panti, the officer in charge of the homicide division said he was aware of the case, adding that though a signal had been sent, the case file had not been transfered from Denton Police Station. At Denton Police Station, Yaba, the Divisional Police Officer confirmed handling the case, which he said was "quite unfortunate". According to him, there was full investigation into the case and the people accused were subsequently arrested and detained. He, however, claimed that the family tried to stall the investigation by refusing to come to the station when they were needed.

Refuting the DPOís claim, Mrs Ehimatie said: "Why should we go back to the station, when it was obvious they were taking sides with the murderers of my husband?

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