Shock and disbelief, were the words that could accurately describe the reaction of the immediate family, the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital community and members of the public, when the news of the murder of Dr. Ivy Umanah broke last year. The late Dr. Ivy Umanah was a Histo-Pathologist and Head of the Pathology Department, UUTH.
Dr. Umanah, along with other doctors in her department had slated examination for 400 level students in the department of Pathology for April 20, 2016 by 9am. By 10am when her colleagues in the department took the decision to carry on with the examination as earlier scheduled, Dr. Umanah was nowhere to be found.
Confusion ensued when text messages emanating from her phone reached some of her close colleagues who were apprehensive about her unexplained absence despite being aware of the date fixed three weeks earlier.
Our correspondent, who had access to the call records obtained by security agents from her network providers, confirmed that some of the text messages in badly written English language, includes; I am in a meeting; Give Henry 20, 000 naira; I am in emergency room; Dr Bayo has killed me. Most of these messages, our Correspondent learnt were sent to the cell phone belonging to Dr. Festus Abasiubong of the Department of Psychology, UUTH. He is reported to have been close to the late Dr. Ivy Umanah, than even those in her own department.
While doctors who spoke on the condition of anonymity could not confirm seeing the young man who visited Dr. Abasiubong that morning of April 20, 2016 in his office, let alone know his name, they nevertheless said they were aware of the visit from to Dr. Abasiubong, who later in his statement to the police explained that it was one Henry Silas who had done POP/Tiling work in his house before he introduced him to the late pathologist.
He narrated to the police that at about 8am Henry came to his office after he had earlier got an sms from Dr. Umanahs phone requesting that he should give Henry the sum of N20, 000. According to him, since he did not have the money, he directed Henry to Dr. Umanahs office to go and wait for her there.
Henry, it was learnt waited for about thirty minutes before he left Dr Umanahs office and the hospital.
The suspense was compounded by the confusing text messages as words spread about the unusual unexplained absence of the lively 44 years old Histo-Pathologist on a day she was supposed to conduct a very crucial examination in her department.
In their bid to ascertain the true situation, senior staff members of the University Teaching hospital, to which Umanah was a member, mandated one Mr. Adebisi Sampson, a laboratory scientist and one Ikwo Jonathan, to visit Dr Umanahs house at Apico Shelter Afrique extension.
Though Dr. Ivy Umanah, as at the time of her murder was yet to complete internal work on her new building, she took up residence, while Tiling, POP and other interior work were receiving finishing touches.
By the time Mr Adebisi and Ikwo Jonathan arrived Dr Umanahs house around midday, they met a young man locking the entrance gate to Umanahs building, holding a plasma television and a bunch of keys.
On reasonable suspicion that the young man may be a thief, a brief and innocent sounding inquiries, coupled with perhaps fear not to arouse suspicion, by trekking with a plasma television through the estate, convinced the young man to accept the offer of boarding the car for a drop on the main road.
The young man who turned out to be Henry Silas, who had earlier that morning visited the UUTH to demand for N20,000 from Dr. Abasiubong, and to which the duo of Adebisi and Ikwo Jonathan, had not seen before now, told them that Dr. Umanah wanted the TV taken to the nearby electronics workshop on Oron road for repairs.
However, rather than driving Henry to Oron road, they headed to the Shelter Afrique police station, which is part of B Division and Uyo Area Command of the police, which serves the housing estate and its immediate environs.
At the police station, Mr. Adebisi had volunteered statement, explaining the circumstances of their visit to Dr Umanahs house and their suspicion about Henry Silass motives. Henry was immediately placed behind the counter. As at that time, Henry was still in possession of Dr Umanahs car and house keys, in addition to her 3 ATM cards from GTB and First Bank.
On interrogation, Henry Silas, who looked composed, according to police sources, insisted that he was not a thief, repeating the apparent premeditated claims that the murdered doctor sent the TV with him for repairs. Henry told the police that he did Tiling and POP work in the deceased doctors house, pointing out that one Dr Festus Abasiubong, who introduced him to Dr. Ivy could vouch for his claims.
On request, he provided Dr. Abasiubongs cell phone number. On invitation, Abasiubong drove to Shelter Afrique police station, where he met Henry behind the counter, identified him and assured that he directed Henry to late Dr Umanah, after Henry had previously worked in his house in Ikot Ntuen Nsit. Henry Silas, based on the confirmations of Dr. Abasiubong, was subsequently released without further investigation, which was to later prove to be a costly mistake by the police.
A police officer attached to the state Criminal Investigation Department at the Ikot Akpan Abia, headquarters of the Akwa Ibom state police command, Uyo and who did not want his name in print, reasoned that such unprofessional negligence should not go unpunished to serve as a deterrent to other.
Perhaps this may be part of the reasons the family of the murdered pathologist, still holds serious reservation about the Akwa Ibom state Police Command narrative in the death of the promising 44 years old Histo Pathologist and Head of Department.
Though the late pathologists family has no dispute over the conclusions of the autopsy report that she died from injuries suffered to her head, their suspicion about responsibility and motives gave way to other conspiracy theories and despair.
To lend credence to strong family skepticism about police investigations in Uyo, a telephone call from a close family source from the Cross River state capital, Calabar, hinted that they were willing to engage the services of independent investigators to unravel those behind the murder, rather than buy hook, line and sinker into police claims that she was murdered over payment of a hundred thousand naira debt.
Coincidentally, much of the doubts and conspiracy stories surrounding her death may have been fueled by an earlier incident suggesting a link to Dr Umanah. A few weeks to the Dr Umanahs tragic death, a group of secondary school students, numbering about six, drawn from Rayfield International School, UYo, Monef High school and Nobbles School had planned a pool side birthday party in a hotel in Uyo. At the said party, a student of Rayfield International School was fatally wounded in the swimming pool.
The lone Rayfield School student allegedly died from head injuries sustained during a dive in the swimming pool. He reportedly emerged from the waters with blood oozing from his nostrils, while his friends, 3 from Monef and 2 from Nobbles, hurriedly attempted a hasty exit from the hotel.
A vigilant security guard had demanded to know why they were leaving the hotel one person short of the number that entered. Against their pleading that one of them decided to spend extra time at the pool, the guard took them back to the poolside bar to discover that their motive was to escape after the death of their friend.
Suspecting foul play, the late boys family insisted that the police must unravel the detailed answers and questions about the death, including the roles and motives of each of the deceaseds friends, who were by then in police custody.
The rumour was that the autopsy report of this incident, which described the incident as an accident, paving the way for the freedom of the dead boys friends, was authored by Dr Umanah, and probably influenced by the parents of the other five children. Flowing from this, the insinuation in town was that the dead boys parents had vowed to deal with anyone who had attempted to subvert the wheel of justice, hence the alleged linkage to Ivy Umanahs death.
Convincing as the conjectured link with Dr Umanah was then in the ears of gullible public, the truth, however, showed that late Dr Ivy Umanah, neither signed the autopsy, nor had anything to do with the autopsy,
The respite provided by the blunders at the Shelter Afrique police station, which gave the 27 years old Henry Silas, the opportunity to escape succeeded in deepening the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of Dr. Umanah as the days progressed.
Apparently after the unsuccessful attempt to collect N20,000 from Dr Abasiubong earlier, Henry had gone back to to late doctors house to ransack it for possible cash to facilitate his escape plans. When cash was not found, the Plasma TV may have been his last hope of raising immediate cash. This however turned an error that first gave him out.
After his release, an undeterred Henry Silas, who neighbours and associates, spoken to, described as an extremist, who can act before he thinks when angry, quickly moved out of his 124 Aka Road abode, heading in the direction of his village in Ikot Akpan Anwa in Ika LGA. Before leaving, he left behind the incriminating exhibits in his one room rented apartment.
The police later recovered the Television and other items in his house, except Dr Umanahs cell phone. He told detectives that he lost the phone inside a Tricycle, a claim police detectives think was a lie. Police thinking is that he may have sold the phone to raise urgently needed cash for his escape.
Police also believe that Henry may have been lured into escaping to Aba in Abia state because of its proximity to Ika and its vastness. He was however wise by half. He continued to maintain contacts with people through his cell phone.
The investigations and manhunt for Henry intensified, with the movement of the case to the Ikot Akpan Abia police Headquarters. A crack team of seasoned officers headed by the Officer in Charge of Anti-Robbery Squad Uyo, SCIID, led by DSP Julian Igbudu, moved into the case and in record time, tracked the escaping prime suspect to Aba.
Twenty three days after the tragic murder, detectives using Henrys girlfriend as a bait, arrested him in Aba and brought him back to Uyo.
Meanwhile, our Correspondent, who had followed the development, monitoring police investigation into the case, while combing other sources for clues, was granted an exclusive opportunity to speak with the suspect at the police headquarters.
While speaking with our Correspondent, Henry Silas admitted he murdered the Histo-pathologist, using a car Axle he picked up in the premises of the deceased doctor, after she had allegedly threatened not to pay him the sum of N100,000 agreed for the POP work done for her. He denied his earlier claims that the late doctor slapped him.
Asked why he preferred killing her to collecting his N100,000, he took a long look, seemingly into the unknown and blamed the devil for his action. He consistently maintained that he was not sent by Dr Abasiubong to kill the doctor. He said that Dr Abasiubong knew nothing about his action, restating that Dr Abasiubong merely introduced him to the late Pathologist and nothing more.
He admitted being the author of the text messages that emanated from the late doctors phone with a view to creating some confusion that could buy him sometime to escape.
Our finding also dismissed the rumoured link to the Chief Security Officer of the town campus of the University of Uyo to a visit to the late doctors home shortly before the murder, as nothing but mere rumours, following a detailed investigation of that line of thought.
After three consecutive days of visiting Dr Festus Abasiubongs office at the UUTH to hear his side of the story to no avail, our Correspondent traced him to his single storey building in Ikot Ntuen Nsit on April 27, 2016.
Speaking from the veranda of the first floor of his house, Dr Abasiubong complained about the negative media report about his personal relationship with the late pathologist, adding that he was not in the right frame of mind to speak. He promised to address all the issues and concerns on Monday May2, 2016 by 10 am in his office. On the scheduled day, our Correspondent visited but was unable to obtain that agreed interview. More than one year later, it has still not been possible to reach the doctor.
The matter was later transferred at the instance of the deceaseds family to the police Zone 6 headquarters in Calabar for further investigations, where a highly placed source in the investigating team confided that apart from few individuals who were not interrogated in Uyo, that had been brought to Calabar for investigation, nothing much has been found different from what was earlier done in the case.
The police source hinted that every side of the case has been examined and any moment from now, the police report would be ready and prosecution of suspects in the matter would commence, more than a year after the dastardly act.
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