For Mr and Mrs Nwanneka Ogechukwu Okonkwo, both natives of Ekwulumili in Nnewi South Local Government Area but resident in Igbo-Ukwu, January 15, 2013, came like any other day. But the young couple who are each 28 years old, never knew that it was the day their four children, Chukwuebuka, (13), Chukwumelum (6) Obumneme (3) and 15-month-old Chinenyenwa would breathe their last.
The young couple had no premonition of the tragedy that shocked everybody in the community. Their three sons and a daughter were allegedly killed by a lady simply identified as Blessing, from Abakiliki in Ebonyi State. Narrating the tragic incident, the mother of the dead children who spoke with Sunday Sun at Ekwulumili Health Centre where she was recuperating from the shock, said that she was also attacked by the suspect. Mrs Okonkwo said that the eldest of her children, Chukwuebuka, was the first casualty.
According to her, the suspect allegedly hit him on his forehead with a hard object and dumped the lifeless body inside an underground tank in the compound before strangling his siblings one after the other. “I was to go for a burial ceremony with my husband at Ukpor on that fateful day and the children went to school. We initially left with the youngest one, Chinenyenwa but the vehicle we boarded was jam-packed with passengers and the baby started crying. Consequently, my husband said we should disembark and use our motorcycle but people around said the road was too dusty to ride with a baby on a bike.
I decided to go home and wait for our other children who went to school so that they would take care of the baby and enable my husband and I to make the trip with our motorcycle. “But long after school hours, the children didn’t come home. We went to the school and other pupils told us that our children had gone home. I looked for them along the roads they usually take to the house but I did not see them.
Thereafter, I urged my husband to go on his own and look for them, but he returned soon after, saying he had seen them coming home. Before my husband and I left for the burial, I gave them food and told them to go and stay with an old woman in the neighbourhood because we are the only occupants of that building, and I don’t like them staying alone in the compound. “We had stayed barely one hour at the burial ceremony when my husband said we should go home.
But before we left, my husband’s phone rang and I heard him say, ‘I’m in a burial’. So, as we got close to our home, his phone rang again and he told the caller that we were not back yet. I didn’t ask him who the caller was as we rode straight to the house.
“When we got to the elderly neighbour’s house, we were told that she had gone for prayers and that my children were not seen there. We got to the house and I opened the gate from behind believing that the children were inside the house. As we parked our motorcycle inside the compound, my husband pointed to the underground tank that was open. I became apprehensive because we don’t keep it open. But I said maybe the eldest might have drawn water from the well and had forgotten to close it.
I called Ebuka but there was no response. I ran into the sitting room and saw the three younger ones lying on the floor as if they were asleep. I ran out again believing that those three were sleeping. I continued to call Ebuka and looked into the tank and I didn’t see anything. “Later, I decided to wake up Ebuka’s immediate younger brother to ascertain the whereabouts of his brother. I called him but he didn’t wake up; I tried to rouse him but he was motionless and so were the other two. I cried to my husband that the children were dead and I concluded that since the three were dead, Ebuka might be inside the well.
There were marks of human nails on their necks that showed that they were strangled. One of them had faeces in his anus. “It was when my husband started crying and moved towards our bedroom, that the lady (suspect) emerged from the bedroom and asked him why he was shouting. Then, I advanced towards her and demanded from her, where she kept Ebuka’s body because I had seen the others she killed. I held her and she gripped me. When I freed myself from her grip, I rushed to lock one of the two gates and raised the alarm until neighbours came.
“Later, somebody rushed out and called the youths of the community before the local vigilante and policemen arrived. She was arrested along with my husband.” Sources told Sunday Sun that the timely arrival of the police and the local vigilante saved the suspect from being lynched. It was also gathered that Mr Okonkwo, a furniture maker, had been dating the suspect, a relationship his wife confirmed, and had been battling to stop.
When contacted, the couple’s landlord, Mr Sunday, who lives outside the community, described the alleged killing of the innocent children as unfortunate and declined further comment. The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Anambra State, Mr Emeka Chukwuemeka, confirmed the incident and said the matter was being handled by the State Criminal Investigation Department in Awka, the state capital.