The police have arrested a suspected fake pastor, Chief Marshal Nwankwo in Dikeukwu community of Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State for allegedly conspiring with his partner, Pastor Emeka Okoye, to bury alive a 67-year old hunchback, Mr Ukata Iheme, on their church site to grow its membership.
Both Nwankwo and Okoye were reportedly running a joint ministry before they allegedly committed the evil act.
The incident, expectedly, sparked off pandemonium in the host village as enraged youths went on rampage, torching the buildings of the suspects.
Although details of what actually transpired between the alleged fake pastors and the hunchback before he was allegedly buried alive were sketchy, a village source, however, told the Authority on Saturday that the hunchback, late Iheme, must have suffered an unimaginable agonising pain before he gave up the ghost.
The source explained that at the time the corpse of Iheme was excavated from the church site, his private organ and his hunchback were missing, suggesting that his assailants probably made him to undergo a ‘hot’ death.
The police have not only arrested one of the suspected fake pastors who is presently ‘singing,’ late Iheme’s corpse has also been recovered and presently kept at the morgue.
Corroborated account had it that the victim, Mr. Ukata Iheme, a father of seven said to be in his late 60s suddenly went missing on Saturday, October 10.
Following his disappearance, youths of the village organised themselves into several search parties but were unsuccessful to trace his whereabouts.
His disappearance was then reported to the police while announcement was later placed on local radio stations, the source added.
The source said that the youths later got information on Monday that the victim was last sighted in the company of one of the suspects, Chief Marshall Nwankwo who claimed to be a pastor .
Following the information, the youths immediately stormed the residence of the fake pastor who denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of the missing hunchback.
Not satisfied with his incoherent answers to questions put to him by the curious youths, the key suspect was later handed over to the police for further interrogations.
In an interview with The Authority, the youth leader in the community, Mr. Chukwudi Egwu, said that the suspect when confronted had told the youths that he went to Benin on the day the victim went missing contrary to his wife’s earlier account that he went to Lagos.
His words: “we got information that the suspect was seen on that day at Dubai market, Onuimo, drinking wine with the pastor. Some people also said they later came to a beer parlour at Dikenta village drinking together. But the pastor denied that he set eyes on him that day.”
Continuing, the youth leader said that suspecting a cover up, they decided to visit another pastor friend of the suspect, Emeka Okoye to see if they could get any clue on the whereabouts of the victim.
On sighting the youths, Okoye allegedly took to his heels.
Okoye, according to an account, was not an indigenes but migrated to the community from Delta State, and had since , been parading himself as a pastor even though his behaviour especially his marital relationship allegedly cast much doubts to his pastoral claims.
Aftermath of the encounter the youths had with Okoye, they decided to privately probe the incident further.
Continued the youth leader: “It was at this point that some of us decided to go and comb the site where both pastors are building a church.
When we got there, we saw a pair of shoe which the son of the victim confirmed belonged to the father.
“This boosted our morale and we continued combing the area. We also saw his shorts in a nearby cassava plantation. It was at that point that we combed the entire place and saw amount of red soil which we strongly believed must be a grave.
“We, therefore, decided to contact the police who came and we opened the shallow grave and found his decomposing body inside”, he said.
According to the youth leader, the private parts of the victim as well as his hunchback were all removed by the suspects.
He recalled that the suspects who had been operating a joint church ministry in the community had before now boasted that their ministry would grow beyond the church of a popular Lagos Pastor, T.B Joshua.
Ostensibly peeved by the suspected dastardly act of the ‘evil pastors,’ the irate youths went on rampage, burning down two private buildings belonging to the suspects.
They also demolished an abandoned structure bordering the shallow grave where the suspects were said to be using as the new site for their ministry.
When our correspondent visited the community, the burnt structures – a duplex belonging to Nwankwo, and a bungalow owned by Okoye were still smoldering with smoke.
Some dead poultry birds and pigeons were also sighted at Okoye’s house.
Locals were overheard raining curses on the suspects while some clustered in groups to discuss the strange incident which they described as abomination.
Youths armed with clubs and machetes were also observed around the burnt structures and the said church site destroying what remained of the property of the suspects.
Another source said there were other suspected graves at the site where the suspects intended building their new church structure.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in Abia, Mr. Udeviotu Onyeke, confirmed the incident and said the key suspect had been detained.
Onyeke said that the suspect was picked up on the theory that he was alleged to have been sighted last with the victim before his disappearance.
He said that the suspect during interrogations made useful statements that led to the discovery of the grave where the decomposing corpse of the victim was exhumed on Tuesday evening.
Onyeke said the body had been deposited at the mortuary for preservation and autopsy while a manhunt had been declared for the fleeing suspect.
He appealed for calm while thorough investigations into the dastardly act were going on.