Two children were found dead in a Toyota Avalon reportedly belonging to a Nigerian national only identified as “OJ” by residents of the VOA Old Field Community, along the Roberts International Airport/ELWA Road.
The two young boys identified as Reuben Joe, 7, and Alvin Moses, 4, were unrelated, but lived just next door to the home of the Nigerian.
According to Reuben’s mother, Rachel Gbarpue, her son had been sent home from school Tuesday, December 1, in the morning because his fees had not been fully paid.
“He and Alvin were playing in the sand right here near OJ’s house. By 10 a.m., I had finished cooking small rice and wanted him to come and eat. I began calling him and his friend. They were nowhere to be seen,” Rachel narrated in tears.
She stated that her son and his friend didn’t usually go very far from their homes; adding, “Whenever they were not beside the house playing in the sand, they will be in OJ’s house watching movies or just in his house.” She lives in an impoverished zinc-round house not too far from OJ’s.
An older member of the community, who asked not to be named, said when the boys’ mothers raised the alarm about their missing children, everyone got concerned and by the evening hours of Tuesday, they all came together as community members to set up vigil so that no one moved in or out of the community unnoticed.
“This morning [Wednesday], we decided to do house-to-house search and every car leaving and coming into the community. We searched a few homes.”
According to him, when the older boys in the community, who were involved in the search, got to OJ’s home, they were told by OJ that they couldn’t enter in the absence of the police.
Our reporter observed more than ten used vehicles parked in the courtyard of OJ’s home. Some of the vehicles had thick, dark tinted windshields. It was in one of the dark windshield cars that the boys were found lying dead in the back seat.
According to community sources, while some of the older boys were engaged in arguments with the occupants about searching the house, others were looking elsewhere around the house, since it is the last house near a high-bush swamp.
“A big boy between the ages of 14 and 15 by chance opened that particular car’s front door and saw the two kids lying there. He yelled and I immediately ran to the scene. Everyone followed and all attention turned from the searching business,” he said.
He further stated that when the boys were discovered in OJ’s car, anger began to swell against him and the angry crowd began vandalizing the cars in OJ’s yard against his and other older folks’ advice that they wait for the police to arrive and take control of the situation.
By that time, the Daily Observer was told; a small number of police officers had arrived but could not prevent the angry crowd, who directed their frustration toward the properties of OJ. They set his home and a car ablaze. They even broke the windshields of others.
Other community members told this newspaper that the Nigerian national and his family slipped through the back of their home and escaped when everyone ran to catch a glimpse of the boys’ lifeless bodies in the car.
Little Reuben’s uncle, Lawrence B. Joe, who doesn’t live in the community, but was called by Reuben’s mother, said the boys were found with cuts on their bodies after they had been removed from the car.
Riot police officers arrived on the scene later to put the situation under some form of control. A forensic team from the police Homicide Department also came to begin their investigation.
Journalists who were present observed the police officers doing their job, but none of them could speak to the press.
However, one officer, who came to the scene, later told the Daily Observer that the police had apprehended OJ and his family. The officer, who can’t be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the Nigerian national has been identified as Ojuku Nmardi.
According to him, in OJ or Ojuku’s initial statements made to the police, he had said the boys were found in the car but he had no idea how they got in the car. He also said OJ told the police that the boys might have mistakenly locked the car door on themselves, becoming trapped and died of suffocation.
OJ, who is a dealer of vehicle spare parts and used cars, has lived in the VOA Old Field Community for more than three years, according to community members.
Up to press time late last night, the police had not released any official statement to the media on their findings.