The officer of Plant Protection Division (PPD) of Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC), Obenco Yarpa, has taken the stand and gone public with how his charge, Michel Bruno, was ambushed, shot and killed in a District # 3 Grand Bassa County forest, hundreds of miles away from his home, in Belgium.
He died instantly from a bullet wound to the torso (upper body, chest) (launched from a single-barrel gun. The weapon was wielded by an unknown assailant who has remained at large over the past seven years, according to the facts elicited (obtained, drawn out) by the Prosecution.
During his testimony as the Prosecution’s second witness in the ongoing murder trial of twelve persons, on Friday, April 4, at Criminal Court ‘A,’ Yarpa a bodyguard assigned to Bruno prior to his death, said that he was on the spot when his boss was shot.
When they defendants appeared in Court, they denied that they had done the deed.
Bruno, a Belgian national and Plantation manger of LAC, was allegedly shot twice with a single barrel gun in November, 2007, while surveying a site for his company in District #3, Grand Bassa County.
Testifying on Friday, prosecution second witness said, the shooting happened when Bruno, along with LAC’s surveyors and the company’s Superintendent, went to survey land for extending the company’s compound.
“Two shots went off as soon we entered the forest…we all then ran helter-skelter (chaotically, in confusion). When we could not find Bruno amongst us, we immediately contacted the office for reinforcement,” Yarpa alleged in his testimony.
“When the reinforcement arrived,” the witness said, “officers of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, (UNMIL) and the Liberia National Police, (LNP) were [among them].”
“They arrived and we all started to search for Bruno. It was during the search that the team came across the defendants; “We asked them to join the team to find Bruno.”
“After we discovered Bruno lying on the ground, we lifted him up; we found two bullets marked on his body and immediately arrested the defendants. We packed them into truck and took them away,” the state witness recalled.
Interestingly, when earlier asked where the 12 had been headed that fateful morning, the defendants told us that they were headed for a farming trip.
Before, the shooting incident, he said, some employees of LAC had advised him not to allow Bruno to go to the forest on that day; according to them, some people had already set an ambush to kill him.
He did not say who had planned the ambush; instead, he based his testimony on what he claimed had amounted to a veiled threat said defendants had issued to LAC’s employees.
“The defendants, earlier, had promised to deal drastically with any of LAC’s employees that dared to occupy their land,” Yarpa said, when responding to ‘how he concluded that the defendants had fired the fatal bullet (the shot that killed Bruno).
During cross-examination, chief defense lawyer, Atty Arthur Johnson sought to discredit Yarpa’s testimony by asking whether the deceased, Bruno, had been shot in his presence, the witness replied: “yes.’
Again asked if he was aware about the threat to kill Bruno, he once again replied, “yes.”
Further asked when he heard the gun sound, Yarpa replied “I heard the shots sound immediately after we entered the forest.”
Further asked to explain Bruno’s position before he alone was shot, the PPD officer response, “he was between one of my bosses, Prince Tarwo and the Surveyor team that included the Company’s Superintendent.”
Asked again what the distance between him and the victim was before the shooting, Witness Yarpa again replied: “I was standing behind Bruno. But I did not see or know who shot the gun.”
“As a PPD officer, what was your responsibility, the witness was asked,” “My responsibility was to protect Bruno and other LCA’s staff as well as the company’s property.”
Asked why he had allowed Bruno to travel to where he was killed, witness Yarpa explained that Bruno had insisted that we went to the location, as nothing was going to happen to him. “That was how I followed him. He was my boss; and anything he said, I did.”
The case continues.