The Ministry of Justice has ruled that the mysterious deaths of Gifty A. Lamah, Albert Peters, George Fabhboto and Emmanuel Barten Nyeswa, which all occurred within a period of eight days in October, resulted from “unnatural” causes.
Lamah and Peters were discovered dead in the early morning hours of October 2, 2020, while George Fabhboto, died on in an accident on the 4th of October. The three individuals were all employees of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA). Emmanuel Barten Nyeswa, the late Director-General of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), was found lying on the floor in front of his house after an alleged fall on October 10th, 2020.
The ministry’s ruling, according to Minister Frank Musa Dean, was based on available evidence deduced from the autopsy conducted by Dr. Benedict K. Kolee and Dr. Zoeborn B. Kparteh, which attributed the deaths to “unnatural” (accidental) circumstances.
However, the government’s autopsy report has long before been disowned by the families of Gifty and Albert on ground that they suspected a foul play because of the kinds of work that they were doing.
As they lost faith in the government’s investigation, the family snubbed the conduct of an autopsy and argued that the pair and the rest were killed in an attempt to destroy evidence that these financial experts might have been investigating activities that undermined the country’s Domestic Resource Mobilization efforts.
But for Min. Dean, the autopsy conducted by Liberia’s only two pathologists, Drs. Kolee and Kparteh, have been credible from the start as the families were given the opportunity to participate along with civil society organizations, National Commission on Human Rights and the media –- a request that the Lamah and Peters family rejected.
On Albert Peters and Gifty Lamah, the findings reportedly indicated that the post mortem body computer tomography scan shows mild purification of the brain and mild autolysis of the soft tissue but “there is no fracture or dislocation, no metallic density or foreign body.”
“The cause of death is the result of Carbon monoxide poisoning exacerbated by gasoline/ hydrocarbon fumes and fumes from defective car exhaust system/defect in the floor of the car,” the report added. “Based on the available evidence, the manner of death is unnatural (accidental).”
According to the police investigation inserted in the autopsy report, Gifty and Albert drove separate vehicles to meet on Broad Street opposite the Sacred Heart Cathedral edifice before she could disembark hers to enter into Albert’s parked vehicle.
“The two vehicles were later observed parked immediately behind one another on Broad Street. The KIA Sportage Jeep was parked in front of the Toyota Highlander from the early morning hours of October 1, 2020, up to and including the early morning hours of the next day, October 2, 2020. At some point, Gifty Lamah is said to have disembarked her vehicle and joined Albert in his blue Toyota Highlander jeep,” the police said.
It added: “That though calls placed to the individuals’ phones in the Broad Street vicinity began at 10:37 a.m. on the morning of October 1, 2020, they reportedly arrived on the scene before 10:37 a.m, as the Monrovia City Corporation Parking Attendant for the area confirmed placing tickets on the two vehicles on October 1, 2020, at about 9:00 a.m.; and further observed that both vehicles remained in their positions until 7:00 pm on October 1, 2020, when he left work.”
The police added that the parking attendant late in the day engage Albert to inform him that the vehicle was overheating, but Albert asked the attendant to close the door, which had a window covered with steam like the other.
However, he observed during their conversation that Albert’s eyes were red and mucus flowed from his nose —the police investigation finds. The police also disclosed that the parking attendant, who seems to be their major eyewitness in the case, confirmed that after 12:00 midday, the car was still in the same location, but the engine was off.
“He left work at about 7:00 p.m. [And] that the car washer and private security guard from the Progressive Protection Service assigned in the area confirmed seeing the vehicles parked in front of the former BIVAC office on Broad Street from the morning of October l, 2020 until they (car washer and private security guard) left work at the close of the business day,” said the police.
Interestingly, the police further said that about 2:00 a.m. on October 2, 2020, two individuals, known to them as petty thieves, entered Albert’s vehicle and stole one laptop, four telephones, a pair of trousers containing US$30.00 and some personal belongings — and after interrogation confirmed encountering the unresponsive bodies of the two in the vehicle, but “concluded the individuals were intoxicated.”
They added that a “search of the interior and inspection of the undercarriage” of the vehicle shockingly revealed that Albert’s vehicle contained, among other things, two five-gallon plastic containers filled with gasoline, and that the interior of the vehicle showed multiple holes under the back seat about two centimeters in diameter.
“That the under surface of the said vehicle showed multiple leaks on the exhaust system proximal to the catalytic converter, between the catalytic converter and the muffler and other areas distal to the muffler. [And] that there is a large defect on the dorsal surface of the exhaust system about one foot away from the area of the backseat,” the police explained.
The police findings, which were based mostly on alleged eyewitness accounts, mirrored what President George Weah at his Forky Klon Jlaleh Family Fellowship Church on October 4, 2020, insinuating that the deaths may have been a “boyfriend and girlfriend” issue and should therefore not be politicized.
“It is sad to know that our country, a religious country like Liberia, you wake up and you see people killed in car. Why, we don’t know; if that was a boyfriend or girlfriend issue, that doesn’t allow you to kill somebody because you don’t know where you will end up,” the President said.
And days later, the Information Minister at the time, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, rebuked the families of the two deceased LRA employees for making “politically driven remarks”.
In his scathing rebuke, Nagbe accused the bereaved families of politicizing the issue instead of learning the facts, despite all efforts being exhibited by the government to be transparent with the investigation and have the families involved along the way.
Later, Nagbe’s successor, the new Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie, had gone to a great length to convince the BBC that none of the four deceased were auditors, in a bid to respond to accusations that the government was double-dealing and probably responsible for the deaths.
The lifeless bodies of Lamah and Peters were found on October 2, 2020, in a parked vehicle belonging to Peters that was brought to the crime scene early that day “by a huge man, wearing a cap”, according to eyewitnesses. Albert was clad only in his underwear with one ear cut off and skin peeled off his body, according to his wife, while Lamah was discovered fully clothed, with even her makeup intact and with a broken neck.
Peters was a professional auditor at the Ministry of Finance, before transitioning to the LRA in the same capacity, serving as Assistant Commissioner for Internal Audit, while Gifty worked as Manager for Tax Payer Services Division, with the responsibility to monitor the inflow of taxes, which she reportedly performed meticulously.
As for Nyeswa, the head of the IAA, the autopsy report claims that this death was caused by massive injuries to the head, chest and abdomen but there was no metallic density foreign body found in him. The report added that Emmanuel died from massive haemorrhage; multiple bony and soft tissue injuries; and blunt injuries consistent with fall from height.
“In our professional and expert opinion, the manner of death is unnatural. Further classification of this unnatural death as accidental, homicidal or suicidal will require further police detective investigations,” the authors of the autopsy report said.
Nyeswa died 12 days after the submission of an audit report on September 28, 2020, that revealed more than US$2 million, plus millions of Liberian dollars that were lost to fraud and corruption.
He was last seen on the early evening hours of October 9, 2020, at the Calabash Entertainment Center, located on the Congo Town Back Road, with some friends.
It is reported that he consumed lots of alcohol before going home. He reportedly arrived at his 72nd Paynesville residence at approximately 11:00 p.m. and proceeded upstairs to his bedroom but later during the night, his security guard found him lying downstairs unconscious, with blood flowing from his left ear. The escape door from his room upstairs, which is 13.1 feet high was found opened, the report said.
“The deceased was rushed to the John F. Kennedy Medical Center Emergency and seen at 2:49 a.m. on October 10, 2020, where he was diagnosed with severe head injuries. According ‘to medical records from ‘the JFK Medical Center, he started gasping for air at 3:40 a.m. and, following 20 minutes of unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate him, he ceased breathing and was declared clinically dead at 4:00 AM on October 10, 2020,” the report explained.
At Nyeswa’s house, there is a narrow door on the top floor above the entrance of the house, from where he is believed to have fallen. It is not the width of a normal door, but about half the width. Someone the size of he would have needed to turn sideways to pass through that door. Outside that door is a ledge with barely enough space for his feet — and then an instant drop — meaning that there is no porch or platform or even a banister to protect one from falling.
For George Fahnboto, the autopsy report says he ran into a speed breaker in the Roland Duo curve, lost control of his vehicle, struck a pedestrian and landed in the garage of Dr. Joseph T. K. Boakai’s private residence, about 200 feet from the road. The cause of death was attributed to injuries to the head, chest and abdomen but there was no metallic density foreign in his body.
“It is our professional and expert opinion, the manner of death is unnatural and involves right frontal cerebral contusion and disruption of brain, with hemorrhage, and right frontal complex depressed comminuted fracture, and the vehicle in head-on collision and side-impact with house,” the pathologists concluded.