The attention of this newspaper is drawn to a story carried in the Tuesday March 5 edition under the headline, “Mysterious Death of Matthew Innis Leaves Heightened Suspicion of Foul play”. It calls into question the competence and trustworthiness of the Liberia National Police and more importantly whether his death was officially sanctioned.
According to the story, the mysterious death of Central Bank official Matthew Innis in what is alleged as a hit and run accident has left more questions than answers and heightened suspicions of foul play.
The story noted that the death of Mr. Innis bears a haunting familiarity to that of the mysterious death of former LPRC Managing Director, Harry Greaves. Recalling the events leading up to his death, Harry is said to have gone to the RLJ Hotel to meet someone allegedly following a call he received.
Greaves left his driver waiting outside the hotel in his car. He never returned and was instead found dead a day later on a beach in Monrovia near the Executive Mansion. In the case of Matthew Innis, he is said to have left for work on Saturday which, according to family sources, was quite unusual as he was off from work on Saturdays.
To the shocking surprise of his family, he was discovered dead by some residents who went banging on their doors in order to awaken them and alert them to the presence of their relative lying dead on the road side not far from his home.
Quite strangely, his phone went unanswered to several calls placed by family members to ascertain the whereabouts of Innis. According to family sources, by the time they reached the spot where the body of Innis was reportedly sprawled on the ground, the body had already been removed by the Police and taken to the ELWA Hospital, where family members first encountered his lifeless body.
It was reported that the alleged hit and run incident had occurred around 2:00 a.m. and much to the surprise of the family and neighbors, the Police had taken away the body even before the family could arrive at the scene.
At this stage it remains unclear just who were the Police officers who arrived at the scene and took away the body. What is however clear that is there were breaches of procedure by the Police and such breaches could likely adversely impact the outcome of an investigation. According to standard operating police procedures in homicide investigations, the initial duty of the responding Police officer is to arrive at the scene safely, defuse any dangerous situations, provide medical assistance, apprehend any suspects, secure the crime scene, identify witnesses and call for immediate assistance. It should be remembered that delays in arrival may cause some crucial observations or witnesses to go undiscovered.
Further, the responding officer should ensure that the crime scene is not disturbed and he/she should take time to absorb all the details of the scene and document all observations.
Next, the officer should check on the location and condition of the victim and observe all or any persons or vehicles leaving the crime scene and establish the identity of all persons present.
Time of arrival, weather and lighting conditions should all be observed and recorded. The officer should ensure that he or she takes note of what is present on the scene that should not be there as well as what should be at the scene but is not there. The officer should limit access to the crime scene of unauthorized persons.
Also, it is very important to note that protection of the crime scene is very important. Moreover, nothing should be moved or touched unless it is absolutely necessary and the officer should cordon off the area and prohibit entry to anyone. The officer can use tape, rope, barricades or even vehicles to cordon off the area and have an officer stationed at the entrance.
Against this backdrop of the information provided, the Daily Observer is constrained to ask just why the Police dismally failed to observe these basic principles and procedures of homicide investigations.
Firstly the Police failed to secure the crime scene. Further it failed to protect the scene by cordoning it off and protecting it. Instead, the Police drove away Innis’ vehicle away from the crime scene even before the family arrived on the scene. Additionally the Police failed to identify witnesses who may have been present at the scene.
But perhaps the most blatant transgression of principles and procedures of homicide investigation was when the Police virtually abandoned the crime scene purportedly to take the victim to hospital but never to return to the crime scene. The family of Matthew Innis, as well as the public, has expressed concerns that he was actually murdered rather than hit by a speeding vehicle.
The family particularly notes that, had the victim been hit by a speeding vehicle the tell-tale signs of the impact would have been visibly present on the body of the deceased.
To the contrary, family sources say they observed bruises and scratches around the neck of the victim including wounds on his forearm suggesting that it was a defensive wound sustained while warding off his attackers. Moreover, according to family sources, Matthew had expressed strong opposition to Finance Minister Tweah’s takeover of the infusion exercise whose handling the PIT report concluded bordered on criminal behavior.
And the fact that he ended up dead under mysterious circumstances just when public pressure on Finance Minister for accountability has begun to mount, raises a huge cloud of suspicion that Matthew Innis was actually murdered in order to keep a lid on further potentially damaging disclosures.
Whatever may be the case, the Daily Observer is off the view that successful prosecution of possible suspects involved has been greatly undermined by what appears to be the incompetent handling of the homicide investigation by the Police from its onset.