It started like the normal everyday killings by cultists, kidnappers, ritualists and other notorious criminals who have held Rivers State in their grip in the recent past.
And like a movie episode in a television crime and investigation story, the killings went on for a while, unresolved, with security agencies keeping sealed lips and seemingly clueless and helpless, while tension and apprehension rose among residents, especially young girls and ladies who have been the target.
But there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel now, as suspected serial killer, Gracious David West, who claimed to have killed seven girls in different hotels in Lagos, Rivers and Imo states, was finally apprehended on Thursday. West said the urge to kill comes to him like hunger.
The suspect, who was arrested in a commercial bus on the way to Akwa Ibom, two days after his face was captured by a Close Circuit Television cameras (CCTV), confessed to have carried out five killings in Port Harcourt (Rivers), one in Owerri (Imo) and one in Lagos.
West was on his way to Akwa Ibom when the operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) trailed and arrested him in Bori in Khana Council of Rivers State.
While being paraded and interrogated by the state Commissioner of Police, Mustapha Dandaura, at the state Police headquarters on Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, the 39-year-old suspect from Asari Toru Council, claimed there was no motive behind his killings.
He said: “I don’t know what is making me to kill. Immediately the urge comes on me, I kill and after killing, I will start regretting. I even went to a church and told the pastor that I had been killing girls in hotels and the pastor invited me to see the senior pastor during a programme, but I waited and couldn’t see him, so I left the church and went back and lodged in a hotel and resumed the killings.
“Seriously, I don’t know what makes me to kill. Whenever it comes on me, that is when I kill. Later, I regret and feel sober, but after, I will still go and kill again.
“When we go into the hotel, after eating and making love, we sleep. When the girl is sleeping, I will put the kitchen knife on her neck, wake her up and ask her not to shout and that I will kill her with the knife if she shouts.
“So, the girl, out of fear, will not shout and I will tell her that I will not kill her, but she should just cooperate and see what I will do to her. I will promise her that I will just tie her and keep her and she will cooperate by relaxing.
“I will tear the pillow case and tie her hands and legs. Then, as I strangulate her, she will not have the power to drag with me.”
West further revealed that he makes the monies he used in killing other girls from his previous victims: “While the agreement would be on, some of them will tell me not to kill them, that they have money in their accounts and can offer anything just to save their lives.
“I will ask them how much and they will check it before me. When I confirm the account balance, I will collect the PIN number and after daybreak, when I must have killed them, I will go to the ATM and collect the money in the account. I will use the money and get other girls.
“I have killed five girls in Port Harcourt, one in Owerri and one in Lagos. I started the killing in Lagos; that was where I got money, because the first girl had N52, 000 in her account. After that, I went to Port Harcourt, then Owerri. I returned to Port Harcourt. I met the last girl I killed at the club.”
West also disclosed that he collects his victims’ phones and sells them to phone dealers in Waterlines and Eleme Junction axis of Port Harcourt.
According to Dandaura, West also said he was a member of Deygbam cult confraternity, but has left the group and had visited some churches (names withheld) last year to seek solution and rehabilitation, but as that was still going on, he suddenly left and went to another church in Port Harcourt. He had wanted to stay within the church, but there was no space for him to stay in there, so he left and continued his killing spree.
The Police chief continued: “ When asked how many women he has killed in the state, he said he killed five women, but that he had earlier killed one person in a hotel in Ikeja, Lagos State and one in a hotel in Owerri, Imo State.
“To be sure of what he said, we asked him to name the hotels where he had killed, he brought out the list, which matched with the hotels where the killings took place in the state.
“Then we demanded to know the reasons or motives for the killings and why young and unmarried women, he said he does not know, that the urge comes to him just like that and that when it comes, he would make arrangement with a lady, go and book a room in any hotel of his choice and take the woman to the room, kill her and leave the place.”
Dandaura described the arrest of the suspect as part of the determined effort by the Command to put to an end to the disturbing trend that has attracted both international and local condemnation.
He said the arrest followed Police directives to hotels in state to install CCTV cameras.
The Police boss explained how West was arrested: “One of the hotels in Port Harcourt that complied with our directive to install CCTV cameras in the reception and hotel corridors was monitoring the camera, saw the picture of the suspect and uploaded the video online and it went viral on social media.
“The hotel later reported to the Police about the development and released to us the telephone number he dropped with the hotel. We began to track him on his phone and, with God on our side, he was arrested along Bori, Ogoni axis of the East-West road while on his way to Akwa Ibom on Thursday afternoon.
“The command’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) team was on their usual ‘stop and search’ duties when they intercepted a commercial bus heading towards Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
“When they offloaded the passengers of the vehicle for one-on-one search, with the help of the viral photo, they saw the suspect in the same attire (striped T-shirt and blue trousers) on the video, which he was also putting on now.
“The SARS team called my attention to it on phone and I asked that they brought him straight to my office and they brought him in handcuffs. The moment he stepped into my office, I called him by his name, David-West, and he answered. I said to him, ‘welcome to my office.’ He then said to me, please sir, I am ready to tell you the truth, I don’t want any problem.
“It was at that point that I directed that they unlock his handcuffs, so he could relax and be free to talk and give me all the necessary information that I needed.”
West’s arrest may have doused the tension in the state over serial killings, but many residents are still apprehensive, believing that he could not have acted alone and could not be responsible for all related killings in the state.
This would hopefully be put to test and rest as Police investigation continues to unravel the mysterious killings and deaths in the state.
“I am a native of Buguma in Asari Toru Council of Rivers State, born in 1980. I don’t know what is causing me to kill women in the hotel. When the spirit comes, it will be pushing me to go and kill, then after killing the person, I would start regretting my actions.
“I even went to The Lord’s Chosen Church branch in Oyibo. I told the pastor that I kill girls in hotels; that I don’t know what is happening to me and he should help me. So, the pastor told me that they were having a programme, that I should come back on a Friday, that they don’t allow people to sleep in the church.
“He told me to come back the next day, so that he can take me to their General Overseer (GO), who will be at the crusade. When I told him that it would be hard for me to see their GO, he said I should go, that there is no other way he could help me.
“After that, I left the church, went to lodge in a hotel and slept alone that day. I am the one doing all the serial killings in Port Harcourt. I was with a girl two days ago, but I didn’t harm her. But when it comes on me, I will kill the person.
“I always go to the hotel with a kitchen knife. When we go inside the hotel room, after eating and making love, we will sleep for a while. When the girl is sleeping, I will hold her on the neck with the knife and wake her up. I will tell her not to shout, that if she shouts, I will cut off her throat with the knife. With that threat, the girl will not shout, she will relax, believing that I will not kill her.
“I will promise her that I will only tie her and will not kill her. After that, I will tear the pillowcase and use it to tie her hands and legs, so when I kill her, she will not struggle with me. But before I kill her, I will increase the volume of the television set in the room, so no one will suspect my action.
“But before killing them, some of the victims will offer me some money to release them. I will collect their ATM PIN number and still kill her. After killing them, I will stay in the room till daybreak until the laundry opens. I will give them my cloth to wash and bring back. Then I will leave the hotel room without suspicion in mind of the hotel management.
“After killing them, I will take their phones and sell it to one boy called Shina in Garrison and sometime in Waterlines and Eleme Junction axis of Port Harcourt.”