Any visitor to Okwelle community in the Onuimo Local Government Area of Imo State will swiftly notice that all is not well with the community.
Though one week on , the tragedy which struck the community was the only item on the lips of residents of the community. People were seen in clusters discussing and shaking their heads in bewilderment about how three children between the ages of five and two of two families living in the same compound were found dead in a stationary car in a mysterious circumstance.
Saviour Nweke , five and his brother, Salvation , three and their two -year-old cousin , Precious Nwode, were found dead in a stationary vehicle in the compound . The distraught parents told Saturday PUNCH when our correspondent visited them that the vehicle was owned by their landlord who lives in Lagos .
Police had told Saturday PUNCH that the three children were found dead inside the vehicle after their parents had formed a search party when their whereabouts became unknown .
The police spokesperson in the state , Andrew Enwerem , a superintendent of police had said, “We received a report of three children of the same parents, Saviour , Salvation and Precious missing .
Unfortunately, the boys were found dead in a stationary vehicle in the village after a search party was declared .
“ Suspicion has it that they entered inside a parked vehicle, locked themselves inside and didn ’t know how to unlock it .
“ They apparently suffocated under the heat and died afterwards . The corpses have been evacuated to a mortuary in the area by the police . ”
According to the police spokesperson , the children went to play when their parents went out , saying that the state commissioner of police , Chris Ezike , had ordered a thorough investigation into the incident .
But the parents of the children told our correspondent that there was no way their children could have died of suffocation. According to the distraught parents who hail from Orizo in the Izza North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, the marks and blood they saw on the bodies of their deceased children was pointer that there was more to the death of the children .
Speaking to our correspondent in an emotion laden voice , the father of Salvation and Saviour , Chidiebere Nweke and Anayo Nwode, who is the father of two -year-old Precious, said that they suspected foul play and called on the police to unravel the circumstance leading to the death of their children and apprehend the suspected killers.
Thirty -six -year-old Nweke, said, “ Though I don’ t have anybody in my mind, my only two children and my younger brother’ s two -year-old daughter couldn ’ t have died of suffocation from the parked car . I am not suspecting my landlord because he is a good Christian and the children always played in the car.
“ The marks, blood and other things we saw on their bodies showed that they must have been killed. It seemed that they were strangled because their bones were weak and disjointed. We saw blood, there were marks on their bodies and they were foaming from their mouths . It couldn ’ t have been suffocation owing to the heat from the car. ”
Lamenting, the bereaved father said , “ these were children I took breakfast with and did morning devotion with before leaving for an early morning appointment in Osina in the Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State. There was nothing to show that death was lurking . They were not sick and did not complain of any discomfort. I prayed with them and equally blessed them. That morning , I poured blessing on them and as a father , I decreed that they would rule their generation . I never knew I was having my last encounter with them. I never knew that I would not meet them alive when I returned .
“ While I was in Osina , my younger brother, Anayo , who equally lost his daughter , called that I should start coming home. First , he didn ’t tell me that my two children ( all boys ) and his daughter had died but the sound of his voice depicted that all was not well but it never crossed my mind that such tragedy had befallen our households.
“ I quickly hit the road and upon reaching my compound, I saw a crowd. People were everywhere and when I inquired to know what was wrong , I was told that my two children , Salvation , Saviour and my brother’s daughter , Precious , were found dead in a parked vehicle in our compound owned by our landlord who resides in Lagos .
“ I couldn ’t believe it because it was like a dream to me . When I rushed to the vehicle, it then dawned on me that it was a reality. It was as if my whole life had come to an end . It appeared that my world had crumbled. I saw the three of them lifeless with marks and blood all over them. I quickly took them to the hospital (St Mary ’s Hospital, Umunachi in the Isiala Mbano LGA) , where the doctor on duty confirmed them dead .”
Nweke said that a pastor with the Assemblies of God Church , who was at the hospital to see a patient , disagreed with the doctor ’ s position. According to the mourning father , the cleric asked them to bring the lifeless children to his church , trusting that God would bring them back to life.
“ Immediately the doctor confirmed them dead , a pastor with the Assemblies of God who was on a visit to the hospital asked us to bring the lifeless children to his church . He was trusting God to bring them back to life . We obeyed him and took the children to his church . We prayed and kept vigil but the children couldn ’ t come back to life . It was the next day when it became obvious that the children were actually dead that we took them to the mortuary and contacted the police . The Honda space wagon vehicle where the children allegedly died was immediately evacuated to the police and it is still there .”
Precious ’ mother , Onyinyechi Nwode, said , “ I was the one who bathed my daughter that morning before the tragedy struck. After bathing her , Precious left our apartment for the other apartment. I knew she had gone to play with her fellow children .
So I never bothered and I therefore concentrated on the other things I was doing.
“ But after about two hours, I started looking for her . I visited our neighbours ’ apartment to carry her but she and the other two boys were nowhere to be found . We started looking for them. After an intensive search , they were found in a car parked in the compound, lifeless. ”
The bereaved young mother who is left with a girl , said that the way the children were found dead in the car showed that something was absolutely wrong .
Flanked by relations who came from Lagos to be with the families in the moment of their grief , she said that it appeared that the children were killed, dismissing the claim that the children might have died of suffocation. She questioned if suffocation could result to marks and blood on the bodies of the children .
When asked whether she suspected something before that day , the 25 years old mother said that she had a dream on the night that preceded the day that the children died.
According to her , in the dream, she saw three snakes swallowing each other. She said she was scared and quickly woke up , adding that she called the attention of the family and they prayed about it . She lamented that it was when the tragedy struck that she recalled the dream.
Her husband, Anayo , told our correspondent that he equally had a dream. He recalled that in the dream, policemen were pursuing him and that when he woke up , he dismissed it because he had no problem or a police case with anybody .
Nweke said that Saviour woke up the previous night and was crying. He said he quickly carried him , prayed for him and asked him to go back to sleep.
He said, “Salvation said he wanted to be a pastor . The painful aspect is that we just relocated from Lagos to this place in January . Salvation didn’ t welcome people easily. It would take him time to begin to interact with a visitor or anybody he didn ’t know . It would take him like 48 hours to accept to talk to any visitor . That was his nature; that was the kind of person he was . ”
He said his elder brother, Saviour, was the quiet type but very friendly . “ He welcomed people more than his younger brother. He further was more friendly and very accommodating, ” he explained.
He called on the state commissioner of police , Chris Ezike , to transfer the matter to the state criminal investigation and Intelligence Department for a thorough job .
Mrs . Nwode described her daughter as a very outspoken kid who showed signs that she wanted to be a woman of God though she had yet to say it out apparently because of her age.
“ She was very outspoken and loved God dearly . She was always demonstrating and mimicking pastor, she added .”
Copyright PUNCH .