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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Murder investigations: Bereaved family cries foul over outcome

By Theophilus Sahr Gbenda

Late Sahid Saio Jawara

Family members of the late Sahid Saio Jawara aged 34, who according to post-mortem examination result was murdered in cold blood, have raised concern over what they refer to as the “Surprising release of the prime suspect Joseph Cole popularly known as J. Pack”, who was in police custody in respect of the matter.

Police sources have long confirmed that the matter had been duly investigated and the case file forwarded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for legal advice.

During the course of investigations, two names reigned top as being directly involved in the alleged murder. The prime suspect Joseph Cole was in custody, while the second suspect Gabriel Alie alias Funky Pee went on the run, apparently to evade police arrest.

The release of the prime suspect J. Pack, whose detention provided a glimmer of hope for justice to the bereaved family, has left them in a confused state as to what now becomes of the matter.

Mother of the late Sahid Saio Jawara, Madam Hawa Jawara who is based in Maryland in the United States of America (USA), said “No one has communicated to us the reason for the release, and we are extremely worried over the direction the matter has taken”.

Lawyer Musa Beretay ESQ, acting on behalf of the bereaved family, on 2nd March 2022, addressed a correspondence to the DPP titled, “Request for the DPP’s advice on the alleged murder of Sahid Saio Jawara”.

The body of the said correspondence reads, “I act as Solicitor for the Jawara Family and I had made representation to the investigators at the Lumley Police Division for the Jawara Family whose aforementioned family member was reportedly killed by one J. Pack and one ‘Funki Pee’.

Upon information received that the said J. Pack who was in police custody has been released on bail based on the DPP’s advice, I decided to visit the Crime Officer at Lumley Police Division on the 1st day of March 2022 to confirm the information received.

The said Crime Officer confirmed the foregoing information and showed me the advice but refused to avail me with copy of same, saying that they are not used to doing that. As Counsel associating with the police investigations, I encouraged the Crime Officer to avail me with copy of the said advice for the attention of my clients but to no avail.

I am convinced that the DPP’s advice on the instant matter is not a secret or classified document that could warrant a refusal of same to Associating Counsel.

In light of the foregoing, I hereby request pursuant to section 2(1) of the Right to Access Information Act 2013 that a copy of the said advice be made available to me for the attention of my clients”.

In what seems like a clear violation of the Act quoted above, the Office of the DPP failed to acknowledge the receipt of the said correspondence, while at the same time refused to share a copy of the legal advice to Counsel Musa Beretay.

“I tried to see the DPP in person to ask about the matter, but he told me categorically that he will not avail me with a copy of the advice, but rather said he has given the said advice to the police and that I could go to the police for a copy”, said Lawyer Beretay in utter disappointment.

According to Counsel Beretay, this unprecedented development has put him in a state of dilemma as to what next to do.

Another Solicitor involved in the matter on behalf of the bereaved family, Teddy Koroma ESQ, referred to the situation as unfair, and said he hope to personally talk to the DPP on the matter.

The result of the post-mortem examination performed on 2nd February 2022 by renowned Pathologist Consultant Dr. Owiss Koroma shows that the late Sahid Saio Jawara was murdered. The causes of death according to the post-mortem result relate to multiple blunt force fractures/injuries of the neck and right leg, severe physical assault (manual strangulation) with finger nail and dislocation fracture of the cervical vertebral with spinal cord injury.

Before his death, the deceased Sahid Saio Jawara disclosed to his mother and other family members present the torturous encounter he had in the hands of a gang amongst which were known friends, and particularly mentioned the name of J. Pack as being one of those involved in his alleged physical manhandling. There is a video recording to the effect.

“It came as a big surprise to me and family members that despite the abundance of clear evidences including a post-mortem examination result, the DPP went ahead and gave instruction for the prime suspect to be released”, Madam Hawa Jawara said in a rather frustrated mood.

The office of the DPP has since defended itself, arguing that their legal advice in respect of the matter was based on the weight of the evidences put forward by the police investigators.

“It is us who have to go to court to prosecute, and it is therefore incumbent on us to feel satisfied that the evidences are strong enough to warrant a positive advice for a given matter to be charged to court”, said the Director or Public Prosecution, Easmon Nathanael Ngakui.

In an encounter with officials of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) at the Lumley Police Division, it came out clearly that critical evidences were left out in the investigations and in the summary presented to the DPP’s Office.

One of such critical evidences is the video recording in which the deceased narrated his ordeal with his assailants and even mentioned the name of the prime suspect J. Pack, who is now on the loose, courtesy of a “clearly flawed investigation”, as members of the bereaved family put it.

In the summary of the CID investigators as presented to the DPP for legal advice is an unsubstantiated claim that the late Sahid Saio Jawara at some time before his death ran mentally disordered and even jumped off through the window from a single storey building.

The police investigators made absolutely no effort to unravel the truth behind this assumption, yet it formed the central piece of the evidences contained in the case file presented to the DPP. The police investigators defended themselves saying, “We merely only submitted the evidences we were able to get”.

What also came out clearly is that the police investigators seem to have completely and entirely ignored the post-mortem examination result which amongst other things cited manual strangulation, broken ribs and fractures on the skull due to physical manhandling, as the main causes of death. “We were investigating a case of water poisoning, but the post-mortem examination came out with something different”, said one of the police investigators.

In the words of Inspector Souffian Mansaray, one of the CID prime investigators of the matter, “There is no evidence pointing at J. Pack as being involved in the alleged murder of the deceased”.

It is as a result of this that the DPP’s office gave advice for the said suspect to be released on bail for want of clear or direct evidence.

In view of the forgoing, family members of the deceased have cried foul over the way the matter has turned out, and have expressed grave dissatisfaction over the way the police handled the matter.

“They could have been bribed”, said Madam Hawa Jawara, mother of the deceased, adding that one of the police investigators even asked her for financial assistance through a WhatsApp message. There is an evidence to the effect. “This alone shows that the police were hell-bent on making money out of the matter”, she claims.

Madam Hawa went on to say that, “To ensure fairness and justice for my son, we call for an independent body within the Sierra Leone Police to open up the investigations all over again”.

At some time during the course of the investigation, family members claimed that some CID officers at the Lumley Police Station were making mockery of them by threatening to launch an investigation against them over the death of the late Sahid.

“The police claimed that we have hands in his death because we allowed him to jump of the window, and I’m still wondering who gave them that fake information”, Alie Jawara, the elder brother of the deceased said. 

What seems to have brought in a whole lot of complication in the matter is that while the DPP’s office ordered the release of J. Pack, it went ahead and called for a warrant of arrest for Funking Pee who has since been on the run.   

Meanwhile, the bereaved family of the late Sahid Saio Jawara has called for the intervention of the authorities concerned, saying the evidences are too plenty for the office of the DPP to come forward with an unfavorable advice for the matter not to be prosecuted.

Meanwhile further, the police have accused the bereaved family of neglect, saying “The family failed to report the allegation of beating to the police while the deceased was still alive”.

The family denied this, saying the police are simply looking for an escape route.

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