Suspected killers of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo, have been arrested. The cleric was kidnapped by some gunmen in Orlu, Imo State in his car on Friday. He was said to be returning home to organise the funeral of his father when he was abducted at gunpoint.
His remains were later discovered in Omumma, in the Oru East Local Government Area on Saturday. A police officer, Jude Madu, who allegedly masterminded the abduction was among those arrested. The Commissioner of Police in the state, Chris Ezike, said five other suspects had also been arrested in connection with the crime.
Ezike disclosed this in Owerri, the state capital while presenting the suspects to newsmen on Thursday. He said following a directive by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to track down the culprits, the command moved into action and had so far arrested six persons in connection with the crime.
He said the command was able to achieve the feat through a whistle-blowing strategy and forensic technology.
Onunkwo, a reverend, was abducted on Friday at Banana junction in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State by gunmen.His corpse was later found in Omuma the following day.
One of the suspects, Izuchukwu Okafor from Anambra, said that Onunkwo was killed in error. He claimed that the gang only kidnapped the priest for ransom but later discovered that he died while on transit to their hideout. “When we kidnapped the priest, we used cello tape to seal his mouth, unknown to us, his nose was also sealed.
“When we discovered that he could no longer talk, we unsealed his mouth and found out that he has dead,” Okafor said. Another suspect, Onyema Cyril, from Onuimo Local Government Area of Imo, said that when they discovered that their victim was a priest he opted for his release, but that the police officer who was among them threatened to shoot them if they released him.
Others presented to newsmen in connection with the crime are Emmanuel Ozuigbo, Victor Ikechukwu and Ifeanyi Nwosu.
It was also gathered that the deceased priest came home to make arrangments for the burial of his father who died recently.
An eye-witness account at the scene of the incident said the priest was not first identified.
“The kidnap victim looked very much like a priest,” but could not at the time, properly identify who he was. When the police, who were working with Rev. Fr. Christopher Ihenetu came to the scene, they saw the abandoned Toyota Corolla car, searched it and found an envelope with Fr. Onunkwo’s name on it”, said a witness.
It was equally gathered that with this recovery, Fr. Ihenetu started making enquiries and later discovered through the help of Fr. Udem and Fr. Ukoha that Fr. Onunkwo actually came home to arrange for his father’s burial and was staying at Fr. Udem’s place.
It was further discovered that the Toyota Corolla car abandoned at the scene of the crime belonged to Fr. Onunkwo.
Police Commissioner had said when the priest’s corpse was recovered by the Orsu Divisional Police Office, priests of Orlu Catholic Diocese were called in immediately and they identified the corpse as their priest.
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