By Ifeanyi Okolie
WHILE Nigerians are still celebrating the demise of dreaded kidnap kingpin and notorious armed robbery chief, Henry Chibueze popularly called Vampire, little is known about the circumstances that led to his end. Vampire, who had terrorized Imo State and other parts of the country for long periods, was earlier rescued by some gunmen who stormed Owerri High Court, Imo State, shooting indiscriminately. The commando-like operation took security men at the court including prison officials who accompanied him to the day’s hearing of his case, by surprise.
At the end of the barely 15 minute operation, two persons were shot dead while scores of others including security men, received gunshot wounds. The high profile criminal who had kidnapped and killed 200 persons across the country, responded quickly to the invasion by his men who handed an AK47 assault rifle to him and he displayed what he knew how to do best after which he disappeared with his deadly gang into thin air. After the operation, a red alert was raised in all police formations in the country and beyond. This was as a result of Vampire’s known bloody operations in the past, especially in February 2013 when the dreaded kidnapper stormed two homes in Igando area of Lagos State and killed nine persons, including his girlfriend, her pregnant sisters and their children, in cold-blood.
The energetic crime buster who now heads Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, IRS, Abba Kyari, was the officer-in-charge of Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, Ikeja at the time. He was one of the first men to race to the scene after the police received a distress call on the incident. The sight of lifeless bodies of the children, their pregnant mothers drenched in own blood, traumatized him and he may have vowed to track down the person that spilled the blood of innocent children and their pregnant mothers in such a manner.
Luckily, few months after, some members of Vampire’s gang who masterminded the kidnap of a British national, Dickson Lee, at Mafoluku axis of the Airport Road, Ikeja, Lagos were arrested. They volunteered information indicating that Vampire was then residing with his family in Ivory Coast but that he usually sneaked into the country, to carry out some kidnapping and then sneaked out again. With the arrest and killing of several members of his gang, the police in Lagos concluded that Vampire has been degraded and frustrated, but unknown to them, Vampire was still active, unleashing terror in Imo and other South East States.
At that time, he was said to have kidnapped and killed several persons, including wife of a traditional ruler, member of Imo State House of Assembly, three of his uncles at his home town in Agba area of Imo State, businessmen and several others. But in July 2015, he ran out of luck as men of the Department of State Service, DSS, apprehended him while he attempted to kidnap some Judges attached to the Imo State Electoral Tribunal. He was remanded at the Owerri Central Prison, from where he also coordinated several kidnappings and gave out his numerous rifles for hire to criminals. Sources at the prison disclosed that Vampire lived like a king in the prison. He reportedly had free access to his mobile phones and enjoyed regular visits from various persons including his gang members who brought food and money to him.
In November 2015, he successfully recruited an official of the Nigeria Prison Service, NPS, Chukwuma Agim, into his gang and made him set up a kidnap gang that would enable them raise money for their cases. Agim and four others were later arrested by operatives of the IRT in Owerri and remanded in prison custody. He claimed that they kidnapped a woman and that she paid N5 million before her release. According to Agim, N1.5 million was given to a Vampire who was their overall boss and owner of the rifles that were used for the operation.
Five days after Vampire’s rescue inside Owerri High court, the visibly traumatized Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, reportedly summoned members of Abba Kyari’s team with marching orders to fish him out within 48 hours or face disciplinary action. The fact that Vampire confessed to having killed 200 people in various operations across the country rattled the police hierarchy even more. A roll call of his victims still remains a shocker to security agents in the country in spite of his death. He claimed responsibility for the murder of the following persons: Placid Ejimadu (Nze Ji Obi), Jonathan Ibemere, aka Gwogwuo and Livinus Iwumune all natives of Agbaja, Nwangele Local Government in Imo. He also killed a member of the Imo State House of Assembly at Orji in 2015, and murdered the wife of the traditional ruler of Mbaise in 2015. The woman’s corpse had not been seen till date. Others were the kidnap and murder of a man from Malaysia at First Bank, World Bank area, Owerri, and killing of three members of a family, including a woman from Nkwere in 2012 after collecting ransom from the family.
How the Malaysian returnee met his death
On January, 26, 2015, a Malaysian based businessman, Sopuruchukwu Igweanyiba, was kidnapped by Vampire when he accosted him in a car wash located around World Bank area of Owerri, Imo State. A brother to the businessman told Crime Alert that Vampire sighted his brother’s Range Rover SUV at the popular car wash and demanded to see the owner. “The people operating the car wash didn’t know who he was and they ignorantly called my brother and told him someone was looking for him. He ordered my brother into his own vehicle with a gun and took him away. That was on a Sunday and he didn’t contact us for ransom until Wednesday when he demanded for N100 million.
“We begged him that we don’t have such an amount and he reduced it to N50 million. We begged again and he reduced it to N30 million and later, stopped at N20 million. We told him that all we could raise was N5 million and he refused. After several pleadings, he told us that if we fail to pay the money, it will be the last time we will hear from him. My brother was the only person in his camp, but he took my brother to Ugwuoji area of Mbaitolu Local Government Area of the State and shot him seven times. He dumped him inside a gutter and left him to die. That was around 8.00pm. Few hours later, my brother saw a security man and begged him to take him to hospital. The security man was scared and he went and called the Police who later took my brother to the hospital. My brother was in the hospital for three weeks and died on February 23, 2015 from his wounds.”
Police team swings into action: Crime Alert learned that based on these startling revelations, the team swung into action and succeeded in arresting five members of his gang namely, Obinna Elah, 26, from Orlu and Vampire’s second in command, Arinze Abecheta, 24, from Okohia, Isiala Mbano Local Government and Chukwuebuka Ikeazota, 23, and Samuel Ugochukwu, 24, both from Arochukwu in Abia, the sixth suspect, and the fifth caught alive, was Clifford Aheana from Omu Awa in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers. Police said they recovered five AK 47 rifles and an AK 47 magazine containing 300 rounds of ammunition from the gang, while charms were also recovered from the body of Vampire who was killed during the operation.
The gang members were arrested by 1.00 a.m on Thursday, March 2, 2017 after a gun battle at Omu Awa forest in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers. The Police Special Forces working under the supervision of the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Police Command, swooped on the hideout of Henry Chibueze aka ‘Vampire’ and his gang and engaged them in a fierce gun battle that lasted several hours. This operation was successfully carried out as the dreaded Vampire, died during the shootout with the Police Special Forces while all the other suspects were arrested and exhibits recovered from them.
Meanwhile, Owerri was thrown into celebration when news of the death of Vampire spread into town as people thronged the Police Command Headquarters to have a glimpse of the corpse of a man who had brought death, sorrow, pain and agony to their lives. They waited patiently until the IRT operatives who brought in Vampire’s remains from Rivers State, arrived the Headquarters. Rounds of gunfire were shot in celebration as the operatives arrived and the leader of the team, Abba Kyari, was immediately lifted off his feet by his men the moment he was spotted. The operatives then took the corpse round Imo State to reassure the residents that the police is determined to ensure they have a safe society.
Search for Vampire: Narrating details of the operation to Crime Alert, a police source said that while they were deployed to Imo State to track down Vampire after his escape from prison, they stormed his home town in Nwagele Local Government Area of Imo State and established contacts with some of the locals who provided valuable information to them. There, they discovered that Vampire, had an aunt, living in Anara town in Isiala-Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State, and her children were his closest confidants.
THE operatives invaded the
said house and arrested one of his aunt’s sons identified as Chukwuebuka, and when he was identified, he denied knowing Vampire. The operatives, while in Anara, also arrested one of Chukwuebuka’s friends, known as Arinze and he was made to believe that Chukwuebuka, had confessed their involvement in the rescue of Vampire and the subsequent kidnapping they carried out after his escape. Arinze was said to have quickly denied taking part in the rescue operation stating that he was asked to join the operation but he refused because he was scared. He, however, admitted seeing Vampire on the day he was rescued and Chukwuebuka’s elder brother know as Cornelius, boasted that he led the gang that rescued Vampire.
Kidnap operation after rescue: Arinze said that Vampire kidnapped four persons two days after he was rescued from prison and contracted him to watch over the victims. He said he was paid N100, 000. When Chukwuebuka was confronted with these facts, he confessed that Vampire was in his house and was being kept in his elder brother’s house. When the police stormed the house, they discovered that Vampire had fled into the bush in Agbaja Town. The police source continued: “We trailed him to Agbaja Town and made contacts with some vigilante men and he got information and moved to Abia State. While in Abia, we made his brother take us to his house in Aba that was around 2.00 am. Unfortunately for us, we moved to identify the house and cordon off the place. Some dogs started barking and it alerted him. Before we knew what was happening, he threw open his gate and drove out in his SUV in an attempt to escape. We rained bullets on the vehicle and when we stopped and took possession, Vampire came out with his rifles and started firing. A policeman who was very close to him got shot on his face and chest. He took the rifle of the policeman and left the scene with his injured brother and headed towards Imo State, from there he moved into Rivers State.
Police accomplice exposed: His cousins also informed us that he bought a Mercedes Benz and it was being driven by a dismissed policeman. He gave us the name and phone number of the dismissed officer. When we called and invited him to his former office, he showed up and he was arrested. He then told us that he took Vampire to his home town in Rivers State. Immediately we drove down to Rivers State and when we got to the spot where he kept Vampire, we took possession, shot tear gas canister into the place and when he felt the smells of the gas, he started shooting. He shot at various directions and when he stopped, we opened fire on him and he discovered that the bullets were coming from various directions and he started running deep inside the forest. After a while, we stopped, but we discovered that he was still shooting as he was running and when he stopped, we called members of the vigilante in that village to lead us into the forest to search for him. After a very long time, we found him around 1.00 am. We also arrested his second in command but we couldn’t arrest his brother who sustained a bullet wound.
Confessions of dismissed police accomplice: The dismissed police accomplice narrated to Crime Alert how he was recruited by Vampire and how he rescued him from Imo, Abia and Rivers States when the police were hunting for him. He explained that he was made to swear to an oath never to betray him and he also threatened to wipe off his family if he betrayed him. He said he worked for Vampire out of fear that he could carry out his threats. According to him: “I am 33-year-old and a native of Omuama Village in Ikwere local government area of Rivers State, I was a Mobile Policeman attached to 18 PMF. I met Vampire after he was released from prison. I spoke with him first in January 2017; he called to confirm if I was the mobile policeman he heard of. When I asked how he got my number, he told me that his friend Obinna gave it to him and he also told him how I helped him while in the cell.
Last year March, I was arrested for going for an illegal duty and my commander detained me at the Imo State Criminal Investigations Department. While in the cell, Obinna was detained in another cell close to mine and whenever I was eating, he normally begged me to give him part of my food. After a while, I asked where he came from and he told me that he was from Imo State but lives and work in Aba, Abia State. He also told me that he was a shoemaker and that he has not been allowed to communicate with his family. I spent over six weeks in that detention. There was a day the Commissioner of Police came to the cell and ordered everyone in the cell to come out and he started asking them what their offence was. Obinna told him that he was caught in someone’s house where he went to spend the night without knowing that the person was a thief, and when the person was caught breaking into someone’s shop on Douglas Road, the policemen brought him to his house for search and there they found him sleeping and arrested him. Then the CP ordered that he should be freed but his Investigating Police Officer insisted that he must provide N4,000. He approached me and begged for money. I gave it to him and he was released.
After rescue operation in court: “When Vampire was rescued from the court, Obinna called to inform me that he was out from prison and three days later, Vampire called and said he wanted me to help him pick up a car from a man coming from Onitsha. He also gave me N400, 000 to give to the man. I met the man at Control Junction, Owerri, and collected the Mercedes C class from him. He called and also asked me to keep the car. After one week, he asked me to come with the car to Amaraku area and I should stop by a church and put on my light. When he met me, he directed that I should put off my ignition and come out of the car; that was the first day I set my eyes on him. When I came out of the car, he led me to a place and brought out a gun and cocked it. I was shocked when I saw the gun and I asked him what was happening.
He then brought out a cup of water and said I should drink it. I drank it and he told me that he was scared of working with me but with this water that I have taken, he would be alerted whenever I want to betray him. He threatened to kill me and my family. I took the car away and he called me three days later to say that he was stranded at Attah axis on the Owerri-Okigwe Road, that I should come and rescue him. Time was around 9.00pm, I was in my house in Owerri when I received that call and I went out immediately. I met him and he was carrying a bag, two mobile phones and some documents. I took him in the car and we went to Amaraku and dropped him close to the church and went home.
One week later, he called to tell me that the police have arrested his driver’s brother and that his driver’s sister would be coming from Port Harcourt; that I should take her to the police station to know what was his offence. He also told me that since the police have arrested his driver’s brother, he has moved from Amaraku and is presently at Agbaja in Nwagele. Few hours later, he called again and said that the vigilante men in Agbaja were having issues among themselves and the person he was hiding in his house is also a member of the vigilante; that he was uncomfortable because the vigilante men had been arrested by policemen at Orlu Area Command.
Race to Aba: I was in Owerri when he called again and I zoomed off immediately to Agbaja. I saw him putting on a big jacket and he was carrying a bag filled with guns. He jumped into the car when he saw me and we drove to Aba. Obinna was with us and he sat at the back with his rifle cocked, ready to shoot at anytime. We drove down to Osisioma Junction along Aba Port Harcourt Road and he called his driver in Aba, Isiagwu to bring out his bus and he entered it. He didn’t allow me to follow him to the house in Aba. I and Obinna came back to Owerri. By 4.00 am the next morning, he called me again and said that he was attacked and his life was in danger. He pleaded that I should come and rescue him. I left my home immediately and drove down to Aba and he was directing me. I picked him up with one injured person (I don’t know his name) and he told me that the person was his brother. We drove back into Amaraku and he collected some cash and cloths and told me that I should take him to Bayelsa State.
Threatens to blow up Concord hotel, attack Gov, family: When we approached Concord Hotel, he told me that it would be his first target when he returns to Imo State. He explained that he was heading to Bayelsa State because he wanted to make it difficult for the police to reach him. He said he was going to blow up Concord Hotel with rocket launchers and after that, he would go after the Governor of Imo State and his family. When we got to Umu-Agwor area, his wounded brother started bleeding seriously. He begged me to take him to a place where he can treat the wound. I took them to an uncompleted building in my village, then I went to repair the vehicle at Elele close to my village.
I took the vehicle to a mechanic and he said he could not repair it; that I should come back the next day. I went back to him and he gave me N20, 000 to fix the car and get him short knickers. I went back to Owerri to fix the car. While I was at the mechanic, I got a call from my former office, but when I showed up, I was arrested. The police told me they were looking for Vampire and I took them to my village where I kept him. I was on handcuffs when the police went after him. When the shooting started, he called and told me to stay out of my village that he was under attack. He did not know that I was with the police team. When the shooting stopped, he called again and said that he has been shot and was running deep into the forest. His brother, Obinna, also called and said that he was in trouble and I asked him to go to my house and stay. When he got there, he was arrested,” he narrated.