The third prosecution witness in the Takoradi girls kidnapping and murder case, Francis Bentum, has told a Sekondi High Court that the suspected Nigerian kidnapper, Samuel Udoetuk Wills, demanded GH¢5,000 as ransom from him before releasing his daughter.
“The kidnapper asked me to pay GH¢5,000 before releasing my daughter, Priscilla Blessing Bentum, whom he claimed was in his captivity,” he said.
He told the court that he was able to pay GH¢4,500 to the suspect in instalments, but his daughter was not released.
He disclosed that his daughter was 21 years old and a third-year student of the University of Education, Winneba, and lived with her at Diabene, near Takoradi.
He added that the daughter was kidnapped on August 17, 2018 at Kansaworodo, a surburb of Takoradi.
He narrated that on that fateful day, his daughter left home for work at Ghana Cement (GHACEM) in Takoradi but did not return, saying “the following day, I reported to the police about my missing daughter.”
He said later a certain man called and told him that he had kidnapped his daughter and needed an amount of GH¢5,000. “He gave a Tigo number I should pay the money to via mobile money,” he added.
He revealed that he spoke with the alleged kidnapper more than once.
“I gave him GH¢4,500 but the man who spoke broken Twi with a foreign accent failed to honour his promise of releasing my daughter,” he said.
He stated that initially it was his son Isaac Ackon who was following up on investigations and coordinating with the police.
He said later he heard the police had discovered some skeletal remains around Samuel Wills' residence. “I went to the scene and upon reaching there, I saw a bamboo stick with a nail attached to one end and also I saw a pickup vehicle,” he added.
“I looked into a Celtic tank and did not see anything. A man who identified himself as a police officer told me he was guarding the place to prevent people from entering the area so I left for my house,” he told the court.
He said later the police asked him to make himself available for his sample to be taken for a DNA test. “Samples were taken from me, my wife Gladys and my son. The samples were taken by using a long cotton bud to take saliva from our mouths,” he recounted.
He said after sometime, the police returned with the news through a priest that the DNA tests showed his daughter was dead, adding “I did not accept it because the agreement we had with the police was that the parents of the victims should be involved in the process.”
“While the visitors were there, a call came through and I was told President Nana Akufo-Addo wanted to speak with me. The President expressed his condolences and said that was not the result he anticipated but, unfortunately, that was what had happened,” he recalled.
Mr. Bentum added that later the then Director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Maame Tiwaa Danquah, called and told him to come to Accra to meet with the new Inspector General of Police (IGP).
“I told her I will not go because the victims were four so why should she call only me to come, but she told me it was on individual basis,” he explained.
According to him, he went with some family members to meet with the police including COP Kofi Boakye, adding “later I was allowed to see one of the skeletal remains which some claimed were that of my daughter but I didn't accept that, and we came back to Takoradi.”
He told the court that he was no more interested in conducting an independent test because when they made a request for it they were not given the opportunity.
During cross-examination, the Counsel for the suspect, Mark Bosia, from the Legal Aid Board, asked Mr. Bentum how much he paid at each instalment, and he said the first was GH¢2,000 followed by GH¢1,000 and another GH¢1,000 and then GH¢500.
He explained it was the wife who kept on insisting that they should pay the money thinking the kidnapper would fulfill the promise to release their daughter.
When asked whether he still believes that her daughter was not dead, he said that was the case because he was of the opinion that there was no transparency in the whole DNA processes.
Sitting continues on Wednesday, September 2.