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End of the road for ‘Vampire,’ Nigeria’s deadliest kidnapper

By Odita Sunday (Lagos) and Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri)
03 March 2017   |   3:58 am
After days of frantic search for dreaded 36-year-old kidnap kingpin, Henry Chibueze, popularly known as Vampire, the end came in the early hours of yesterday after police engaged Vampire and his cohorts in a fierce shootout.

Henry Chibueze, popularly known as Vampire

• He was orphaned at seven, took to crime at 11, began kidnap-for-ransom at 30

After days of frantic search for dreaded 36-year-old kidnap kingpin, Henry Chibueze, popularly known as Vampire, the end came in the early hours of yesterday after police engaged Vampire and his cohorts in a fierce shootout.

According to police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, a Chief Superintendent of Police, Vampire was killed in Omu Awa forest, at Ikwerre, Rivers State by the police special forces, led by the I-G’s Intelligence Response Team around 1a.m. yesterday.

He added that five suspected members of the gang were also arrested and large cache of arms and ammunition recovered from them. Briefing journalists at the headquarters of the police command in Owerri, Imo State, Moshood told newsmen that the late Chibueze, who was freed by his gang on Friday, January 27, at the Owerri High Court premises soon after they were brought in a Black Maria, was killed after several hours of ‘fierce gun-battle’ at Omu Awa Forest in Rivers State.

Moshood revealed that the gang had been responsible for so many kidnappings and robbery attacks in Imo, Abia, Rivers, Delta and other states in the South-East and South-South.

He noted that the arrested members of the gang would be paraded and charged to court on completion of investigation. They were identified as 26-year-old Obinna Elah, Arinze Abecheta, 24; Chukwu Ebuka Ikeazota, 23; Samuel Ugochukwu, 24, and Clifford Aheana.

“Chibueze, the Vampire, was the criminal spirited away by his gang members on January 27 at the premises of an Owerri High Court. He was arrested in 2015 and had been in prison custody following the kidnap of the wife of a government official.”

Chibueze, who was brought to the court alongside other arrested suspects, escaped when gunmen in a sports utility vehicle, which had been parked at the premises, opened fire immediately he disembarked from the prison van. The incident left five prisons officials and some bystanders wounded by the gunfire. Two other suspects were taken along with him.

The Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Prisons Service, Mr. James Madugba, said the accomplices had been mistaken for operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), hence no alarm was raised when they were spotted at the court.

Chibueze, who was paraded by the DSS before the state governor in 2015, admitted to having carried out several kidnappings in the state and neighbouring states before his arrest.

After his escape in January, Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, announced a N5 million bounty for information that would lead to his arrest.

Until his arrest in May 2015 by the Department of State Security (DSS) in Imo State, not much was known about Vampire in the criminal underworld, though he had been on the security watch list for over a decade.

The diminutive man with broad shoulders and a pair of penetrating eyeballs that betrays his wickedness and ruthlessness was one of the most dreaded cross-border kidnappers. His reign of terror extends to neighbouring countries.

Born to the family of Chibueze in Nwangele Local Council of Imo State, Vampire was orphaned at the age of seven. He took to crime at 11, after he dropped out of school.

During his interrogation at the DSS office in Owerri, he said he took to crime after his elder brother sent him out of the house when he could no longer pay his school fees. After a little stint with some gangs in the Southeast, Vampire travelled to Cotonou in the Republic of Benin, where he was trained in kidnapping for ransom.

He returned to Nigeria and recruited some notorious ex-militants and army deserters to form the most dreaded kidnap gang that terrorised the Southsouth and the Southeast for over five years.

In his confession to the DSS, Vampire said: “I joined the kidnap business because my people did not train me. I have killed many people but I don’t want to be released now; I want to stay in custody for many years so that my brain will cool down.

“I live in Abidjan (Cote D’Ivoire) with my wife and only daughter. I don’t know if she is aware that I have been arrested because she does not know the kind of business I do.”

Vampire said he could not remember how many people he had killed because the family failed to pay up the ransom or delayed the payment. He relived how he wiped out the family of his girlfriend, who he said absconded with his N45 million.

“Yes, I killed my girlfriend and her parents because she stole the N45 million I kept in my house. I went to her family house in Lagos and when she saw me coming, she ran into the house. I went in and shot her and other people in the house. She died instantly but I didn’t know how others died.”