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Gracious West: Going away gracelessly

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PHOTO: ANN GODWIN

We all have a mental picture of what a criminal is supposed to look like. The pictures may not all be the same but the general impression is that a criminal should be big and bulky, ferocious looking, with big, bulging eyes apparently derived from a high intake of alcohol or drugs or weed. This fictional look may tempt people to feel comfortable with people who are slight of build and whose overall appearance is not threatening. Mr. Gracious David West, the self-confessed serial killer from Buguma in Asari Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State does not look like a text-book version of a criminal. The 39 year old evil machine who says he has killed seven women so far doesn’t have the looks of a bully or of a killer let alone a serial killer. He just looks simple, ordinary, like any other fellow you may meet on the street. William Shakespeare was right when he said that you cannot tell the mind’s construction on the face. You cannot say that someone is a criminal just by looking at him because what he plans to do is buried in his heart.

But Shakespeare was wrong when he said that the “apparel oft proclaims the man.” Many people dress flamboyantly and you can mistake them for decent people but in their suits or agbada they have the weapons of crime and in their hearts the mind of the criminal.

When Mr. Gracious David West who admits he has killed seven women was paraded before the press in Port Harcourt last week he looked very ordinary, not fearsome. But I am almost certain that when this felonious fellow finished the song of his criminal exploits many people at the press conference must have cringed, flinched and winced. This man’s predatory instinct’s story is blood-chilling, stomach-turning and heart-rending. He said he has killed five young women in Port Harcourt, one in Lagos and one in Imo State. It is obvious that if he had not been arrested last week on his way to Akwa Ibom State he would have increased the number and the federal character credentials of his victims. Was he gunning for a spot in the Guinness Book of records? He revealed to reporters when he was paraded by the Police his modus operandi.

He said that he doesn’t have a house. He takes his potential victims, all of them girls, to hotels; they both have a meal so they can have a full and round stomach; then they have sex, robust sex, I believe. For the girl both the food and the sex can be called the last supper because she is likely to go to heaven or hell from there. He asks for their ATM pin number, the account balance; he confiscates their phones (girls have very expensive phones which are given to them by sugar daddies and suitors and toasters and potential toasters from far and near). With a kitchen knife which is one of his tools of work he cuts up the hotel’s bedsheet into small strips with which he ties his victims hands and feet. He flashes the shiny blade of the kitchen knife before them and warns them not to shout. He raises the volume of the television set so that even if they shout their voices will be drowned by the superior noise from the television set. Then he is ready for work. He says he does not use the knife to kill. The knife does two jobs for him (a) it cuts up the bed sheet easily
(b) it tells the potential victim that there is death in his hand so keep your mouth shut. He only kills the girls by strangulation. Strangulation makes things easy for him. The girl just dies of asphyxiation and there is no blood spilled which would easily alert the hotel. He probably checks into these hotels with fake names, fake addresses, fake occupation and fake phone numbers so as to ensure that he is untraceable when the lifeless body of his victim is found. Let me let him tell his story:

“I started the killing in Lagos. That was where I got the money because the first girl had N85, 000.00 in her account. After that I went to Port Harcourt, then Owerri. I returned to Port Harcourt. The last girl I killed I met her at the club. I don’t know what comes over me to kill. After I have killed I feel remorse and cry for killing but after that the irresistible urge to kill comes over me again. I kill alone. I was a member of the Degbani cult group.

I have since repented. I am not killing for any cult group. I just kill.” After killing he then does himself a favour. He takes the ATM pin number and goes to the ATM machine, empties the account and vanishes into the night. This peripatetic killer operates like a travelling salesman armed with both the travelling instinct and the sweet tongue of the salesmen who can give you a used car for the price of a new one. Gracious has not lived a very gracious life. Whoever gave him the name made an adjectival mistake but he probably thought that a name like that will make him behave like the name. Gracious got a job at the Federal University of Science and Technology (FUTO) Owerri but he stole students’ property and was cashiered from the job.

I don’t know which branch of science, behavioural science or medicine will decipher for us what this man’s problem is. Is he a misogynist, that is a hater of women. In that case he does not want to see any girl alive if he can help it but then he does something interesting to them between the sheets. So does he have a split personality, one half of him hates and the other half loves women? Or is he suffering from gynphobia, the fear of women? If he is afraid of them why doesn’t he run away from them? Until the police got hold of him he was a beneficiary of Mother Luck. Every criminal is a gambler. They always think that nothing can go wrong. It is entirely possible that if he had continued undetected he would have met in a one-on-one confrontation a girl who has a black belt in judo or taekwando and he would have met his waterloo despite his kitchen knife. His strategies were four
(a) He assumed that all girls are weak and can be subdued at any time
(b) He knew that once he treated them well (food, sex) they would relax and trust him (c) He had a sharp knife as a weapon
(d) His other weapon was the element of surprise. He had an oscillating mood that would swing from a sweet and caring person to a devious, vicious, heartless criminal.

All of these weapons worked for him because he hadn’t had the bad fortune of meeting the wrong girl, the one who is called in the street lingo “I gree die.” She would have been ready to give as much as she would receive. Maybe our schools should introduce martial arts into their curriculum since there is an increasing danger to our young people and women. If he met a judoka she would have given him a black eye, a bloody nose and a limp torso in one lightning move that would have paralysed him forever. Mr. West is slim of build like a coil that could spring but he doesn’t look threatening. He doesn’t even look like a man of courage, one who is defiant. When paraded by the police he looked like a humble sheep led to the slaughter. He used a face cap to cover his face. The police had to remove the cap so that we can all see the ugly face of crime. It is only at such a parade that a man hates to be introduced to his audience. That is why Mr. West covered his face with his cap but he knows that while the cap may cover his face it will not cover his future. He thought his future was assured. He was on a roller-coaster. He would eat a good meal in a hotel in the company of a pretty girl; he would then have good sex; he would also get the girl’s money from the ATM machine and he would then take the girl’s life while keeping his own. The good life as he saw it was well sewn. Now the plug has been pulled and Gracious is going away gracelessly.


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