Written by Manasseh Azure Awuni
The walls of the house are about ten feet high and fortified with electric fence. At every material moment, there are two security guards in the house: a private security man from Westec Security and an armed police officer. With a CCTV camera in the house, the Essien’s house can be described as very secure for its occupants.
Ironically it was in this house that 23-year old past student of Accra Girls’ Senior High School, Veracity Elorm Oteng, was allegedly murdered and dumped in a swimming pool. She was a house help in that house.
The owner of the house and employer of Elorm, Mr. Ato Essien, is a renowned businessman who lives in Dansoman. Mr. Essien and his family had travelled to the USA on a holiday at the time of the incident. Both the police and Elorm’s family have confirmed that the businessman had travelled.
Elorm was left in the house with two private security men (who ran night and day shifts), two armed police officers (who also ran day and night shifts) and a cleaner. Police investigators say within the period of the murder, there was no intruder in that house.
So who killed Elorm? And Why?
Justice Tsekpo, who describes himself as an uncle of Elorm, says the last time he spoke to his niece was in the early hours of Thursday August 20, this year. His calls, since then, went unanswered. On Friday, August 21, someone answered the call.
“At 10 O’clock [a.m.] I called again. No response, till 12:15 [pm] when a male voice picked the call,” Justice narrates how he got to know about the killing of his niece. “I asked of the owner of the phone so I could speak to her. The voice said she was sick, seriously ill so I should rush down to Dansoman and take her to the hospital.”
When Justice rushed to the house, he was told that Elorm had attempted to swim that morning and drowned in the pool. The day private security guard, Mr. Frank Obeng and the day police guard, Constable Clifford Atsutse, were the ones he met. They told him his niece had drowned that morning but the body had been conveyed to the morgue. He said he also met a man who identified himself as “Tailor.” Sources say his sewing shop is very close to the house. He was the one who helped Elorm to secure the job in Mr. Ato Essien’s house.
Frank Obeng and Constable Atsutse told investigators that they had seen Elorm that morning. They claimed she was very healthy and they expected her to leave the house at about 9am for the cosmetic shop she often went to help when she finished her chores in the house. When she failed to leave the house, the security guards said they went to search for her at about 10 am only to find her in the swimming pool.
“This is Murder, not drowning.”
Elorm’s body was found floating in the swimming pool when the police arrived that morning. She was wearing a green pantie and brassieres. Her slippers and dress were placed by the pool, suggesting that she went to the pool, undressed and voluntarily went to swim.
“With my experience in this job, I can say that the girl did not drown,” a police officer said of the body.
“If someone drowns, it takes a long time for the body to float. If they saw her that morning, it is not possible for her to drown and within two hours the body would float.”
He added that the people who drown often have bloated stomachs, and if their stomachs are pressed, water would come out of them. In Elorm’s case, the police source said there was no water in her stomach.
“It looks like she was killed earlier and dumped into the pool to suggest that she got drowned,” the police officer said.
That was not the only thing suspicious about claims that Elorm had drowned. She had serious injuries to her head, according to accounts of sources that have seen the body as well as photo evidence.
“One side of the lip, there is a cut there; blood is [sic] oozing out,” said Justice, the deceased’s uncle, who was one of the first family members to see the body. “The cheek, there is a sign of a tooth mark, round. Then the head, close to the ear, there is a deep hole there. [It’s] something like a piercing. Then the left side of the head you can see blood all over the place. Then the eyes, blood coming from the place with whitish liquid. The nose, also the same,” justice said.
On September 16, 2015, an autopsy was conducted on Elorm’s body by Dr. L. Edusei at the Police Hospital in Accra. The causes of death were given as “blunt head injury” and “right subdural haematoma.”
It is not clear why anyone would kill Elorm but her uncle has alleged that she ever had a brawl with one the cleaner, which was resolved. He also alleges that the Elorm complained about sexual harassment from one of the police guards of the house. He therefore wants the two men seriously investigated.
Arrests and Contradiction in Suspects’ accounts
Elorm’s body was found on August 21st and the police have confirmed that even without the autopsy report, it was clear from evidence at the crime scene that she had been killed and dumped in the pool. However, nobody was arrested.
It was after the autopsy report that the day private security guard, Frank Obeng, and the cleaner, Isaac Donkor were arrested. The night private security guard, Richard Acquah, was later arrested.
According to the police, Frank Obeng, collapsed on the day they were supposed to be taken to court. He was rushed to the hospital for treatment. When he recovered, he said he wanted to update the statement he had given to the police.
“He told us that the earlier account that he and the police guard had seen Elorm alive that morning was not true. He said they did not see the girl that morning,” a police source told me.
Mr. Frank Obeng, who is in his 60s is said to have told the police that the day police guard, Constable Atsuste, had told him after they discovered the body that they should go with the earlier account that they had seen the lady that morning. He said the police officer told him to stick to that account “because dead bodies don’t talk.”
Sources say Constable Clifford Atsutse visited Mr. Obeng in police cells and again told him to stick to that account. “The police on duty had to go and sack him when he was seen talking to the suspects in custody.”
Sources say on the day Elorm’s body was discovered, the night police guard, Constable Wisdom Trabulsi Agbemordzi, did not wait to handover to the day police guard as they had often done. He left Mr. Ato Essien’s residence before the day security guard arrived.
Nearly two months after the crime, the two police officers have not been arrested. They are said to be stationed at the Accra Central Police district.
Lawyer for Mr. Ato Essien, says his client is worried about the slow pace of the investigation and had petitioned the IGP and the Police service to among other things, arrest the two police guards who were in charge of security in the house at the time the crime was committed.
He said the pathologist had taken samples of semen and other specimen for tests to be conducted to conclude the autopsy but the police had said there were no chemicals in the lab to conduct the test. Even though Mr. Essien was prepared to pay for that test, it was not clear why that aspect of the investigation had stalled.
Lawyers for the Oteng family, the Fidelity Law Group, also petitioned the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service to take over the investigation from the Dansoman police. Managing Partner of the Fidelity Law Group, among other things, cites basic investigative lapses as the reason for the petition. He said it was strange that the police did not arrest anybody or seize their phones when they visited the scene. He told me the investigators did not secure the place as crime scene and collect adequate forensic evidence.
Elorm’s uncle said the police did not even take the deceased’s mobile phone when the family voluntarily gave it to them.
When I contacted the Homicide Unit of the CID Headquarters on Wednesday, senior police sources there said the two police officers were supposed to have reported on Tuesday October 13, 2015, but due to communication lapses, they could not report.
“We are hoping that by tomorrow [Thursday October 15] or Friday [October ,16] we will get them,” the source said.
Who is Veracity ElormOteng?
Veracity Elorm Oteng was born on March 9, 1992. She is the first of her mother’s four children. Her parents separated so her grandfather was the one who catered for her through school. Her mother is a petty trader. Elorm completed Accra Girls’ Senior High School in 2012.
Elorm wanted to be a nurse, according to her uncle. Due to “some delays” the family could not get her the admission forms so “she decided to be doing something in the meantime,” Justice Tsekpo tells me.
“She wanted to work and earn a decent living,” he says.
Information I gathered indicates that Mr. Ato Essien’s house was not the first house Elorm worked at as a househelp. She was working as a househelp in a nearby house until her employer was relocated and no longer needed her services.
She was stranded and a tailor, who is in his 60s approached Mr. Essien to engage her because she was a “good girl.”
“Elorm was a girl who had a good soul. She was a very grateful person,” Ato Essien speaks highly of her. “If you give Elorm one cedi and she doesn’t see you again even for one month, she will thank you when she eventually sees you for the money you last offered her. She’s that kind of person. She had high hopes in life.”
“The children sometimes call her grandfather’s daughter because she was always talking about her grandfather,” Mr. Essien says.
He says Elorm was like a member of the family. They went to church in the same car and she was teaching her employers’ children at home. Mr. Essien says he and his wife were planning to put her back in school.
He says his children were so fond of her that it is difficult to break the news of her death to them.
“When they ask where Sister Elorm is, we tell them she has travelled.”
Indeed, Elorm has travelled. Or, rather, she has been forced to travel out of the turbulent planet of earth in a cruel way. And she will never return to the land of the living.
Editor’s note: All the facts presented are from interviews Manasseh Azure Awuni had with family members of Elorm, her employers, the police and lawyers for the family and employers.
Pictures of Elorm were published with permission from her family. The close up shots showing her injuries have not been published because of editorial discretion.