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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Columnist: thechronicle.com.gh

Missing Takoradi girls: the lacuna in police forensic examination

After close to a year of sitting on tenterhooks, the police appear to have brought to closure the chapter on the kidnapping of the four Takoradi girls. According to the Acting Inspector General of Police, James Oppong Bonuh, the human skeletons retrieved from a septic tank in a house where the prime suspect – Samuel Wills – was re-arrested has confirmed the deaths of the girls after a forensic examination.

Earlier, personnel from the Forensic Laboratory of the Ghana Police Service had gone to Takoradi to take DNA samples from the parents of the girls, with the promise to do an impartial job to establish whether the remains were those of the girls or not. But whilst some of the parents of the missing girls have accepted the outcome of the DNA tests, others have also rejected it outright, saying their children are not dead as they are being made to believe.

They are, therefore, demanding an independent forensic examination to either confirm what the police are saying or reject it. According to these family members, when the bones were retrieved from the septic tank, the police took them straight to Accra without showing it to them. Others are also saying that since the supposed deaths of the girls are not up to a year, all the flesh on their bodies cannot be decomposed, as they are being made to understand.

They are again arguing that since the police themselves kept assuring them that the girls were not dead and that they would definitely track and rescue them, they find it difficult for the same Police Service to come back to tell them the children were dead and that they suspect Samuel Wills murdered them. Staff of The Chronicle are not scientists – we are journalists with the sole aim of informing, educating and entertaining the public.

As a result, we cannot use this column to challenge the outcome of the forensic examination by the police. We, however, think there is a lacuna in the whole process of which must be addressed to put the matter to a permanent rest.

From police narratives, it is clear that the girls might have been murdered by the suspect after he escaped from lawful custody in Takoradi. The scene of the crime, as shown on television by the police themselves, was an uncompleted building.

Before conducting the forensic examination on the bones, the police should have first laid a solid foundation for the outcome of the examination report to stand on. For example, the police should have first taken fingerprints of suspect Samuel Wills and, in fact, all those connected to the crime and match it with the fingerprints on the concrete slabs covering the septic tank where the supposed remains of the girls were retrieved.

If, indeed, Samuel Wills and his cohorts committed the heinous crime, their fingerprints will definitely be found on the concrete slabs. Since the suspect who was brought from the Sekondi Prisons to the crime scene denied that he had killed the girls, the proof of his fingerprints on the concrete slabs would have given him away and assured the families that the suspect had indeed killed their children.

The next step was to, again, match Samuel Wills’ fingerprints with those found on the dress which was last worn by one of the victims and which was found at the crime scene. Again, if the fingerprints match those on the dress, it is enough evidence that the suspect was behind the crime and had indeed killed the girls.

Though we stand to be corrected, we do not think the Acting IGP, in announcing the outcome of the DNA tests, made this detail available to the public, if they even did these basic examinations.

In fact, if the police failed to conduct these examinations, then the whole DNA examination of the bones was laid on a weak foundation and we are not surprised that some of the families have rejected the whole report.

As done by lawyers in a court of law, the police should have led evidence to prove that the bones are those of the missing girls by matching the fingerprints of the suspect with those on the concrete slabs, which they woefully failed to do.

As we indicated earlier, we do not doubt the competence of the laboratory experts who conducted the DNA examination, but the lacuna we have identified has punched holes in the examination, and the parents may have justification in rejecting the outcome of the results.