In the wake of the ugly and distasteful incident that occurred at a residence situate on 20 Guard Street,in the East End of Freetown, in which an Indian national, Pankaj Kumar Panchal, popularly known as Romeo together with two Sierra Leonean accomplices, were accused and apprehended for attempted murder of a mobile phone dealer, Bai Koroma, at the above-mentioned premise, the Sierra Leone Police on 18 March 2019 convened a Press Conference to give an update of their preliminary findings .
The Press engagement was held at the Police Headquarters in Freetown and present were representatives of various Civil Society Organisations, over fifty journalists from the electronic and print media. Also in attendance were the Director of Crime Services – AIG Mohamed Braima-Jah, Mr. Rajesh Hemnani representing the Indian Community in Sierra Leone and Mr. Harish Agnani representing the Indian Consulate.
It was stated by the Police Media Team that they are presently looking at an issue that may be related to attempted murder and robbery with violence.
Head of the Team, Brima Kamara, further revealed that medical request form(s) have been issued out to the victim, Bai Koroma and Pankaj Kumar Panchal, for medical examination.
“The premises of the suspect was methodically searched for evidential materials to aid the investigation,” he intimated adding that nothing like body parts or human blood were discovered in any container, as it was and is rumoured.
The Police Media Boss also informed those present at the conference that a team of Scene of Crime Officers (SOCO) lifted blood samples found on the scene for forensic analysis.
It was again emphatically maintained that attacking Indians for a crime allegedly committed by only one individual should be considered unfair and absolutely criminal in nature
“The Police are out and about patrolling the streets, as usual and they are under strict instruction to arrest anyone found to be attacking any Indian,” it was highlighted furthering hat the general public should trust the Police to carry out a fair and expeditious investigation into the matter;
During the Press Conference it was reiterated that the general public is urged to disregard some of the social media stuff making rounds in respect of this incident;
“As partners in development we are calling upon the Press to do fair, accurate and balance reporting of the matter so as not to ignite anything sinister against Indians in our society,” the Police enjoined.
Climaxing the briefing, a Press Release signed by Harish Agnani and Rajesh Hemnani ,on behalf of the Indian Consulate and the Indian Community respectively, stating their position, was dished out to the Press.
Going further to update the Press the Police disclosed that Bai Koroma, the victim, is a twenty-five year old school leaver who is engaged in the sales of mobile phones, as a shop assistant to a Mr. Williams Moses of No. 2A Goderich Street. Bai Koroma came to know Pankaj Kumar Panchal, the suspect, in 2017, in the course of his trade.
The suspect, at their first contact, bought two pieces of phones from the victim and they have been in a business relationship all this while. The suspect has, on several occasions, bought several phones from the victim.
On 16 March 2019, the suspect – Pankaj Kumar Panchal told the victim that he needed eight phones for his boys and asked the victim to go with the said phones to him in his residence on 17 March 2019. Coincidentally, the victim was sent by his boss to collect Le 50,000,000.00 from a customer at Ferry Junction, which he did. Both the phones and the money, according to the victim, were in his possession up to the following day (17/03/19).
The suspect (Pankaj Kumar Panchal) hired two other boys (who are now suspects in this matter and helping with the investigation) to go to his house, staying in wait for the arrival of the victim. Suspect (Pankaj Kumar Panchal) called the victim to his home at No. 20, Guard Street, urging him to go with the phones.
According to the victim, he took the bag containing the money and the phones to the said location and that no sooner he arrived and entered the residence of the suspect which is on the 5th Floor of the said facility, the suspect locked the door and then the other two accomplices fell on the victim, hitting him with sticks and stabbing him with a kitchen knife, until he became helpless. However, the struggle and noise alerted the other residents who went on the scene and also informed the police.
Searches were conducted on the premises and the knife and the stick were recovered and taken as exhibits by the police. Apart from the blood stains on the walls and the floor, no container of blood was found, no human parts, nor anything suggestive of engagement in rituals was found as alleged by public rumours.
Further, before the police arrived on the scene, a large irate crowd had already arrived at the premises of the suspect and comprehensively vandalised the facility.