Four days after a tyre repairer in Mbiabam Ibiono village in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, hacked his wife to death, the residents of the community are still reeling in shock.
Newsmen who visited the rustic village to dig deeper into the heart of the tragic incident reported that it shattered the peace enjoyed by the small community.
The suspect, Nkereuwem Uta, allegedly killed his wife, Bella, a woman with whom he had five children, on Monday, leaving her with fatal injuries in the face, neck and the head.
Bella, who was in her 30s was found in a pool of her blood.
Some residents had said Nkereuwem might be suffering from a mental illness while others said he was racked by jealousy because of his financial insecurity and his wife’s beauty.
When newsmen visited Mbiabam Ibiono on Thursday, there was a fresh piece of information on the incident, bringing a new perspective into how and why Bella was killed.
On Sunday, the day before Nkereuwem allegedly killed his wife, he was alleged to have been looking for his elder brother, shouting that he was going to kill him.
It was gathered that the elder brother, who was at church at the time was told by other church members to stay behind to avoid being killed by his brother, whom they heard was looking for him.
The Village Head of Mbiabam Ibiono, Chief Asuquo Uwah, told newsmen that there used to be marital misunderstandings between Nkereuwem and his wife but that he did not think it could have resulted in him hacking her to death. Uwah, who has been the head of the community for more than 20 years, said he never believed such a horrible thing could occur in the community.
He said once in a while, the couple came to him for mediation over some of their misunderstandings.
According to him, Nkereuwem would sometimes accuse his wife of sleeping with other men.
When asked if some of those issues brought to him could have escalated to the point of the husband harbouring murderous thoughts against his wife, Uwah said he did not think so and that what could have caused Nkereuwem to kill his wife on Monday was beyond his comprehension.
The village head said, “I didn’t know what could have happened between them. Since I was born, I have never witnessed this type of incident before.
“We know that Nkereuwem beheaded his wife. If he had inflicted simple bruises on her and not machete cuts, the woman could have survived and be alive to tell us exactly what happened between them.
“I have been the head of this village for more than 20 years. It is something that shocked me. There was nothing else I could do except to arrest him and hand him over to the police, which was what I did. Nkereuwem suffered from a mental illness when he was much younger and before he got married.
“On Sunday he was seen moving around with a machete, saying that he wanted to kill his elder brother. Someone in the church tipped off his brother and told him not to go home.
“What we do not know is whether he went home to kill his wife because he could not find his elder brother to kill. He used to accuse the woman of sleeping with other men.
“Bella worked extremely hard for the survival of the family. As a petty trader, whenever she dressed the children up for school, she would leave for her business to eke out a living for the family. I cannot say whether his action was as a result of another allegation of adultery.”
It was learnt that after Ukereuwem allegedly killed his wife, he blocked the entrance to his home and threatened to kill anybody who dared to question him until he was overpowered by the police.
Uwah said when Nkereuwem was arrested and asked what had happened to his wife, he boasted that he killed her.
According to him, the pride with which the suspect claimed ownership of the deed was the reason many residents question his mental stability.
Residents of Mbiabam claimed that even though Nkereuwem had a mental illness in the past, he seemed to be fine in recent years.
Nkere and Bella were said to have attended church together on Sunday along with their five children. It was gathered that the late Bella was a hard-working petty trader and well-loved in the community.
But in Mbiabam, rumours, claims and counter-claims continue to explain Nkereuwem’s bizzare action.
Some of these claims include one which suggested that he went for a money-making ritual which made him lose his mind.
An acquaintance of the suspect, who pleaded anonymity told newsmen that a spiritualist had told him that death was lurking around his family if he failed to take some spiritual steps.
The resident said, “The man (spiritualist) told him that without a sacrifice, he would kill his wife or his elder brother. He was told to bring some items to make the sacrifice.
“On Sunday, which was the day the sacrifice was supposed to be carried out, Nkereuwem who also went to church that day with his wife and their five children, did not wait for the sacrifice to be offered on his behalf.
“He ran out of the church just minutes before the sacrifice was supposed to be performed.”
A family source also confirmed to newsmen that his wife asked him why he ran out of the church and why he wanted to interfere with the sacrifice despite the items that had been bought to carry it out.
“It was the utterance that likely angered him, which might have caused him to kill his wife,” the source said.
The Police Public Relations Officer of the state police command, Odiko McDon, who confirmed the incident, said the suspect was arrested by men of the Itam Police Division.
He also said the police had not been able to determine the motive behind the crime as investigation was still ongoing.