The Body on Lumley Beach
|Flowers and candles at Lumley Beach where Hannah Bockari's body was found|
Sheriff Mahmud Ismail explains that until 2013, the dead woman on the beach we now know was 17-year-old Hannah Bockarie was living with her grandfather, retired sergeant major Joseph Foray Bockari, at the 7th Battalion Military Barracks, outside Freetown.
When he was transferred to Pujehun, in Sierra Leone's Southern Province, the young girl moved to her aunts at Goderich, in the west of Freetown.
Yesterday, Awareness Times published an interview with the mother of the rape and murder victim. Mariama Bockari spoke exclusively with the paper at her home in Eastern Freetown in the evening of August 18. (Mother of Rape & Murder Victim Breaks Silence, AT)
“I want to thank the government of His Excellency President Koroma, the Sierra Leone Police and the various pressure groups for the strong efforts being made to uncover who killed my daughter.
“Please let them keep the pressure until the truth is uncovered,” she said as she clasped photographs of her daughter.
|Mariama Bockari, left, with her husband Tamba at the CID|
Mariama said when the news broke that a body had been found on the beach she followed the news on the radio and had heard the government join women’s groups to take the lead in condemning the incident “but I never knew it was my own Hannah,” she said.
A few days went by before she was told by Hannah’s grandfather that it was their Hannah.
She said Hannah’s father died as a serving soldier during the war in an ambush at Magbosi and she was left unable to take care of Hannah.
“I wanted my daughter to have a good life so I handed Hannah over to my father who was a soldier with a settled home, to care for my school-going child,” Mariama Bockari explained.
However, her father told her that Hannah recently absconded. The parents, Mariama and Tamba, have not been in contact with Hannah lately but they thought she was safe.
According to Politico, Chief Superintendent of Police Thomas Mustapha Lahai, unit commander for Congo Cross Police Station who are leading the investigations, told Politico that there was as yet no concrete evidence that Hannah was gang raped. He said the corpse is still at Connaught Hospital mortuary awaiting a postmortem. (Politico)
Chief Superintendent Lahai added that from the evidence so far, the deceased was a commercial sex worker who started the trade at the age of 13 years.
Lahai also said the manager of Candy Bar, in front of which the corpse was discovered, and another person of interest are helping the police with their investigations. He praised the Aberdeen community for their “cooperation” so far.
Sheriff Mahmud Ismail said Tamba and Mariama appeared "distraught at the reckless dissemination of images of the deceased girl" on social media.
“Now each time I see a couple of people around a mobile phone, I get this odd and disturbing feeling that they may be watching the nude images of our daughter; it’s so painful,” Tamba lamented.
“Hannah was my first daughter and the first grandchild. I loved my daughter and my father adored his grandchild more than all of us. My daughter was a respectful child, and no matter what people think about her, she did not deserve such brutality and humiliation,” she mumbled.
The grand father is so devastated that the ugly incident is bringing back sad memories, Ismail said.
“I served in the army for almost 23 years. I served my country and protected lives and the dignity of my compatriots but now, my favorite grandchild has been defiled and brutally murdered. I am confused, I do not know what to do; I am completely devastated,” the 60-year old ex-soldier said almost in tears.
The retired sergeant major recalled that in April 1994, when the war was raging in the Eastern part of the country, he was caught in an ambush between a village called Muala and Kenema city; that he took a bullet on his left leg and lost four of his comrades.
Showing Ismail a huge scar on his left leg, the old soldier said emotionally, “I have put my life in harm’s way for country, I have saved many women behind rebel lines and I have the battle marks to show for it. I fought for justice, and I know for this indignity and violence inflicted upon my granddaughter, I will get justice.”
The retired soldier then went on to make a poignant appeal:
“This violence against women must stop! Women are our mothers, we must honor them; we must protect them. Today, it is my grandchild, [an]other day it’s someone else’s daughter. Who knows who the next victim would be? This is why everyone must be involved in making sure that this heinous crime does not go unpunished.”
Ismail also reported that S.T. Kamara, Serious Crimes Division head in the Criminal Investigations Department, said “we have prioritized this case. We have just concluded a meeting on the status of the investigation and we are determined to get to the bottom of this case.
“Tomorrow, we carry out a post-mortem as furtherance of the investigations and we are in contact with the family. We have assured them of our commitment to bring the perpetrators before the law.”
According to IRIN News, the problem of rape has been a major throwback from the 10-year rebel war. The news agency reported in 2010 that rape was rampant during the 1991-2002 civil war and has continued in peacetime.
A BBC 2013 report corroborated this assertion. “Rape and sexual violence statistics in Sierra Leone make for grim reading.”
Quoting the Rainbow Center, an initiative which supports victims of sexual violence, the BBC report stated that “from January to September 2013, there were over 1,300 rape and sexual violence cases recorded across the country, the majority of which involved children.”
To address these challenges, IRINnews reported that, “In 2007 the government passed legislation – the Sexual Offences Act, that made violent or sexual abuse of women – including within marriage – a criminal act.
However, the news agency said, “law enforcement and social services organizations struggle to implement the law.”
PowerWomen232 is a women advocacy group leading the efforts for the procession and vigil Thursday, August 20.
Their Public Relations Officer, Nicky Spencer Coker, herself a lawyer said in an interview with the local Radio Democracy that the Sexual Offences Act is pretty robust both in terms of coverage and penalties.
Advocates say out-of-court settlements by well off perpetrators, largely influenced by the fear of stigmatization, hamper prosecution.
|Iconic Lumley Beach|
To seek justice for Hannah Bockari and other victims of sexual violence, activists and sympathizers joined a procession and vigil on Thursday, August 20 at Lumley Beach.