Liberia: Prime Suspect’s ‘Confession in Journalist’s Death Mirrors Doe-Era Coup Plot Saga


Monrovia – When Lt. Col. Moses M.D. Flanzamaton named four opposition politicians –  Gabriel Baccus Matthews of the United People’s Party, Counselor Tuan Wreh and Harry A. Greaves of the Liberian Action Party and Dr. Edward B. Kesselly of the Unity Party –  in an April 1985 alleged plot to assassinate late President Samuel Kanyon Doe, it was clear to many political watchers at the time that the confession on national television was a hoax gone terribly wrong.

Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]

Some twenty-three years later, echoes of what is inarguably one of the most memorable events in Liberia’s history appears to be resurfacing following the gruesome killing of journalist Tyron Browne, a videographer working with Super FM/TV in Monrovia.

Brown’s body was found last Monday in the Duport Road Community where he lived. Eyewitnesses reported Browne’s body was dropped off in the area by unknown men in a black SUV at about 3:00AM.

Last week the case took a surprising turn when Jonathan Williams emerged as a surprising suspect. After being picked up by police, Mr. Williams, under police interrogation alleged that that he mistook the journalist for an armed robber.

Caesar Bill Kennedy, was arrested along with Williams along with three other persons of interest. Kennedy is accused of accompanying Williams to dump the body of Journalist Brown along the road. Three females are said to be among the five suspects that are currently undergoing investigation.

Since Williams’ confession, a lot of friends, family and followers of the case have taken to social media to point out loopholes in the story Mr. Williams told police.

Suspect Draws Ex-Police Chief into Saga

Key among the concerns being raised is the alleged romantic relationship between Mr. Williams and a second suspect, Edwina, who, according to sources, also had love affairs with the deceased. This has made the story of him mistaking Browne for an armed robber a rather unbelievable one. 

The case has also been complicated in the wake of the alleged role of former Police Director, Cllr. Chris Massaquoi.

Some social media bloggers have suggested that the former police chief’s vehicle was used to drop the corpse of Mr. Williams off. But such suggestion have been dismissed by the police who disclosed yesterday that contrary to the reported black SUV, they have impounded a white vehicle from the compound of suspect Williams. The vehicle, according to police sources, had blood stains in it.

Cllr. Massaquoi, who was invited for questioning last week in connection with the gruesome killing, said, the murder suspect, Williams, sought his legal advice on Friday, April 20 upon admitting to him he was responsible for the death. The former police chief explained to FrontPageAfrica that he told the suspect that he could not represent him as his lawyer. “I told him, you have to turn yourself in,” he said.

Cllr. Massaquoi dismissed suggestions that the suspect was his relative.

Mr. Newton Stewart, one of Massaquoi’s security guard told FPA that suspect Williams had hurriedly gone to meet the former LNP boss.

“I was in the yard, but was at the back, but what I know is, the IT boy came to do work on chief laptop, and as soon as he knocked at the gate, a car was behind him, a white infinity marked A63505. The officer at the gate asked him (suspect) to identify himself and he said he had no identity but had been calling chief Chris but his line is busy. So the officer told him (suspect Williams) since you almost in the fence come in, the officer told him to park in the yard and was going to contact our boss (Massaquoi), if our boss confirmed he will go upstairs to meet him. But while the officer tried contacting Chief Chris, he just directly went upstairs and was already in our chief’s living room, and then he suddenly met my chief, so I left them in the living room, but what they discussed I don’t know.”

Amid the quest for answers, accusing fingers are being pointed toward both the government and businessman George Kailondo. But it is Williams’ testimony that has many scratching their heads.

Trespassing Theory Not Adding up

For example, Moses Carter, Director for Press at the Liberia National Police, confirms that suspect Williams told investigators that he mistook the deceased for an armed robber.

“On Sunday at 9:00 PM, the deceased showed up at his home when one of his relatives identified as Alice went to receive a knock on the door, when she asked, the deceased didn’t identify himself, again my other niece asked him but he didn’t identify himself,” Carter recounted the testimony of suspect Williams.

Carter continued: “So I came out with a knife and asked the deceased to leave my house, but he didn’t so we started fighting and he fell to the ground, and the knife was used on him for self-defense.”

“So, I can say he was trespassing, in the interval I pushed him out of the house, a scuffled occurred. He took the body and placed it in a car and dropped it at Duport Road Junction.”

The police spokesman said one of the suspects in custody only identified as Edwina confirmed that the deceased was a casual friend and was someone who motivated her.

For watchers of the case, the questions keep piling up.

Dukuly M. Joseph wrote on Facebook: “Jonathan Williams is a murder! If the government does not take the necessary actions against Mr. Williams then, that would bring us to the conclusion that the killing had some political undertones.”

Williams’ claim of self-defense is also raising doubts. Lazalee Saygbe wrote: “The alleged killer of Tyron Browne could be set free or penalty reduced if a strong case of self defense is established. The following questions need to be answered: What was the condition under which he was killed? Did Tyron Brown look like an armed robber? Was Tyron Browne trying to enter the alleged killer’s house forcefully? Did Tyron Browne show any sign of aggression? What was Tyron Browne’s relationship with the alleged killer? Was Tyron Browne known for travelling late hours? What did the killer use to kill Tyron?

This is why many are drawing comparisons to the now infamous Flanzamaton confession.

Flanzamaton was the chief of President Doe’s Executive Mansion bodyguard who claimed that he plotted with four opposition party politicians and a U.S. diplomat to assassinate the Liberian leader.

Williams vs. Flanzamaton

Flanzamaton claimed that he opened fire on a car Doe was driving, but failed to hit the target. He escaped but was captured on April 4, 1985, and in a televised interrogation said that three opposition leaders had hired him to carry out the assassination; he also implicated an American working as an adviser to the security forces as being part of the operation. Flanzamaton claimed he had been promised US$1 million to kill Doe, to be paid in two installments. But lack of evidence led to the hasty release of the opposition leaders, while the government said Flanzamaton was to be tried before the Supreme Court Military tribunal. But no trial was held and Flazamaton was executed on April 8, 1985.

The state department at the time expressed shock over the assassination attempt and revealed that the head of state escaped unharmed. “We do not know what Lt. Col. Flanzamaton’s motives were in the assassination attempt or why he is making these accusations. We have no knowledge of his involvement with others and no reason to believe his accusations,” the spokesman said.

Flanzamaton confessed that he thought he had killed the President after firing at him with automatic weapons at the official residence that Monday night.

Doe would later declare that Flanzamaton sprayed the presidential jeep with machine-gun fire as he (Doe) was driving back to his residence in the middle of the night.

Doe said the joint security forces found insufficient evidence to “confirm the implication of these four individuals and others in the Flanzamaton plot.”

The shooting occurred at the gates of Doe’s mansion, the Liberian State House, where Flanzamaton was the deputy commander of the guard battalion.

Doe said the colonel was about to be sent to prison for debts to a local public corporation and attempted the assassination in an effort to avoid jail.

Flanzamaton later said that when he went to state that the politicians promised to increase army pay to $250 a month, keep soldiers’ pay free from cuts and ‘bring rapid development to Liberia. However, after the plot to kill Doe failed, he said his backers failed to pay him the money promised.

At the time, Mr. Chester Crocker, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from June 9, 1981, to April 21, 1989, in the Reagan administration and regarded as the architect of the U.S. policy of “constructive engagement” toward Southern Africa noted: “Any great power has both technical and human sources of intelligence. And probably has more than one. That’s the way the world is organized. By regional standards in West Africa, Monrovia was a serious mission for the CIA.”

Doe had been in a dispute with the United States, accusing it of interfering in Liberia’s internal affairs by making aid contingent upon a swifter return to democracy, after promising to restore civilian rule.

With many questions lingering in the aftermath of journalist’s Browne’s death, the confession and circumstances surrounding the details of the case has many unsure what to believe.