‘I struggle to Understand What Happened’ – Rev Giddings Recalls Incident of student Death
Duahzon, Margibi County – Rev. Emmanuel Giddings, a man considered by the Liberian National Police as a person of interest in the unexplained death of a student last week, has squashed speculations that the deceased was gang-raped on his property while narrating his account of the incident.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]
Speaking to reporters at his Duahzon resident in Margibi County on Sunday, Rev Giddings recalled that about a month ago, one of his daughters – a 12 grader – asked him to permit her to hold a study camp with her classmates in his home for the WASSACE exams.
As hesitant as he was to accept, she persisted and successfully convinced him that they would stay in the guest room of his building that is under-construction – located at the back of his current home.
“So, I went and bought them three mattresses… And that was the part I played in getting the children together [for the camp],” Rev Giddings explains.
“The only other encounters I had with them when they came to me and complained about hunger – and then I’ll give them money to buy food.”
The girls continued with their exams activities until May 21, when the dreadful incident occurred.
“It was on the morning of May 20th as I was getting ready to go to work, my daughter came to me and made an additional request,” he recalls.
“She told me that they were finishing their WASSCE on that morning and that I should please give her permission for she and her friends to go out together.
“Initially, I discouraged the idea and told her that it was not necessary [and that] they should wait and see the result and upon graduation then we can celebrate.”a
But his daughter again convinced him that her colleagues’ parents had given permission and that they had already saved some money for their entertainment.
He delayed his permission but would later agreed.
“I discouraged it again but she pleaded so passionately that her friends were all excited to be together that evening… so I told her that ‘I will give you three hours – if you leave at 8 o’clock be back at 11’.”
After his daughter went out with her friends, he went to his pool room to play, a recreation he does most evening. He was later joined by a couple of friends, he said.
After several games, his friends left so he opted to take a shower before bed. But realizing that it was after midnight and the girls were not back from, he was upset and made several calls to them.
While he was on the phone, his son then informed him that “one of his daughter’s friends” was bleeding and lying in the unfinished house.
“I thought it was epilepsy or something – [because] when a person has a seizure they can fall down,” he said of his instant reaction to the incident.
According to him, the girl was lying under the stairs with blood oozing from around her head.
“I got so upset immediately, I couldn’t lift her up because of the condition of my arm –[so] I told Abraham [to] go and call the neighbors,” he said.
In a couple of minutes, the yard was filled with neighbors, he said. And the girl, apparently unconscious, was put on his car and taken to the ELWA hospital.
At the hospital, doctors insisted that they wouldn’t treat the girl unless they have her details and or know her medical history. But Giddings said, as confused as he was, he pleaded with the nurses.
“Then they asked me for her name and then I realized that I didn’t even know her name … so the nurses said they couldn’t do anything until they have her health history.”
He said as he kept pleading with the nurses he began making several calls to his daughters whose cellphones were off. He then drove back to his house – which is about four miles away from the hospital, picked up his daughters and they drove back to the hospital.
But, about an hour later, they were informed that the girl had died.
“I cried that night because it would have been my daughter – she was in the age range of my daughter,” he said sobbing.
‘I struggle to understand what happened’
Rev Giddings recalls how he ‘struggled to understand what happened’, asking himself: how the girl got in the house? What caused her death?
And when he interrogated his daughter the next morning, she replied that the deceased was not one of the eight girls that had camped at the house for a month, even though she was a classmate of theirs.
According to him, his daughter told him that the deceased had earlier in the day of the incident asked to hang out with them since they were all celebrating the conclusion of the exams.
During their night out, the deceased had left the daughter and the other girls at the pub, came at his home when she was later discovered lying helplessly.
“When I asked the security how did this girl get here, he told me that when she knocked at the gate and he asked who was that – she identified herself as one of the children studying with my daughter… since he didn’t know all of the girls by face, he said he told her, ‘when you go out close the gate behind you’.”
‘Person of Interest’
The next morning the police arrived at Giddings’ residence even though he did not inform them about the incident. Apparently, it was the hospital that informed the police, he said.
“I would have called the police if I knew it was death… I thought the kid, simply was drunk and she passed-out and hurt herself, she may come to herself tomorrow morning,” he said he had thought.
“So I did what any parent would do: you see a child hurt in your house, you are not thinking about all the protocols involved in law enforcement and if there was a crime…, so the idea about calling the police didn’t occur to me because somebody was hurt in my yard… So, I took the decision any logical parent would take.”
He was later taken to the Zone 8 police station the next day where he wrote a statement in the presence of his lawyer, and the police considered him as a “person of interest”. But he was charged with an offense.
‘Medical Report Is Urgent’
The police have since said it is investigating the incident, but Rev Giddings is confident that a medical report would exonerate him of any wrongdoing.
He, however, said he has since tried to avoid the hospital after paying the medical bill the next day.
“Because it is not my child and I don’t think I’m entitled to medical report until all of the reports are in then I can ask for a copy,” he said.
“I think the report is crucial; I think it’s urgent. It should happen as soon as possible to clear the air and the damages on social media are difficult to control but the public sentiment that is gathering needs to be brought into perspective and the hospital report, death certificate and the police report – all of that needs to consolida ted so to what exactly happened. My concern is, I need to be exonerated.”
Deceased Parents Acting ‘Civil’
As speculations about the death of student Odell Sherman continues mainly on social media, Rev Giddings says he has engaged her parents in a bid to express sympathy and show support.
When they met, according to him, “the atmosphere was civil and calm and the interaction with the family was welcoming,”. He refutes allegations that he had asked the family to abandon the investigation into the cause of death, while promising to support the burial of the deceased.
“We feel empathy and sympathy for the family and will ensure that the child is given a befitting burial,” Rev Giddings said.