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Strange death

Imo community thrown into confusion as a man is found dead on top of palm tree, in inexplicable circumstances

Gilbert Ekezie

Umuocha in Amawuihe Ubomiri Autonomous Community, Imo State was thrown into confusion, when one of its sons, Mr. Anthony Akaire, was found stone cold dead, slouched upside down, on a palm tree.

Before the mysterious incident, the victim had been a popular palm fruit cutter in his village for a long time. But after some time, he left the job and travelled to Abuja where he secured a civil construction job with Julius Berger, as a professional carpenter.

But when, along the line, the appointment was terminated, Anthony returned home to engage in private carpentry. Later, he started combining it with his palm fruits cutting business, on a part-time basis. In the course of time, he became so skillful in it that he was being invited to work for people in surrounding communities such as Ohaji, Egbema, Ogbaku, Irete, Orogwe, Izombe, Oguta and other parts of Owerri Local Government Area.

Eyewitness account of the mysterious death 

That was the situation until Tuesday, February 6, 2018 when he went out for the business and failed to return alive. On that fateful day, ‘Dee Anthony,’ as he was popularly called in the community by many people set out to cut the palm fruits on a portion of land said to be owned by one of the men in the community.

But after climbing up with the aid of traditional climbing rope known as ete in some parts of Igbo land, and cutting the palm fruits, his body was seen entwined with the rope and he hung headlong, at an odd angle, on top of the palm tree. It caused a big stir among the villagers.

Saturday Sun learnt before members of his family became aware of the incident they were eagerly expecting his return from the day’s business. Having waited in vain for a long time, they raised the alarm which made concerned villagers to put together a search party that went looking for him until they eventually sighted his lifeless body hanging in an awkward position on the palm tree.

According to an eyewitness, Mr. Obi Chuks, the entire village was thrown into confusion as no one knew what to do. Officers and men of Mbaitoli Police Division, Nwaorieubi, where report of the incident was lodged and who arrived the scene shortly, met a huge crowd of sympathisers and onlookers.

Chuks informed that it took the intervention of a native doctor from Umunoha, a neigbouring community who was contracted to bring down the body from the tree, after appeasing the gods with sacrifices. Thereafter, the body was deposited in a morgue within the locality.

Guessing the cause of death

Since after the incident speculations have been rife as to the cause of the sudden, unexpected death. While some attribute it to heart attack, others try to locate it in the supernatural, with some suspecting that his death might have something to do with the palm fruits he is alleged to have climbed and cut at Ohaji area of the state, which was said to have been laced with charms. 

But in his reaction, a local palm wine tapper, Mr. Joe Kekeme, dismissed with a wave of hand the speculation about the victim coming into contact with a charmed palm tree, noting that such incident usually occur in the line of their business.

He explained that it could be that the victim got his legs entangled in the climbing rope, leading to not only a truncating of his climbing thrusts/motions but also to an upturning of his body position on the palm tree. With his head pointing downward, Kekeme believed that he must have died from asphyxiation, resulting from the anti-clockwise flow of his blood, when rescue effort could not reach him early enough. “If help had come immediately, he would not have died,” he said. “Probably, when the rope twisted, and hung his leg up, he struggled, but could not save himself. So, after much struggling and shouting, he eventually died from suffocation.”

Kekeme explained that though there could be other contributing factors that could lead to that kind of shocking death, in their line of business, the major one is the one he described in his chat with Saturday Sun.

“As palm wine tappers, we face serious challenges and what happened to Anthony is part of it,” he insists. “That does not stop us from doing our work. After all, a driver does not stop driving because another driver died in an accident. Neither   should a driver stop driving because he once got involved in a road accident. So, it is part of life,” he said with a shrug.

The body of the victim is still in the morgue while arrangements are on to commit it to mother earth on a date yet to be announced. Efforts made to reach the Police Public Relations Officer, Imo State Command, Andrew Enwerem, for official police reaction on the matter proved abortive as calls put across to his phone line could not get through.



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