"They died together – by fire. The house they both shared as man and wife is also in ruins, burnt to the ground. As at the time of writing this report, the charred body of the woman lay morbidly in the midst of the debris. Approaching the burnt building, certain eerie feeling hits with a good impact. The man, who was saved from dying with his wife inside the fire, died on the way to hospital. “You can say both of them died together,” observed a shocked, grieving neighbour.
The puzzle now is not just that the couple, Patience and Monday Chilaekezie died by fire. To the Umuodu community in Ezinihitte Local Government Area of Imo State, it is that they can hardly understand why Patience could have been so incensed and callous to the extent of setting herself and her husband on fire.
Chidinma, Monday’s younger sister’s accounts of events leading to the tragic end, indicate that Patience had carefully planned it all. According to her, Patience had been grieving that her husband of 12 years had decided to send her away. It was learnt that the couple had married for that long without children. As Chidinma said, her brother had made up his mind to bring in another woman within the community who was pregnant for him.
It was said that Patience, a petty trader, had lured her husband into their house, poured petrol on both of them and then set the house on fire. It was also said that while they and the house were burning, she held fast onto her husband to ensure that he did not escape the inferno.
Saturday Sun gathered that neighbours, who noticed the flame and heard the cry for help, were able to rescue the man who later died on his way to the hospital. Community members, who rushed to see Patience’s charred body when the fire had burnt out, was gripped by fear and horror.
Chidinma further told Saturday Sun that her brother was able to run out from the inferno alive but died 20 minutes later on the way as they were rushing him to hospital.
In tears, she recalled that on the day of the incident, being January 11, 2014, her brother, who was an automobile technician, had gone to his shop as he did every day. His wife, popularly known as Madam Oil, had also left the house for her shop at a local market. However, a few hours later, she came back to the house. She was said to have been seen with a keg that, in the instance, could be containing petrol, with which she later sprinkled round the house.
According to Chidinma: “She called my brother that there was an emergency and that he should rush back home. I was at home then, but in the next building. He was the one that told me that his wife just called that there is an emergency. While he was stepping into the house, I heard him call on his wife that he can perceive the smell of fuel all over the place. In less than one minute after he went inside the house, the house started to burn.
“I heard my brother screaming for help. I think by then he was struggling with his wife. We were able to reach them and my brother was brought out alive, while his wife was burnt beyond recognition. Shortly before he died, he told us that his wife had finally fulfilled her promise. My brother said that his wife was threatening that she would kill him and kill herself too.”
On a possible reason she could have done that, Chidinma said: “They had been married for years without any child. This has caused a lot of problem between the couple to the extent that my brother secretly married another wife. The woman gave birth to two girls and is pregnant now with the third child. When she finally discovered, she was devastated because she had severally pleaded with her husband to allow her adopt a child. The last family meeting we had, she was told to leave her husband’s house if she was not ready to accommodate another woman who had given her husband children. Since that day, she had been living a secluded life, most especially when the family made it clear that they would not accept a bastard as a child in the name of adoption. Nobody knew that she would get to this point of committing suicide.”
Another eyewitness, who is also a neighbour, claimed that he saw the deceased sprinkle fuel round the house. “Initially, I thought it was holy water because she had turned into a prayer warrior ever since she could not get pregnant. She was always depressed because her fellow women in the community jeered at her especially when they heard that she refused to allow the other woman to live in their husband’s house. We were all shocked to realise that she actually planned to kill herself and the husband.”
A woman, who later introduced herself as Mama Chima, claimed that days before the incident, Patience was selling off her wares at a give-away price. “It was more like an auction market. When I asked her what was going on, she said that she was trying to change to another line of business. She was always crying, and mumbling to herself.”
Also at the scene was the second wife who wept uncontrollably. “What kind of bad luck is this? Who is going to take care of my children and me? He promised to drive the other woman, so that we can have peace in this house. It is nobody’s fault that God did not give her a child,” the unfortunate woman lamented.