By John Ekongo
The wife of a police officer at the Special Field Force in the Omaheke Region has expressed dismay at the manner in which the top echelons of the police in the region handled the disappearance of her husband.
It is alleged the police in the region showed lack of concern at the disappearance of their fellow officer, Constable Festus Gabriel, despite pleas from his wife, Maria, to have him traced over the weekend.
Gabriel is said to have a history of vanishing as a result of a mental illness and his superiors are reportedly fully aware of his condition.
The latest incident happened at around 03h00 on Saturday when a distressed Gabriel woke up to apparently visit the restroom in their quarters at the police camp, according to the wife. Forty-five minutes later, he still had not returned from his appointment with nature. Concerned, Maria went to check on her husband shortly thereafter, but there was no sign of Gabriel in the men’s restroom or the immediate surroundings of the building.
Fearing for the worst, Maria called an officer friend to inform him about the incident. When the friend arrived at Gabriel’s room at the quarters, he assured Maria that perhaps her husband was somewhere nearby and that she had no reason to worry.
However, Maria took it upon herself to inform the charge office and Gabriel’s immediate supervisors about the disappearance.
It is then alleged that the officers took a reluctant approach in their concern for Gabriel.
“How can you have a fellow officer missing and show no compassion. This attitude hurt me, especially when they know that my husband has a history of this sort of thing,” said a distressed Maria over the phone.
When the missing officer’s relatives came to beg the police to institute a search party, their pleas fell on deaf ears and were told to come to the charge office at 08h00 when a search party would be executed.
At around the same time, Maria received a phone call from a fellow officer that Gabriel was seen wandering about in the town centre.
Two hours later, the family was reunited with Gabriel at the Gobabis State Hospital, where the missing officer was to receive sedatives to calm his nerves.
However, according to the wife, Gabriel declined to be injected saying he was not ill but apparently his condition was a consequence of witchcraft.
Hospital personnel refused to inject Gabriel despite his wife’s pleas.
Hospital staff said it was up to an individual to grant permission on the right to treatment, if he so wished and Gabriel chose otherwise.
Left with no option, the colleagues opted to take him back to the camp, but a deviant Gabriel refused to get into the car, preferring to walk. He was then assigned an officer to escort him to the camp, but somewhere along the way Gabriel duped the escort and escaped again.
Armed with the bad news the officer went back to the station, much to Maria’s dismay.
Maria then pleaded with Gabriel’s immediate supervisor, a certain Warrant Officer Goraseb, to dispatch a search team for her husband yet again, fearing that he might pose a danger to himself and the public. It was only until 15h00 on Saturday that a three-member team was dispatched to check along the main road to Windhoek for any signs of the officer, but to no avail.
Maria remained at the charge office in the hope that some information would come in.
Gabriel’s relatives in Windhoek also launched a search for the missing officer around town and informal settlements, with the help of the officer who had been assigned to escort him.
Meantime, the missing officer found his way to a relative’s house in Windhoek’s Wanaheda location. A call at 12h00 yesterday confirmed that Gabriel was safe.
According to a relative, Serby Amutenya, two unidentified Good Samaritans dropped him off at the relative’s house after they found him wandering along the road to Windhoek.
When New Era spoke to Regional Head Deputy Commissioner, Ananias Muzile, he said he was aware of Gabriel’s disappearance adding that the police acted swiftly after receiving a report on his disappearance.
“We did our part, Sir.”
Muzile said the family should be blamed rather for not taking precautions knowing Gabriel’s history.
“How can they say the police did not act swiftly? When we got the report we searched, found him and took him to hospital. Family should not point fingers at the police. They should take care of their family members.”
According to Muzile, after they found Gabriel they placed him in the care of his wife and relatives.
The second disappearance was entirely their fault, he maintains.
Sources allege that Gabriel has on numerous occasions requested to be transferred to Outapi Police Station, but his request was not approved – a charge Muzile categorically denies.
“I have never seen a request for transfer of the officer in question and I am unaware of that,” he said.