Port Harcourt, Nigeria (CNN) – Three suspects, linked to a spate of killings targeting women in Nigeria’s oil-rich Rivers State have been arrested, police said on Wednesday.
A woman was rescued by police who arrested a man in the city on Wednesday after he attempted to strangle her while she slept in a hotel room they shared, police spokesman Nnamdi Omoni told CNN.
“The young woman escaped because she was able to raise the alarm at about 2am. She was sleeping when she suddenly woke up and saw the man who brought her to the hotel charging at her,”Omoni said.
“She was almost dying when the man tried to strangle her,” he added.
Hallmarks of cultism
Women in the city have been found murdered in different hotel rooms since August, often strangled with a piece of white clothing tied either around their neck or waist, police commissioner Mustapha Dandaura said at a briefing Tuesday.
The killings in Port Harcourt bore all the hallmarks of “cultism,” police said.
“The same modus operandi is used by the killers. They drug the ladies before strangling them to death. They use a white cloth to tie either on their neck or their waist. There is an element of cultism,” Dandaura, said. He added that all the women’s body parts were found intact.
All the women killed were involved in prostitution in the city, according to the police.
The police commissioner said a man has confessed to one of the murders and is cooperating with detectives investigating the murders.
Another man was arrested Monday night after a woman alerted officers that the suspect tried to lure her to a hotel room against her will, police said.
“He has also confessed and gave useful clues in our investigation,” Dandaura said.
A hotel in the city was shut down on Sunday after police found another women murdered in a similar pattern in one of their rooms. Two hotels, where two women were found dead over the weekend have also been closed.
Two hotel managers and two receptionists on duty on the days the women were murdered were also arrested.
The managers were arrested for failing to install CCTV cameras in specific locations, while the receptionists were held for failing to obtain proper national ID from the suspects when they checked in. They will be charged to court for “abetting murder,” Dandaura said.
Authorities say they held meetings with hotel operators in the city when the killings began in August asking them to tighten identification and the screening process for guests but many have not complied with the directive, he said.
“Our problem now is that many hotels are not complying but any hotel that fails this time will be closed,” Dandaura said.
He said police have also set up a joint task force to ensure compliance with new measures put in place to protect women in the city.
The murders have terrified residents in the southeastern city and advocacy groups took to the streets over the weekend to give women in the city tips on staying safe.
“We are also talking to men, so they can watch out for their sisters and wives. Everyone needs to be on alert till they catch these killers,” Nengi Jumbo of the Port Harcourt Significant Girls group told CNN.
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