The Maryland Ritual Murders
The place was Harper City. The day was Friday, February 16, 1979, five o’clock in the morning. More than 15,000 people stood in front of the gallows, which had been constructed a few days earlier. The gallows were situated near the public cemetery, at about 900 yards from the prison compound where the seven convicted murders had spent their last night. When the bus with the seven arrived the crowd became quiet. That absolute silence of a 15,000 crowd was unbelievable and was one of the most extra-ordinary experiences I have had during my 16-year stay in West Africa. I stood next to a white priest who commented on their death sentence – approving it. It was nearly six o’clock and the sun started rising.
The Sheriff started the count down a few minutes before six o’clock. At six o’clock sharp he blew his whistle and the hangman did his work. Within seconds the seven had died. The crowd kept silent, for at least another ten minutes, then the people started talking again, louder and louder, until it was back at its normal volume. People approached the gallows, staring at the dead. ‘When you kill, the law will kill you’, my neighbour said and left.
© fpm van der kraaij / pictures taken by the author
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