A MARRIED father of two has told of his anger and shame at being arrested last week for abducting a teenager from The Bridge shopping centre in Port Elizabeth.
The Motherwell man was held in custody for four nights before all charges against him were withdrawn due to lack of evidence.
Hardy Omabiagbe, 31, has now threatened to pursue civil charges against the police on the grounds of wrongful arrest.
"I was insulted and treated badly by the police officers after my arrest. I was victimised by my cell mates because I am Nigerian.”
Omabiagbe, who lives in Motherwell with his South African wife and their two children, was arrested on Monday last week after a 15-year-old Nelson Mandela Bay schoolgirl accused him of abducting her from the busy shopping complex.
The teenager told police he had forced her into his car and sexually assaulted her before she finally managed to flee.
But last Friday, after spending four "horrific” nights in custody, the prosecution withdrew all charges against him, due to a lack of evidence.
Omabiagbe said yesterday the girl’s allegations had almost ruined his reputation.
He said he had moved to South Africa in 2007 to escape oppression in Nigeria. "But the time I spent behind bars was far worse than anything I had experienced back home.”
Recalling last Monday’s events, Omabiagbe said he had gone to The Bridge to buy an airline ticket to Nigeria to visit his ill mother. "As I walked towards the escalators, the girl called me. I did not know who she was, but she said she knew me from Motherwell.
"She said she was stranded and needed a lift home. I told her I had a couple of errands to run, but would give her a lift once I was finished. I wanted to help, but now I wish I hadn’t.”
He claimed the girl waited for him while he booked his flight, and even accompanied him to a nearby bank.
"Once in the bank I looked around, but she was gone,” he said.
The teenager apparently ran into a nearby shop, where she informed the shop owner she had been abducted.
Omabiagbe was arrested just moments later and detained at the Mount Road police station.
"For two days my wife did not know where I was. But the worst part was the way the police treated me because I am a foreigner.”
He claimed he was sworn at and ridiculed.
His lawyer, Nash Vandayar, said they would discuss bringing a civil claim against the police on the grounds of wrongful arrest.
He said his client’s business had also suffered due to his incarceration.
CCTV footage captured at The Bridge on the day in question did not corroborate the girl’s story.
Police spokesman Captain Stanley Jarvis said Omabiagbe’s allegations that police had ill-treated him were unfounded.
He said it was procedure for police to conduct thorough investigations, which could take up to a week.
Jarvis said only then would they be equipped to advise the state on whether or not to oppose bail.