Handcuffed and scruffily dressed in a grey t-shirt and sandals, the suspected killer of ex-EastEnders actress Sian Blake was today paraded in front of the media ahead of a press conference in Ghana.
A stony-faced Arthur Simpson-Kent shook his head and repeatedly said ‘No’ as he was questioned by journalists in an unusual scene at the country’s police headquarters in Accra.
The 48-year-old was captured on the beach in Ghana yesterday after fleeing the UK following the deaths of his former partner and their two young sons, Zachary, eight, and four year-old Amon.
He was ‘smoked from a thicket’ and reportedly found eating a coconut with a spoon after splitting it open with a knife, which he did not use in retaliation.
It has since emerged that British police have not formally requested the extradition of Simpson-Kent, according to reports.
Scotland Yard detectives have flown to the West African country, but the BBC reported that the authorities are yet to make a formal request for his extradition.
Ghanaian Director General of CID Prosper Agblor said Ghanaian authorities launched a manhunt for Simpson-Kent after being contacted by the British authorities on Thursday January 7.
He said: ‘The suspect was alleged to have buried the bodies of the victims in a shallow grave in the garden behind their apartment in Erith in London.
‘He was believed to be hiding in Busua.
‘Intelligence gathered on the ground led the team to Busua and Butre towns.
‘With the assistance of the Chiefs and people of the two communities and the local police, an intensive search was mounted for the fugitive.
‘Arthur Simpson-Kent was eventually smoked from a thicket near Butre where he was hiding.
‘He was armed with a knife. He was disarmed and arrested.’
Mr Agblor said Simpson-Kent had arrived in Ghana on December 19 last year but wrote on his landing card that he had arrived on December 7.
Wearing a grey t-shirt, sandals and jeans, Simpson-Kent was pictured arriving at Ghanaian CID HQ today
DCI Graeme Gwyn, from Scotland Yard confirmed police were not looking for anyone else in connection with the murders.
He also paid tribute to the work of the Ghanaian police in seizing Simpson-Kent.
‘I want to pass on my thanks from myself and Scotland Yard and the UK authorities for all the work the Ghanaians have done for us in effecting an arrest,’ DCI Gwyn said.
‘The work they have done has been outstanding and I am truly, truly grateful. I cannot thank them enough for what they have done.
‘The second thing is our thoughts continue to, and always do remain with, Sian’s family and the boys, this is why we are here, this is why we do what we do, and we are here to get justice for them.
‘And thirdly, I have to say there is an ongoing criminal investigation now proceeding, here and in the United Kingdom, and I am very limited in what I can say because of those proceedings.
‘Thank you again and to reiterate, thank you to the Ghanaian authorities for what they have done, they have been outstanding and those thanks have been passed on from the highest levels within the UK including the British High Commissioner here in Ghana.
‘But also, the reason we are here is for Sian’s family and the boys and we are here to see justice for them.’
DCI Gwyn said it was unclear how long extradition would take.
He added: ‘It’s not just as simple as putting him on an aeroplane and sending him back.’
The Ghanaian authorities cannot hold a suspect for more than 48 hours without putting him before a court, and so it is likely Simpson-Kent will go before a judge tomorrow and that police will apply to have him remanded in custody.
Press reports said the authorities acted on a tip-off from locals who spotted him in the area and realised he was a wanted man after seeing reports on social media.
The fugitive was handcuffed and driven in a pick-up truck to a nearby village yesterday.
There The Mail on Sunday witnessed locals cheering his capture and heard police chiefs mocking Scotland Yard detectives for failing to find him first.
Fugitive caught: Simpson-Kent is pictured in the back of a truck having been caught in Ghana tonight
Simpson-Kent had been in Ghana since before Christmas after being allowed to leave Britain by police. Residents of the coastal resort Busua, two miles from the village of Butre where he was found, say he had made friends locally and celebrated the New Year wildly at a rooftop party.
London-born cafe owner Karole Ainoo reported the presence of the fugitive to Scotland Yard but said she was ‘disappointed’ officers did not call her before his arrest.
Simpson-Kent had also allegedly offered to give his iPad, smartphone and cash to a local craftsman who realised he was wanted for questioning over the murders to stop him calling police. He said he wanted to buy heroin so he could take a fatal overdose.
The capture of Simpson-Kent brings to an end an international manhunt, but will increase pressure on the Metropolitan Police, who are facing criticism over their handling of the case.
London-based detectives had only just arrived in the country and were still hundreds of miles away in the capital Accra at the time of his arrest.
Questions were previously asked of the force as they only discovered the bodies of Miss Blake, along with Zachary, eight, and Amon, four, had been buried in the garden of their South East London home weeks after their disappearance. They also let 48-year-old Simpson-Kent leave the country after questioning him when they were still mistakenly treating the case as a missing persons inquiry.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission watchdog is conducting a ‘thorough investigation’ into the case.
Cuffed: Simpson-Kent is held after he was found hiding among rocks on a beach in Ghana by a posse of villagers and a handful of police
Speaking at the scene of the arrest last night, Deputy Detective Superintendent Hansen Gove from the Ghanaian police told The Mail on Sunday he was ‘incredibly proud to have brought in a fugitive so quickly and calmly, without injury to anyone. It will be a great pleasure to report all this to the Met police who arrived from England last night and have not been anywhere near this area or this crime. Maybe we could offer some detective training to Scotland Yard?’
Busua resident Idris Assoumana, who makes and sells arts and crafts, had also encountered the fugitive in recent weeks and had an hour-long talk with him on the beach after confronting him over the murders.
‘I told him that there was a murder inquiry about his partner and children and that their bodies had been found,’ Mr Assoumana told this newspaper. ‘He was calm but full of questions about how I knew.’
Mr Assoumana said Simpson-Kent told him he was suicidal and wanted to ‘buy heroin so he could take an overdose’.
He then allegedly offered the craftsman his possessions and $500 (£340) cash to stop him going to the police.
The 43-year-old said he told Simpson-Kent he would have to tell the police – but despite this the fugitive remained in the area, hiding out in an unnamed a ‘bush lodge’ in the nearby village of Butre.
Mr Assoumana said six police officers came to look for Simpson-Kent and they stayed out until 2am yesterday without any success, but then at 7am there was a report that he had been spotted in the area, and up to 40 villagers joined the manhunt.
The BBC interviewed the man who witnessed Simpson-Kent’s arrest at the beach where he was hiding.
His bag was found in the empty lodge but a fisherman said he had been seen swimming in the sea, and when the search party reached the beach they found him sitting nearby eating a coconut that he had split open with a knife.
The group told him he was under arrest for murder and he immediately raised his hands in surrender, before police handcuffed him and put him in an unmarked pick-up truck.
In a convoy alongside marked police cars with blue lights flashing and sirens wailing, they did a ‘victory lap’ in Busua in front of a cheering crowd.
The truck also stopped outside the coffee shop run by Ms Ainoo, who had originally alerted police to Simpson-Kent’s presence in the area.
She told last night how he had first turned up at her café before Christmas and seemed a ‘very nice gentleman, calm, quietly-spoken with an educated accent’. They spoke about London as Mrs Ainoo had lived there until recently, and she thought he seemed ‘almost saintly’ as he told how he was ‘producing marijuana to help a sick relative with a neurological sickness’.
Miss Blake, 43, had degenerative motor neurone disease, which affects the brain and spinal cord, and was reportedly looking ‘very frail’ before she vanished.
Simpson-Kent became a regular at the café, claiming he wanted to buy some land in the area, and also turned up at a New Year’s Eve party at the popular African Rainbow hotel, ‘dancing like mad’. But then Mrs Ainoo received a message on the WhatsApp social network from a UK-based friend who knew she had emigrated to Ghana from her former home in Halifax, West Yorkshire, last year. It included a link to a BBC report about Simpson-Kent.
‘I had seen my phone flashing around 1am and was shocked out of my mind when I realised the picture was him. I woke my husband up and we agreed we must go to the police.’ She said they spent the night trying to find a way to contact Scotland Yard and Interpol, eventually using her friend in Britain to get in touch.
‘I had waited for days for the British police to turn up and talk to me since I clearly knew so much about him and his location. They apparently arrived on Friday night and they still never came near my village, or even called me.
‘Soon after his arrest I got a call from the Met and I told them I was so disappointed not have been contacted by any of their officers.
‘It was all down to Ghana police and Busua village and my friend Idris, and I’m so proud of them.
‘When I asked the Met officer why they hadn’t done this work themselves he told me they didn’t have the powers, it had to be local police, there was too much red tape. I said, ‘What about Interpol?’ and he said, ‘They are mainly just guys sitting in an office somewhere, just liaising.’
‘I told him that local people were heroes in my eyes, as well as the Ghana police who acted so fast and efficiently without any of the Met’s funding and resources.’
Last night Scotland Yard said: ‘Detectives have today been made aware of an arrest in Ghana. We are currently working alongside the Ghanaian authorities but are not in a position to discuss further.’
Detectives are likely to fly back to the UK with Simpson-Kent later this week.
British cafe owner: He said he was helping a sick relative…looking back, it’s chilling
When the polite, quietly spoken Englishman walked into her coffee shop in a small town in Ghana two days before Christmas, Karole Ainoo was delighted.
Like him, she was a Londoner. She had moved to Busua with her husband in early 2014 but missed home.
‘My husband came into the kitchen and mentioned the customer was British. So I naturally popped out to say hello to him,’ she said yesterday.
Arthur Simpson-Kent was sitting at the communal table sipping a double espresso.
Karole recalled: ‘He and I ended up sitting on the sofa, engrossed in conversation.
‘He seemed like a very nice gentleman – calm, quietly spoken with an educated accent. He looked like he wouldn’t hurt a fly.’
He told Karole he’d had enough of England because of racism and was planning to move to Ghana.
He came into the shop, called The Cafe, every day after that. Simpson-Kent talked about marijuana. ‘He told me he could extract effective herbal medication straight from cannabis. He said he’d researched it himself and was producing marijuana to help a sick relative with a neurological sickness. It seemed almost saintly to me.
‘Looking back, I find this absolutely chilling.’
On New Year’s Eve, Karole saw Simpson-Kent in the street.
She said: ‘He gave me a strong handshake, like he didn’t want to ever let go, and he pulled me close to him in a way that was too close for comfort.’
Later she bumped into him at a celebration, when he was ‘partying like mad’ as though he ‘might have taken something’.
On New Year’s Day, Simpson-Kent brought two Ghanaian girls, aged about 20 who were on holiday from Britain, into the cafe for breakfast.
Then last Wednesday one of Karole’s friends in London sent her a link to a BBC report and picture about ‘this man wanted for murder’.
Karole said: ‘I was shocked out of my mind when I realised the picture was him. I couldn’t believe he was still using the name Arthur Simpson. I woke my husband up and we agreed we must go to the police.’
She alerted her friend in London who promised to contact Scotland Yard. Yet it would be days before British detectives turned up in Ghana. In the meantime, Karole continued to see Simpson every day.
Karole said: ‘The British police were still refusing to confirm he was in Ghana. And all the time I could see him in the street. I knew where he was all along – in my cafe and in my village.’