Joe Hayes: Serial hit-and-run victim speaks out

Image copyright Rob Hayes Image caption Rob Hayes’s son Joe was killed by a hit-and-run driver

Twelve months ago, Rob Hayes’s son Joe went to his usual spot for a cigarette at Lekki toll gates.

But when he didn’t come home that night, Rob contacted the Lagos State Police Command and was told that Joe had been hit by a truck.

The teenager was still on life support when the coroner’s court started to hear his case.

It took a forensic biologist and his team three months to examine the scene and take soil and plaster samples – and it was only four months since Joe died in Rob’s arms.

A coroners’ jury eventually concluded that Joe had been killed by a truck but have not yet been able to tell him the reasons why.

“Even at this point, I don’t understand why my son was killed by a truck,” Rob told the BBC News website.

“My son has died in my arms, with me there holding him, and I don’t understand how and why it happened.”

Joe was killed on 20 March last year, when a truck veered off the road, striking him before crashing into a stand of trees on a street in Lekki, a wealthy and thriving suburb of Lagos.

His tragic story goes far beyond the normal frustrations of young motorists and jaywalkers.

Unlooked-for children

“It’s not just a regular traffic accident. I think the driver must have cut the line,” said Dr Onadeko-Okolie, whose team was brought in by the coroner to process the scene.

Image copyright Image copyright Rob Hayes Image caption The jury at the coroner’s inquest in Lagos took four months to begin hearing Joe’s case

“He must have passed someone and suddenly found that his vehicle was on the wrong side of the road. If he saw me, I think he would have gotten out of the truck and ran away.”

The forensics biologist worked in the Nigerian university system for three years before deciding to investigate Joe’s death.

Dr Onadeko-Okolie said he initially thought that Joe’s death might be a terrible accident.

He told me: “I didn’t expect a death at this place, even in a mad man’s car accident, there would be ambulances within minutes.

“In this one, we took the first two hours until we could get a mobile forensic team to pick up the samples.”

Image copyright Dr Daniel Okolie Image caption Dr Onadeko-Okolie told me that Joe died in his arms after the truck hit him

He said a forensic anthropologist came to pick up the victim’s bones from the scene and traced his history through documents and letters.

Joe had actually been at a party hosted by the owner of the vehicle, who later admitted to killing him after initially telling the police he thought the teenager had just lost his way to get home.

It took months for detectives to find a warrant to get the owner of the truck, who had been giving them an alibi.

“The document we found in his house and on his laptop has been running at the back of our minds,” Dr Onadeko-Okolie said.

For the next four months, the coroner’s jury would sit in Lagos, looking into Joe’s death.

You can watch a more in-depth report on Joe Hayes’s case on the BBC News website and watch this report on Joe Hayes’s family speaking to the BBC News website.

If you need or have experienced any relevant issues of how the state deals with the death of an individual, or if you have information or support contact us.

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