Criminal Law

Couple bag 16 years jail term over death of housemaid

An Ikeja High Court on Thursday sentenced a couple Fortune and Stephen Nwankwo to 14 and two years imprisonment respectively for the involuntary murder of their 19-year-old housemaid, Ms Joy Adole.

Delivering judgment, Justice Oyindamola Ogala, held that the prosecution had convincingly proved the charge of manslaughter, conspiracy and attempt to pervert the course of justice and misconduct as regards to a corpse against Fortune.

While the court convicted Stephen of the charges of conspiracy and attempt to pervert justice, misconduct as regards to corpse and accessory after the fact of felonies.

She, however, discharged and acquitted them on the charges of accessory after the fact to murder and accessory after the fact to felonies.

Ogala said that the court was convinced that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses was not only strong but also corroborated the fact that the housemaid died due to the beating by Fortune ( first defendant).

“The first defendant beat the deceased which caused her death as she had not been feeling well prior to the incident.

“The defendants did not inform or call the family of the deceased from 5. a.m. when they found out she had died until noon when the second defendant called the sister of the deceased and asked for her full name and other personal information so as to enable them embalm her in the morgue.

“The second defendant, having found out that the first defendant had killed the deceased due to the beating, assisted her in perverting the course of Justice by hanging the body with a rope.

“There was three adult in the house. The defendants and the housemaid.

The defendants were the last two adult that got in contact with the housemaid before her death.

“The hanging was staged and the deceased was hung by a rope and the position the police found her body did not depict suicide as her feet were on the floor,” She said.

The judge further held that the defendants tampered with the evidence as they had already embalmed the body which made it difficult for the toxicologist to carry out an autopsy as the cause of death was uncertain.

“Dr Sunday Sokunle-soyemi, testified before the court that the body of the deceased was embalmed before she was brought for autopsy.

“As a result, the cause of death can not be ascertain as the body should not have been embalmed before autopsy.

“In the circumstance of this case where medical evidence is inconclusive, the court shall infer evidence on their evidences available.

“The doctor said that the toxicology could not be performed because the defendants had embalmed the deceased before autopsy could be carried out.

“The defendants are the last couple to be seen with the deceased. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.

“It is also imperative to say that the evidence of the investigative police officer (IPO) on what he saw at the seen can never be hearsay. Evidence of an IPO is never to be referred to as hearsay as contended by the defence in this case,” Ogala said.

The judge, thereafter, sentenced the first defendant to 14 years for involuntary manslaughter and 5 years for attempt to pervert the cause of Justice and misconduct as regards to corpse and ordered that it must be run concurrently.

The judge also sentenced the second defendant to two years imprisonment, following the allocutus of the defence counsel.

Mr O.I. Barrah, in his allocutus, prayed the court to temper Justice with mercy as the defendants were young couple and had two little children ages two and one.

“We plead with the court to temper Justice with mercy. They are young couple and their children are just one and two years respectively. The court should consider the ages of the children.

“The defendants do not have any criminal record prior to this. I pray my lord to show them mercy,” Barrah said.

The prosecution counsel, Mr Sule Yusuf did not make any submission to the court, following the allocutus of the defence counsel.

The prosecution had charged the defendants with an eight-count amendment bordering on conspiracy, involuntary manslaughter, misconduct with regards to corpse, accessory after the fact to felonies and accessory after the fact to murder.

The prosecution submitted that the defendants committed the offence on April 20, 2020, at No.18, Ogundola St , Bariga, Lagos State.

Defence had made a no-case submission when prosecution closed its case on October 12, 2021, after calling eight witnesses.

The court turned down the application on Nov. 24, 2021, for lack of merit, and asked the defendants to open their defence.

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