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(2017) LPELR-42488(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Friday, the 2nd day of June, 2017


Before Their Lordships

AYOBODE OLUJIMI LOKULO-SODIPE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

ITA GEORGE MBABA Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

TUNDE OYEBANJI AWOTOYE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria




STATE - Respondent(s)

Other Citations

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This appeal borders on the offence of murder.

This is an appeal against the judgment of Imo State High Court wherein the learned trial Judge convicted and sentenced the Appellant to death, together with his two sons, who were charged along with him, for the murder of one Rose Omenuko on 9/2/1998. Earlier, his daughter Cecilia Enweremadu who was the 4th Accused person, had died in custody.

The Appellant and his said children were charged for the offence of murder contrary to Section 319(1) of the Criminal Code, Cap 30 Vol. 11 Laws of Eastern Nigeria, 1963, applicable to Imo State of Nigeria.

%u200BA brief facts of the case showed that the deceased was a widow and mistress to the 1st Accused (Appellant); that their relationship continued and blossomed until sometime before 8/2/98, when the 2nd and 3rd Accused persons, in company of their sister (4th Accused who died in custody in the course of trial), went to the matrimonial home of the deceased and left warning for her (Rose Omenuko), through the PW2 (Cyrine Ejike Omenuko), that she (Rose) should not come to their father%u2019s compound again and they threatened to kill or injure her, if she dared flout the warning, to visit the Appellant, again. In reaction, some members of the lady%u2019s family also went to the house of Appellant and warned him to stop visiting the lady and to put an end to their love affair. On 8/2/98 the lady (now deceased) prepared some food and took same to Appellant in his house at Umuagu Obowo. She did not return to her matrimonial home, but her corpse was seen the next morning, lying in a bush, near a primary school, at a place about 71/2 miles to Umuahia. The Police were contacted and they came and removed the corpse to the mortuary. The Police commenced investigation, arrested the Appellant, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Accused persons and obtained statements from them. Appellant also made statement to the Police, admitting the Deceased visited him on the said date; that after greeting his children, told him that her sister was sick; he sympathized with her and later left her in the house and went out; Appellant later changed his statement to say that after greeting him, the lady started coughing and vomiting; that when he decided to take her out for treatment, she slumped and died; that with the aid of 2nd and 3rd Accused persons, they carried the corpse and deposited it near the primary school.

The prosecution called six witnesses at the trial. Appellant and the other accused, defended themselves on oath, and called no witness. In the judgment, the High Court sentenced the accused persons to death by hanging (except the 4th Accused, who had earlier died in custody, before the judgment).

The appellant formulated three issues for the determination of the Appeal. The Respondent distilled two issues for the determination of the appeal. The Court considered the appeal on the main issue:
"Whether the trial Court was right in its evaluation of the circumstantial evidence to reach its decision, convicting and sentencing Appellant with other accused persons for the murder of Rose Omenuko?"

By a majority of 2-1 the appeal was held to be meritorious, and accordingly allowed.

The Judgment of the trial Court, convicting and sentencing the Appellant was thereby set aside, and in its place, a verdict of not guilty is entered for Appellant and he was thereby discharged and acquitted on the charge.

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