2 sentenced to death for Briton’s murder: Third suspect freed
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Justice Emmanuel Nkea of the Special Criminal Court in Banjul, Tuesday, June 26th 2012, convicted and sentenced two of the three Nigerian nationals charged with the murder of Ian Stokes, a Briton to death by hanging, while the third accused was discharged and acquitted on grounds of lack of sufficient evidence against him.
Michael Ifunaya Churwbiken, the first accused and Stanley Agbazee Ugochukwu, the second accused, were charged alongsidethe third accused Collins Chijioke with the murder of the said Briton on May 13th, 2012 at the Bakoteh Junction Baa in the Kanifing Municipality.
The accused persons denied the charge, hence the litigation in which the prosecution called 10 witnesses and tendered several exhibits, while the accused persons depended on their lone evidences.
The Special Criminal Court judge, at the end of reading his one hour-long judgement coupled with receipt of plea mitigation from the Legal Aid defence counsel, announced among others, that the convicts were not remorseful even after the court found them guilty of the offence charged.
“I shall not exercise any mercy on them, I shall punish them according to the law. I cannot show mercy on them and the law will not allow me to do that, I therefore sentence Michael Ifunaya Churwbiken, the first accused to death, he shall be hanged to death and I also sentence Stanley Agbazee Ugochukwu, the second accused to death and he too shall be hanged to death. They shall both be hanged till they die,” the Special Criminal Court judge said.
Nkea commenced reading his judgement with an extensive reference to the history
of the case brought before his court in which the prosecution called 10
witnesses and tendered several exhibits and later concluded that the
prosecution has proven its case against the accused persons beyond all
reasonable doubt inline with rules relating to the need for the prosecution to
prove its case.
He therefore found both the first and second accused persons guilty of the murder charge, but discharged and acquitted Collins Chijioke, the third accused of the murder charge on the grounds of lack of sufficient evidence against him.
According to Justice Nkea, the bill of indictment stated among others that, the accused persons went to the Restaurant of the deceased (Ian Stokes) and introduced a business deal with him, but the accused later decided to rob the deceased by killing him.
He said the
first and second accused after discussing the business with the deceased, left
with him (the deceased) in his vehicle and when they reached at the Palma Rima
Junction in Kololi, the first accused told the deceased that the business deal
they discussed was a joke and all they wanted was his money. He explained that
the deceased was asked to stop his vehicle but he refused, and later the first
accused pulled out his knife and stabbed the deceased several times on his body
till he was weak.
The judge said the first accused removed the deceased from the driving seat, placed him in the back seat where the second accused was sitting and drove the vehicle to the Bakoteh Junction Baa and parked the vehicle. He said that the first accused called the third accused to bring fuel, but he didn’t tell him (the third accused) what the fuel was meant for.
According to the High Court judge, the indictment further stated that, the first accused was on the following day arrested in Barra by the police while in his attempt to leave The Gambia, investigations led to the arrest of both the second and third accused person, the post-mortem report indicated series of injuries inflicted on the body of the deceased caused by a knife stabs and the deceased was later buried in Makasutu. The judge then made reference to exhibits tendered in court to that effect.
juncture, the presiding judge cited the Law of Evidence and the Common Law
Provision on the duty of the prosecution to prove its case beyond all
reasonable doubt, failure of which the benefit of doubt shall be in favour of
the accused person. He cited different legal authorities that effect and linked
it to what he called the instant case at hand.
According to him, both PW1 and PW2 said the deceased was buried in Makasutu and he is satisfied that the deceased died from gruesome murder not from any self-defence and the murder is unlawful. He added that there was no indication that the deceased died from any natural cause of death and the evidence adduced in court covered exhibits including bloodstains sustained by the deceased from the injuries inflicted on him.
Justice Nkea then said one may be tempted to ask what type of weapon was used in inflicting such injuries on the deceased, the nature of the injuries inflicted on him among others. He said injuries inflicted were of penetrating weapon used and also a lethal weapon with series of injuries inflicted on different parts of the deceased, which indicated the brutal nature of the force used on the deceased.
The evidence, he went on, left no doubt that death occurred as a result of the injuries inflicted on the deceased, which was an indication that whoever killed the deceased killed him with malice-afore-thought and also there was no doubt that the third accused was asked to bring fuel.
“I cannot doubt that the prosecution has proven its case beyond all reasonable doubt against the first and second accused persons for the murder of the said Briton. The fact that the first accused denied the charge does not avail him. The court is satisfied with the confessional statement made by the first accused at the police, but the question is whether weight must be attached to the confession in issue,” Justice Nkea said.
He the read
citation of confessional statements and corroboration in criminal cases as it
relates to the case at hand. He later read a portion of the confessional
statement made by the first accused.
According to the judge, the first accused said he called the second accused to meet him at a junction in Bakau, they left for the restaurant of the deceased, after they discussed with the deceased, they left in the vehicle of the deceased heading to the Palma Rima Junction, where the first told the deceased that the business agreement was a joke, all they wanted was his money, the deceased was asked to stop his vehicle but refused, later the first accused pulled his knife, stabbed the deceased several times on his body till he was weak, removed the deceased from the driving seat, placed him at the back seat, drove the vehicle to Bakoteh Junction Baa, parked there and called the third accused to bring fuel, despite he did not explain the reason for bringing the fuel.
On the part of the second accused, the judge recalled him saying the first accused was the one who stabbed the deceased with a knife till he was weak, removed him from the driving seat and drove to the said Bakoteh Junction Baa, where he called the third accused to bring fuel.
The judge then revealed that the post-mortem report indicated that the deceased died from series of injuries inflicted on him as indicated in the exhibits tendered in court. He said evidence of both PW1 and PW9 were corroborated and they were true evidence adduced in court on oath. According to justice Nkea, the evidence of the said two prosecution witnesses were not contested by the accused persons.
“With the hood and cooked story, the court believed that there is evidence that the first and second accused persons were in constant concert before and after the death of the deceased and the first accused was arrested in Barra while attempting to leave the country. I have no doubt that both the first and second accused persons participated in the murder of the deceased’, Justice explained to the hearing of the court.
Third accused person
The presiding judge said the third narrated how he was called by the first accused to bring him fuel, but did not tell him the reason for the fuel and after delivering the fuel to the accused persons in a vehicle parked at the Bakoteh Junction Baa, he left without delay.
This made the judge to cite the offence of abetting and aiding commitment of a criminal offence and questioned whether such was the case with the third accused in the case at hand, considering the exhibits tendered and evidences adduced in court.
“I have no evidence that the third accused participated in committing of the offence at hand. The first tells his story in a very clear and healthy manner in the case and the second accused, I have no doubt that had actively participated in the murder of the deceased from the start to the end,” he said and later made reference to the common law provision on duty placed on the prosecution to prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt.
Justice Nkea explained that he did not believe the police statement that the third accused took an active part in the murder of the deceased, because the third accused said he was only called to bring fuel, he was not told the reason for the fuel and said it in the court and in the absence of any compelling evidence against the third accused, he cannot be convicted by any court based on the facts contained in the charge and the evidence adduced in the court.
“I cannot hold that the third accused acted in concert with the first and second accused and I therefore shall discharge and acquit the third accused of the charge against him. I shall convict and sentence the first and second accused of the murder the Briton Ian Stoke accordingly,” Justice Nkea said.
However, the first and second accused refused to explain any plea mitigation, instead their legal aid counsel urged the court to temper justice with mercy. They were convicted and sentenced accordingly.
Author: Sanna Jawara