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By: Ade Adeleke
An Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure on Monday sentenced a man, Chukwudi Onweniwe, to death by hanging for killing his undergraduate girlfriend two years ago.
Onweniwe, a boyfriend had strangulated his girlfriend, Nifemi Adeyeoye, an HND student of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic to death in Owo, in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State.
After reviewing the case, the presiding judge, Justice Ademola Samuel Bola, found Onweniwe guilty of murder and sentenced him to death by hanging.
The convict was charged on four-count charge bordering on endangering life, abduction, rape and murder.
The prosecutor, Jumoke Ogunjebi, who filed the information on February 20, 2017, called five witnesses, including the mother of the deceased, to testify against the convict.
The convict abducted Nifemi and took her to a farm near Alayere, Ogbese, raped her and then snuffed life out of her by choking and strangulating her to death.
Nifemi’s mother, who testified before the court, said her daughter had told her she was going to visit her friend on the day she went missing.
She said that she did not know the convict though he was said to be her daughter’s boyfriend.
She added that she did not see her daughter again until policemen invited her to come to the mortuary to identify a corpse whether it was her daughter.
Two motorcyclists who saw the duo together on the fateful day also testified in the case and one of them told the court that he carried them to a spot in town.
Delivering his judgement, Bola said that Onweniwe was arraigned before the court on May 22, 2017 and he had entered a “not guilty” plea when the four-count charge preferred against him was read to him.
The judge said that an autopsy was carried out by Dr. Pelemo of Ondo State Specialist Hospital, Akure. Pelemo, according to the judge, described the abnormal state of the deceased’s neck and fracture of the skull.
He explained that it suggested that the deceased had been attacked by an object with a blunt edge which led to her death.
The police witness, Inspector John Aderibigbe, said one of the motorcyclists who testified in the case had come to report the suspicious movement of the convict and the deceased at the police station.
He explained that the case was later transferred to the Special Anti-Cultism Squad in Akure.
The judge said the convict had confessed to the officers of the squad according to the testimony of one Ayoola Famoriyo and had taken his team to the spot where he hid the corpse of the deceased.
The witness said Onweniwe had pointed to the spot where he kept Nifemi’s body and it was taken to the mortuary while the stone found near her head with which he had bashed in her skull was taken to the police station as an exhibit.
Famoriyo had further testified that a search of the convict’s room had revealed the deceased’s belongings such as a schoolbag, wallet, some GNLD products, her phone and 22 passport photographs.
When the defence opened its case, the father of the convict, Nwosu Onweniwe, had told the court that the deceased was his son’s girlfriend who had been very helpful to him.
He said the deceased used to go with him to the farm and often washed his clothes.
On the fateful day, he claimed that the deceased had come to their house to check on her boyfriend, Chukwudi and had left for her parents’ house when she learnt of his absence.
After examining all facts of the case, Justice Bola held that in three out of the four-count, the prosecution had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt except for the third count, which was rape.
He observed that the prosecution had not put forward any evidence to prove the case of rape against the convict.
The judge observed that though there was no witness which stated that the convict was the one who actually committed the murder, circumstantial evidence pointed to the fact that he had indeed committed the crime.
The circumstances, according to the judge, were that he was last seen with the deceased according to the testimonies of the motorcyclists and the belongings of the deceased.
The trial judge found him guilty as charged on three counts and convicted.
On the count of kidnapping, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, on strangulating and choking, he was sentenced to death by hanging and on murder, he was also sentenced to death by hanging.