A 30 year-old hotel staff, Ehizogie Jeffrey has been sentenced to death by hanging for killing his manager and a United Kingdom (UK) returnee.
Justice Oyindamola Ogala of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, found him guilty of the murder charge filed against him by the State government.
The state government, had in the suit no: ID/10428C/2019, alleged that Ehizogie and others at large strangled a UK returnee, Sola Olusoga, to death with a rope on January 25, 2019 at Etasol Hotel, No. 42, Budland Street, Ojodu-Berger.
The defendant and others at large also killed one Tunji Omikunle, the manager of the hotel, by strangling and beating him to death.
He was also alleged to have taken a key from the manager’s pocket, opened Olusola’s apartment, entered and strangled him to death.
His offences contradicted the provision of Section 223 of the Criminal Law Cap. C17, Vol. 3, Laws of Lagos State 2015.
The defendant was arraigned before the court on December 7, 2020 and he pleaded not guilty to the charges and his trial commenced on February 25, 2021.
During trial, the prosecution called four witnesses against the defendant, among whom were the then hotel staff, David Nkwor, two police officers, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Chris Akpanomo, ASP Malik Aliyu and Harrison Bruce.
The first prosecution witness (PW1), Nkwor, narrated to court that as at January 2010, he was working at Etasol Hotel, Ojodu, Lagos.
He identified the defendant as one of the staff at the Hotel in 2019. He testified that on January 24, 2019, a worker prepared Indomie and served it to the defendant, who gave it to him (PW1).
He said when he was eating same, Jeffery and Henry, also workers, were walking around, and he went to sleep after eating the Indomie because it was late at night.
He testified that Jeffery slept with him while Henry went to the manager.
“The following day, in the morning, the police from Ojodu division woke him up at about 7:00a.m. and said they couldn’t find Jeffery and his phone. He said that the police told him that some people tied up his Managing Director and killed him. They started asking him for the whereabouts of the manager and he said the manager slept upstairs with Henry.
“He continued that they checked and couldn’t find the manager. When they were about to leave, the police said they should check the reception’s toilet, which they did and saw a man lying in the toilet. He told the court that they asked him who it was and he told them that it was the manager. He was tied and killed.
“PW1 testified that the police took him to Ojodu Police station at Grammar School. He was released that day and the case was transferred to Panti. He was invited and wrote a statement. After a few days, the Managing Director’s daughter returned from abroad and they brought out the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) camera and played the video. “
According to him, “In the video, he saw Jeffery, Henry, White and four other persons in the video beating the manager. They killed him and put him inside the toilet. They climbed up to the Managing Director’s apartment. “
In her verdict, Justice Ogala held that there was no doubt that these facts are tested and corroborated with the exhibits before the court.
“There is no doubt that the defendant was present, the premises of the scene of crime as confirmed by him in his evidence and exhibits before the court.
“The defendant had the motive and the opportunity to commit the offences he stands charged with others at large. Most of all the confessional statements are consistent with the other facts before the court,” the court held.
After citing plethora of decided cases, Justice Ogala said: “The court has carefully considered the evidence of the defendant before the court, particularly his account of how he left the premises on January 25, 2019 and his incredible story as to why he did not return to the hotel after the incident nor report at the Police Station.
“The defendant had no clear explanation as to why he had to flee to Port Harcourt the next day up until his arrest. The court believes that the defendant indeed wrote the confessional statement and his feeble attempt to retract was to exonerate himself from the commission of the deadly act.”
The court therefore found that the circumstantial evidence against the defendant in this instance is unequivocal, positive and irresistibly points to the guilt of the defendant on the two count charges he stands faced with.
“Having found the defendant, Jeffrey Ehizogie guilty of the two counts of murder, the sentence of the court upon you, Jeffrey Ehizogie, is that you would be hanged by the neck until you are dead. May the Lord have mercy on your soul,” the court held.