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F.S.C. 21/1961

4TH MAY, 1951.






SIR VAHE BAIRAMIAN, F.J. (Read the Judgment of the Court)



E.B. CRAIG -for the Appellant

  1. R.I. GEORGE, DEPUTY D. P. P. – for the Respondent.



CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE:- Murder – Proof thereof – Conviction based on confessional statement – Desirability of finding corroborating evidence outside confession

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE:- Confessional statements – Where an accused is to be convicted solely on a confessional statement- Princi­ples governing.

CHILDREN AND WOMEN LAW:- Women and Murder – Woman killed by lover – whether verbal/physical abuse and neglect amount to provocation at law – relevant considerations





BAIRAMIAN, F.J. (Delivering the Judgment of the Court):

The appellant was convicted by Kesler, J., on the 22nd November last, on an information accusing him of murdering, on the 13th May, 1960, one Margaret Dimarua, at Ogharefe Village, in the Warri judicial division. The appeal was heard at Ibadan on the 14th April, 1961, and dismissed for the reasons which are now given in this judgment.

The deceased was murdered towards midnight; soon after that, the ap­pellant went across to the Police Station at Sapele and told them that it was done by Patrick Eze “through the knowledge of Thomas”; not long after, Thomas turned up with others and accused the appellant of the murder. The Police made investigations; on the 16th May the sub-inspector (witness 3, Haoppold Onyi) had some information from Sunday Edowuyi (witness 6 for the prosecution), presumably to the effect that on the 11th of May the appel­lant had a new matchet sharpened by Sunday, saying it was to cut stock-fish with; on the 17th the appellant made a confession of being the murderer, and he confirmed it on the 18th before A.S.P. Chikezie (witness 4). The confes­sion is vital in this case; it is quoted here:­

“Margaret Dimarua was my lover for four years. I am the person responsible for her affairs. I opened bar for her where she will be selling for me. Since she started selling she never rendered any account to me last month she refused to cook for me. I begged her before she could accept the money. On the 13th of this month she requested money for cooking rice for both of us I gave her three shillings. When I returned from work at 1 p.m. on that day, I went to the bar and assisted her in selling palm wine when she closed I told her to get me my own rice to eat. I waited and waited and I could not get her. When I was proceeding to her place I saw her going to Thomas place who is my enemy. I asked her why she did not get my own rice before going to another place. This was about half past eleven at night. When I queried her, she started to abuse me and spat on my face. That she will not get me food either cooked or not until she finished going to Thomas’ place. When I draw her to follow me, she slapped me on the face and I draw out matchet and cut her three times which resulted in her death. Margaret was at first going to Thomas house. Two of us were talking on the road near Thomas house. When she saw that I have a matchet, she started to run I pursued her, and cut her with the matchet before she fell into the room, I was sure that she died when I heard people crying. I ran to the river at Ogharefe and threw the matchet inside it. I came to the Police station and reported that someone killed my lover. From the time I cut Mar­garet to the time I heard shouting of people was about thirty mi­nutes. On that date 13/5/60 I was badly drunk. I have to say that I congratulate the police for having succeeded in knowing the whole facts. They have done well in detecting this case: I only re­gret that I have wasted their whole time investigating this case.”


It is the vital piece of evidence in this case. The appellant denied it when giv­ing evidence at his trial: he said he was tricked into signing the confession on a misrepresentation that he was being asked to sign an inventory of what had been taken from his house by the Police; but the learned Judge did not be­lieve his story. All that the Police took from his house was six letters; moreover, the appellant is literate – he can read and write – and it was idle on his part to pretend that he had been tricked into signing a confession con­cocted by the Police. That disposes of one of his grounds of appeal.


His second complaint in that regard is that, although he objected to the confession when tendered by the sub-inspector, the trial court received it in evidence without immediately holding an investigation into the question whether he had, or had not, been tricked into signing a fabrication. In effect the complaint is that the trial Judge did not stop the case for the Crown and call the appellant as a witness in regard to the confession, before admitting it in evidence. This complaint loses sight of the fact that the appellant had counsel to defend him, but his counsel did not, at that stage, ask the Judge to hear the appellant as a witness in that regard. In substance it did not matter: for when the appellant gave evidence, he disclaimed the confession and gave all the explanation he wanted to give about it. The trial Judge discussed the evidence on either side, and his finding – with which we agree – was that the appellant had made the confession. The complaint is technical and has no merit.


The substantial question is whether it was a mistake to rely on the con­fession and convict: the appellant complains that he was convicted on it alone; This question is dealt with in Philip Kanu and another V  The King, 14 W.A.C.A., 30; the late Sir Henley Coussey’s judgment in that appeal has become the locus classicus. The points to consider are these:­


(1)     Was the confession free and voluntary?


(2)     Was it in itself fully consistent and probable?


(3)     Were there any facts in the evidence for the Crown which showed that the confession was true?


It is desirable to have, outside the confession, some evidence, be it slight, of circumstances which make it probable that the confession was true. The confession was free and voluntary, as we have already said. It also reads sensibly: the story it tells is fully consistent and probable. There is also outside evidence, by no means slight in this case, which shows that the con­fession was true.


First, there is the evidence of witness No. 6, Sunday Edwuyi, that on the 11th May, a few days before the murder, he sharpened a new matchet for the appellant, who explained that he wanted it to cut stock-fish with. That was damning evidence: it confirmed the appellant’s confession that he killed the deceased with a matchet, which he threw into the stream. The appellant chose in his evidence to deny that he ever had a matchet: he had no use for one. But the learned Judge believed Sunday.


Secondly, there was the medical report on the wounds found on the body of the deceased: exhibit K. The learned Judge adverts to them towards the end of his judgment and observes, rightly, that they were wounds in­flicted from behind, on a person running away. Thus the wounds tally with the account in the confession.


Thirdly, in his evidence the appellant said that the deceased was with him about twenty minutes before he heard the alarm and went and saw she was dead, lying on her face just inside the door of Thomas’s room. In his evi­dence he said that she had left him at his door: In his confession he said that he was with her near Thomas’s door, complaining to her about her not bring­ing any food. Thus it emerges from his evidence that he had been with her shortly before she died and had an opportunity of killing her-which he took.


The other grounds of appeal come to this: that it was Patrick Eze who killed the deceased, and the trial Judge failed to consider that possibility. Early in his evidence the appellant said that the deceased asked him to help her write a letter to her parents at Nsukka to report to them that Patrick Eze threatened (not “his wife”, as the copies of the record read, but, says the ap­pellant) her life. When the appellant went to Sapele, he accused Patrick Eze as the one who had killed the deceased “through the knowledge of Thomas.” The Police went to Patrick’s house; there was a chair, they say, which was in­fected with bed bugs and had a stain of a bug killed on it, and the bug was still there; so the police did not send the chair for examination: that was their story. Patrick’s evidence was that his wife had had a threatened abortion and two chairs were stained, which the Police removed and still retained, in spite of the fact that they were satisfied with the explanation. It is on Patrick’s evi­dence of two chairs being stained with blood that the appellant relies in com­plaining that the trial Judge failed to consider the possibility of Patrick hav­ing been the culprit; and, why, asks the appellant, did the police not send the chairs to the laboratory? It is after the visit to Patrick’s house that the appel­lant made his confession, and one may infer that the Police did not think it was worth sending the chairs to the analyst. They were cumbersome things to send; a report that there was blood on the chairs would not have added anything of value: for Patrick said it was blood from his wife. The stains were visible – whether they were caused by the killing of a bed bug or by the wife losing blood – and, if it had been Patrick who had killed the deceased, he would have been a fool not to have washed them off. The appellant – one does not blame him, but he was clutching at a straw.


The appellant is not the first man to kill his mistress; why he did so is dis­cussed in the judgment of the court below, and need not be discussed here. Here it is enough to say that, for the reasons given, he was rightly convicted of the murder of which he was accused.


Appeal Dismissed.


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