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11TH AUGUST, 1961

3PLR/1961/80 (FSC)






LIONEL BRETT, Kt. AG. C.J.F. (Presided)

WILFRED HUGH HURLEY, C.J. High Court of the Northern Region

ALEXANDER WILLIAM BELLAMY, AG. C.J. High Court of Lagos (Read the Judgment of the Court)


  1. A. Cole – for the Appellant.
  2. C. E. Ihejetoh -for the Respondent.


CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE:- Murder – Proof – Desertion of matrimonial home or denial of sex to husband – Whether provocation – how treated

HEALTHCARE AND LAW:- Primary healthcare and emergency services – practice of inviting police to critically injured persons instead of health emergency services – effect

ETHICS – LEGAL PRACTITIONER:- Propriety of bringing a perfectly hopeless appeal with nothing to urge

CHILDREN AND WOMEN LAW: Women and Customs/Crime/Murder/Healthcare – Unhappy marriages and customary methods of resolving quarrels between married  couples – Wife murdered by husband with about 10 blows of the machete – Whether running away or denying sex to husband amounted to provocation – Practice of summoning the police first instead of seeking emergency healthcare services for critically injured person – Effect of


BELLAMY, AG. C.J. LAGOS (Delivering the Judgment of the Court):

The judgment I am about to read is the judgment of the Court. The Court has already dismissed this appeal and now proceeds to give its reasons for its decision.

The appellant was charged with the murder of a woman named MARY OSOUWA on the 20th February, 1961. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.

The short facts are these. The appellant and Mary Osouwa were at all material times husband and wife. The marriage apparently was not a happy one; there were frequent quarrels between themselves, and eventually the wife left her husband and returned to live with her father. Sometime in Feb­ruary, 1961 a meeting was arranged between husband and wife at the wife’s father’s house by the elders of the village, the upshot of which was that the wife was persuaded to, and did, return to her husband. This was on the 12th February. A week later, on the 19th February, the wife was found in a dying condition, with several very serious incised wounds on her head, neck and back, on the road to her father’s village. The police were summoned to the scene. When they arrived the injured woman, in the belief that she was ap­proaching death, made a statement to the police that it was her husband, the appellant, who had inflicted the wounds upon her with a matchet. The in­jured woman was then removed to the hospital where she was examined by a doctor. Her condition was hopeless, and she died on the following day. A post mortem examination showed that the deceased had received no fewer than ten incised wounds, and the cause of her death was certified to be shock and haemorrhage from these wounds. A search was made for the appellant on the 19th February, but he was nowhere to be found. A bloodstained matchet was found in his house. On the following day he was apprehended and handed over to the police. He was then charged with the murder of his wife, and later on the same day, 20th February, he made a statement to the police, after caution in which he stated inter alia that his wife refused to sleep with him and ran away, that he pursued her and “inflicted a matchet cut on her neck and on the jaw.”

There was abundant evidence, which was uncontradicted to support these facts. The appellant gave evidence on his own behalf. Dealing with the events of the 19th February he said this: “One night at midnight she tried to go back to her father’s house. I chased her and struck her with my matchet. It was because she was running away from me at night.” And, under cross­-examination, he said this: “This Exhibit 1 is the matchet I used. I think I struck her three times. I did not mean to kill her. I was very annoyed.”

In his judgment the learned Judge, dealing with the question of inten­tion to kill, found that the blows struck by the appellant, which according to the medical testimony must have been ten heavy blows and not three as stated by the appellant, were such as would almost inevitably cause death. We agree with that finding. The learned Judge also found that there was no question of insanity here and that the wife’s running away from her husband could not amount to provocation in law sufficient to reduce the offence to manslaughter. With these findings we also agree.

This was a perfectly hopeless appeal and it is not therefore surprising that counsel for the appellant could find nothing to urge on behalf of the ap­pellant.

In our judgment the conviction was a right one, and for these reasons we dismissed the appeal.

Appeal Dismissed.



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