Peter Igho V. The State (1978)
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On 2nd March 1978, when this appeal came up for hearing, and having heard Mr. F.O. Akinrele, learned counsel for the appellant, we dismissed the appeal and indicated that we would give our reasons later . We now give our reasons for the course we took.
The appellant was charged with the murder of one Ifoto Oboluke.
The undisputed facts are that the deceased, Ifoto Oboluke, left her house on Sunday 20th August, 1972 for a religious service but never returned home alive. When the mother did not see her return in the evening she made a report and a search party was organised by the villagers. Those who saw her last said she was riding at the back of a bicycle. The corpse of the deceased was later found that night.
The case of the prosecution in regard to the involvement of the appellant in the matter was based mainly on the evidence of three witnesses; Phillip Umukuro, Umuko Ogberebrume and Ayeferherbe Okotie. The last named person died before the case came up for hearing and it was the deposition she made before the examining magistrate that was admitted in evidence. Phillip Umukuro saw the appellant at a burial ceremony at Oviri Village but later in the day he saw the appellant giving a ride to the deceased on the back of his bicycle. Umuko Oberebrume saw the deceased being given a ride on the back of a bicycle though he could not identify the man giving the deceased that ride.
Ayeferherbe Okotie saw the appellant carrying the deceased on the back of his bicycle.
And so, on the evidence accepted by the learned trial Judge, the deceased was last seen alive with the appellant. The appellant denied carrying the deceased on the back of his bicycle which he said was a lady’s bicycle or even seeing her at all.
The learned trial Judge, after a review of the whole evidence before him, found the accused guilty of murder. He said of the evidence:
“It is true that the whole case against the accused is based on circumstantial evidence but it is my honest opinion that the circumstances connecting the accused with the deceased are so powerful that it is irresistible to conclude that it was the accused who knew about the death of the deceased. In coming to this conclusion, I am perfectly mindful of the fact that there is no onus on the accused person to account for the death of the deceased, the onus is on the prosecution to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that it was the accused who in fact killed the deceased.
When a person is charged with the murder of another person and there being no direct evidence of the killing of the deceased, recourse may be had to circumstantial evidence and this includes any evidence which tends to connect that person with the probable cause of death R v S. Robertson (1913) 9 C.R App. R. 189. If the facts advanced by the prosecution leave only one inference that it is the accused and no other person is responsible for the death of the deceased the Court may convict on such circumstantial evidence being the best evidence available in the case.
There is no foot rule by which any circumstantial evidence can be measured before a conviction is entered against an accused person charged with the offence for which the circumstantial evidence is the only one available. Each case depends on its own facts but the one test which such evidence must satisfy is that it should lead to the guilt of the accused person and leave no degree of possibility that other persons could have been responsible for the commission of the offence JAMES POPOOLA v. COMMISSIONER OF POLICE (1964) N. M. L. R 1.”
The complaint of learned counsel against the judgement is that the circumstantial evidence adduced in this case did not point irresistibly to the guilt of the appellant and also the evidence of the 3rd prosecution witness-Phillip Umukuro, should not have been accepted having regard to the fact that it took him eleven days before he came out with the information leading to the arrest of the appellant.
But then, this is not the only evidence relied upon to convict the appellant. Apart from the evidence of Phillip Umukuro, which has been criticized by the learned counsel for the appellant, there was evidence of Ayeferherbe Okotie.
She too saw the appellant carrying the deceased who was last seen alive with the appellant. This evidence was accepted by the learned trial Judge.
He rejected the denial of the appellant. The only irresistible inference from the circumstances presented by the evidence in this case is that the appellant killed the deceased. We can find no other reasonable inference from the circumstances of the case.
The facts which were accepted by the learned trial Judge, amply supported by evidence before him, called for an explanation, and beyond the untrue denials of the appellant (as found by the learned Judge) none was forthcoming. See R v S. Mary Ann Nash (1911) 6 C.A.R. 225, at p. 228. Though this constitutes circumstantial evidence, it is proof beyond every reasonable doubt of the guilt of the appellant.
For these reasons, we dismissed the appeal.
Other Citation: (1978) LCN/2080(SC)