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The Queen Vs Mattew Moses (1960) LLJR-SC

The Queen Vs Mattew Moses (1960)

LawGlobal-Hub Lead Judgement Report

ADEMOLA, CJF

The appellant has appealed against the conviction and sentence of death passed upon him by Morgan, J., on the 21st June, 1960, at Ward in the High Court of the Western Region.

The circumstances leading up to the death of the deceased are not known. His body was found, early in the morning of 27th February, 1959, lifeless, at Ohrere Village, with multiple wounds and lying outside the compound where he and the appellant lived, but in different apartments. In the evening preceding the morning before this discovery, the deceased paid a visit to his wife (1st witness for the Crown) who did not live with him. After taking his meals there he left for his own compound.

From the injuries on the body of the deceased, it would appear he was attacked from the back with a sharp instrument and according to the evidence of the medical officer, he died as a result of the injuries, which could not have been self-inflicted.

There was no eyewitness to the killing. The evidence against the appellant was purely circumstantial. In the first place, the Crown tried to establish motive on the part of the appellant. Evidence was adduced that the appellant and the deceased were not on friendly terms. It is hardly necessary to state that in law evidence of motive is not an essential ingredient in a case of murder. If there is a motive, it strengthens the case for the Crown and becomes part of it. The learned trial Judge, however, dismissed the evidence of motive “to be rather weak.”

Then, there was the evidence, purely circumstantial, about the matchet found in the room of the appellant and claimed by him. The matchet was sent to the Analyst for examination. It was established by the Analyst that the matchet was bloodstained, and it was human blood. The learned trial Judge, relying on the evidence about the matchet, stated as follows in his judgment:-

“….the real nexus between the prisoner and the crime is the matchet. The prisoner admits the matchet is his own and laboratory tests have shown that its blade and parts of the handle are stained with human blood…….”

In the penultimate paragraph of his judgment the learned trial Judge said:-

“…and in my view the human blood stains on the matchet establish a nexus between the prisoner and the crime and affords sufficient circumstantial evidence to sustain a conviction of the prisoner for the murder of the deceased…..”

Mr. J.A. Cole, Counsel for the appellant, has attacked this part of the judgment. He sought for and obtained leave to argue two additional grounds of appeal which are as follows:-

1. The learned trial Judge misdirected himself by finding that the matchet, Exhibit G, established a nexus between the appellant and the murder of the deceased.

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2. The decision is altogether unwarranted, unreasonable and cannot be supported having regard to the weight of evidence.

First, it was submitted that it was wrong to connect the matchet, and the blood on it, with the blood of the deceased.

This contention is not without weight. It is not uncommon to find people in the village carrying matchets, even with blood stains on them. It might have been blood of the owner of the matchet himself; he might have been wounded in the hand at one time and the blood might have touched the blade or the hilt of his matchet where blood stains were found in this case. There was no evidence as to the quantity of blood so found on the matchet, nor was it stated how old the blood stains were. There is also the possibility, which should not be excluded, of the matchet having been used earlier on somebody else and not on the deceased in this case.

The second argument on behalf of the appellant in connection with the matchet relates to the statement made to the Police by the appellant, and the reticence of the Police in bringing up, at the earliest, the matter of the blood stains on the matchet. The deceased apparently met his death in the early hours of the 27th February, 1859. The appellant was arrested in the village later that morning and the matchet, Exhibit G, was recovered from his house by P.C. John Ogba (7th witness for the Crown). This witness clearly, from his evidence, saw no blood stains on the matchet then. If the matchet was used on the deceased earlier that morning, one would expect that the blood stains on the matchet would still be fresh. The witness said he took the matchet to the Police Station at Ughelli and handed it to Sergeant Akinkunmi (8th witness for the Crown). Under cross examination, it would appear Mr. Agbabiaka, A.S.P. took the matchet to Ughelli Police Station from the village. There was no clear evidence as to who delivered the matchet to Sergeant Akinkunmi at Ughelli. However that may be, the Sergeant observed blood stains on the blade of the matchet as well as on the hilt. After questioning the appellant about the blood stains, he proceeded to take a statement from him. That statement was put in evidence and marked Exhibit H. It is strange, Is it not, that in the whole statement there was nothing said about the blood stains on the matchet. On the 13th March, 1959, another statement (Exhibit E) was taken from the appellant, and again there was no reference to the blood stains on the matchet. It was not until a third statement (Exhibit K) was taken from the appellant on the 17th March, 1959, by the 7th witness for the Crown (who did not see the blood stains on the matchet in the first instance) that the appellant’s statement contained any reference to the blood stains on the matchet. Counsel for the appellant, rightly in our view, asked the question why the appellant was not put to task about the stains on the matchet when he made the first two statements.

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In passing, we note that although Sergeant Akinkunmi (6th witness for the Crown) in his evidence stated that he pointed out the blood stains on the matchet to the appellant and questioned him about it on the 27th February, 1959, there was no record of it in the statement (Exhibit H) he took. Although we would not like to doubt the genuineness or the truth of the evidence of this witness, we view it with considerable doubt that he packed the matchet (Exhibit G) on that same date, 27th February, 1959 in the presence of the appellant and sent it to the Analyst. We rather doubt the truth of this in view of the date of the third statement made by the appellant to P.C. Ogba, 7th witness for the Crown dated 17th March, 1959. The statement reads:-

STATEMENT OF ACCUSED

…….. This morning, I was removed from the cell to one Police Officer. I was shown a matchet by the police. The matchet is my own. The Police Sergeant asked me what kind of animal I kill, I told him that I set traps in the bush and I have killed grasscutter and squirrel with the matchet from my traps. I have not killed any other type of animal with my matchet. I have never killed a monkey in my life. The Sergeant told me that he is sending the matchet to Doctor at Lagos for Examination. In my presence, the Sergeant packed the matchet and sealed it with sealing wax. I saw the matchet grow rust, I did not see blood on it.

Mathew’s R.T.I. (affixed)

Read over and translated to maker in Urhobo language who affixed his R.T.I. as correct.

Recorded by me 1478 P.C. John Ogba 17/3/59.

When we take into consideration the date on the appellant’s statement, Exhibit K, we are not in a position to say that Sergeant Akinkunmi was telling the truth when he stated in his evidence that he showed the matchet and the blood stains on it to the appellant on 27th February, 1959. We are fortified in our view by the Analyst Report, Exhibit F, which shows that the matchet was delivered to the Analyst in a sealed packet on 21st March, 1959, at 7.50 hours by P.C. John Ogba (7th witness for the Crown). The evidence of P.C. Ogba himself was that he took the statement, Exhibit K, from the appellant on 17th March, 1959 and left for Ikeja with the packet containing the matchet. We are, therefore, unable to believe that Sergeant Akinkunmi saw the blood stains on the matchet on 28th February, 1959, showed it to the appellant and kept it for three weeks till 17th March, 1959 for P.C. Ogba to take a statement on it before sending it to the Analyst at Ikeja. We are loath to think he would be so remiss in the discharge of his duty.

The learned trial Judge did not advert to all these aspects of the case. If he had done so and he had property considered the evidence, we think he would have shared our doubts about the existence of the blood stains on the matchet from the outset.

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There remains the second additional ground of appeal argued, namely, weight of evidence. It was clear that the appellant had reason to suspect that the murder was committed by someone who visited him that night in such peculiar circumstances which he told the Police. Sergeant Akinkunmi rightly directed investigations to this end, but there was no evidence before the Court how far this statement by the appellant was tested and proved to be false. There is, however, hardly any necessity to deal further with this ground of appeal, considering the view we have taken of the case on the first ground.

Finally, we are of the view that the circumstantial evidence upon which the learned trial Judge relies falls short of the standard required and it leaves a gap. A conviction on it, in our view, would be clearly wrong.

This appeal will, therefore, be allowed. The conviction is quashed and the Order made is set aside. Judgment of an acquittal is entered and the appellant is discharged.

Appeal allowed


Other Citation: (1960) LCN/0854(SC)

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