6 June 2012

Gambia: PW One Narrates How Briton's 'Murderers' Were Arrested

The trial of the three alleged murderers of a Briton, Ian Stokes, commenced Tuesday before Justice Emmanuel Nkea of the Special Criminal Court in Banjul. Micheal Ifunaya Churwbiken, Stanley Agbazee Ugochukwu and Collins Chijioke, all Nigerians, are charged with murder contrary to Section 187 punishable under Section 188 of the Criminal Code, Laws of The Gambia.

According to the particulars of offence, the accused persons Micheal Ifunaya Churwbiken, Stanley Agbazee Ugochukwu and Collins Chijioke on or about the 13th May 2012 at Bakoteh in the Kanifing Municipality, with malice afterthought murdered or unlawfully caused the death of Ian Stokes, a Briton. The prosecution led by State Counsel James Odumbi opened its case when one Festus Nwafor, a Nigerian testified as the first prosecution witness.

In his testimony, PW1 Festus Nwafor, a resident of Bakau who deals on second hand clothing told the court that he lived with the 2nd accused, Stanley in the same house in Bakau. PW1 Nwafor further told the court that he knows the 3rd accused Collins Chijioke, and regularly see the 1st accused Micheal Ifunaya Churwbiken in Bakau.

The witness disclosed that on or about the 14th May 2012 whist he was in his shop, he heard that the police were arresting Nigerians in Bakau conurbation (area), which prompted him to enquire as to why the police were arresting Nigerians. The witness further disclosed that as he called the 2nd accused Stanley, he observed that his line wasn't going.

The witness told the court that he then went home at about 7:30pm but on arrival at his compound he saw many police officers and as he was filled with fear, he didn't talk to the police and never entered his compound, but proceeded to a nearby church along Bakau road for refuge and spend the night there. The witness said at about 9:30pm the 2nd accused Stanley called him, using another phone number, informing him that he was in Banjul.

PW1 Festus Nwanfor adduced that when he asked the 2nd accused what he was doing in Banjul at that material time, the 2nd accused replied that he had a problem with a toubab (White man) , adding that they had fought with a toubab and the toubab had died and that the 3rd accused Collins was also involved. The witness clarified that he did not ask the 2nd accused Stanley where the fight took place.

The witness disclosed that upon the receipt of the said information, he went to the police to lodge the complaint and was accompanied by the police to arrest the 2nd accused, Stanley. Festus Nwafor adduced that whilst in Banjul, he called the 2nd accused, who informed him that he was in Barra in the North Bank Region. PW1 further adduced that he crossed over to Barra and the 2nd accused was arrested within the ferry terminal in Barra.

The witness Festus Nwafor told the court that the 2nd accused had informed him during their conversation that he was dire need of money so he can leave the country. The witness further explained that the 2nd accused was expecting him because he had promised to give him financial assistance to leave the country.

Responding to questions posed to him by defence counsel Ngozi Gbuji of the National Legal Aid Agency, the witness disclosed that he has known the 2nd accused for a long period and the 2nd accused had been living with him and had been selling second hand clothes. Festus Nwafor admitted that he made a witness statement on the 18th May , 2012 and the said statement was tendered in evidence and admitted as defence exhibit one.

When asked that in his statement he never mentioned that the 2nd accused had fought with the toubab, Festus Nwafor replied that he explained everything to the police, but maintained that the 2nd accused told him that he had a fight with the toubab, despite the fact that it was not contained in his statement. Meanwhile after Nwafor's testimony, the presiding Judge lauded him and urged him to continue to be a good person.

The 2nd witness, one Madalene Fuanla Jobe, a bar keeper at Kornish Arm in Kololi owned by the deceased Ian Stokes recalled that on or about some minutes after 20:00hours on the 12th May 2012, an unidentified person came into the said bar and requested for a bottle of beer (alcohol). The witness said the customer sat close to the deceased Ian Stokes who was about two (2) metres away from her. PW2 narrated that she was busy serving other customers when the deceased got up and left with the unidentified customer and told her that he would be back in 30 minutes time.

The witness adduced that after three hours, her boss did not return, she then tried to call her boss's line, which went dead as the line was switched off. The witness further adduced that she decided to call her boss's residence but got his children who informed her that their father had not come home but was still in the restaurant.

The witness averred that the two daughters and one Aisha then came and met her at the bar and thereafter they proceeded to Kololi Police Station to lodge a complaint that she has not seen her boss since 8:00pm, that evening. The witness said she was advised by the police to come back the next day.

According to the witness Madelene, the following day one Sussan, a Briton she once worked for, called her to inform her that her boss Ian Stokes was dead, adding that he was found dead in his car at Junction baa in Bakoteh. At this junction, the witness was asked if she went to Junction baa to see the boss, the witness replied that she was shocked and never went to junction baa to see her boss.

The witness revealed that her boss Ian Stokes was buried in Makasutu in Kembujeh Village near Brikama in the West Coast Region.

In his testimony, the 3rd prosecution witness Tumbul Keita, a driver and a resident of Bakoteh told the court that in the early hours of the 13th May, 2012, he went for the early morning prayers at the mosque and as he was taking a walk, he saw a vehicle stuck in a sand dune at Junction baa. The witness disclosed that as he approached the vehicle, he saw the deceased lying on the driver's seat with several stabs on his ribs. The witness further disclosed that he proceeded to Bakoteh Police Station to report what he had seen.

The 4th witness,Inspector Nfansu Sowe, a resident of Bakoteh attached to Bakoteh Police Station said he knows all the accused persons in connection to the said matter. The witness recalled on the 15th May, 2012, he was at the station with some other police officers when the 1st accused person Micheal was brought to him and he was instructed to record his cautionary and voluntary statements. The witness adduced that he recorded the 1st accused person's cautionary and voluntary statements in the presence of one Adama Bojang who served as an independent witness.

Inspector Sowe adduced that the 1st accused Micheal narrated the entire story as to how everything went on. Hearing continues.

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