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Nigeria: Why Judge Sentenced Slain Banker Titilayo's Husband to Death

Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Ikeja High Court, on Friday, convicted Akolade Arowolo who murdered his wife, Titilayo, at their Isolo residence in 2011.

In sentencing Mr. Arowolo to death, the judge said that the prosecution proved their case beyond reasonable doubt and established that the defendant was responsible for his wife's death.

Mrs. Okunnu said that she reached her verdict by relying on the evidences of the pathologist who conducted a post-mortem examination on the deceased's corpse, the parents of the convict who were "not witnesses of truth", and the contradictory statements of the convict.

She also relied on the "Doctrine of the Last Scene" which stipulates that the last person at a crime scene bears full responsibility for the deceased.

"It serves to buttress the finding that the defendant and no one else is the culprit," Mrs. Okunnu added.

As the judge pronounced her sentence, Mr. Arowolo fell in the dock and burst into tears, screaming "who would take care of my little daughter?"

The trial of Mr. Arowolo, 32, began in 2011 after the prosecution accused him of stabbing to death his wife, a banker, on June 24, 2011 at their residence at 8, Akindeinde St., Isolo, Lagos.

The defendant, however, had insisted that his wife inflicted the grievous body harm on herself.

When he walked into the courtroom at 9.32 a.m., Mr. Arowolo, sporting a crisp white shirt on black pants, marched straight to a vacant seat, knelt before it and delved into a brief prayer session.

Then he sat down and opened a bible he was clutching.

When the judge began to read her judgment 20 minutes later, Mr. Arowolo, seated in the dock with his face in his hands, periodically shook his head.

At the end of the three hour judgment, after the judge's death sentence, he screamed "Jesus, my Lord," launched into a worship song, followed by a blurt of incoherent speech.

Prosecution's witnesses

Friday's judgment lasted three hours as the judge traced the origin of the trial, the evidences of all the witnesses, as well as scores of crime exhibits.

15 prosecution witnesses appeared during the trial, including the deceased person's father, sisters, and step mother. The couple's neighbour, security guard, and landlord also testified for the prosecution.

In his testimony at the beginning of the trial three years ago, George Oyakhire, the deceased's father stated that Titilayo sounded "panicky on the phone" when he spoke with her on the morning of the incident.

He said he subsequently reached out to his daughters to call her and find out the problem.

Mr. Oyakhire also said that his daughter did not always live with her husband because he always beat her - one day he had threatened to throw her down from the top floor of their one storey apartment.

"His (Akolade) father even warned that he is capable of such evil," Mr. Oyakhire added.

"When I told Titilayo to report her husband to a police station, she said 'God will take control and touch his heart."

The prosecution witnesses who forced the door of the couple's apartment open, the day after the incident and after repeated calls to both of them were unsuccessful, said that Titilayo's lifeless, bloodied body was found on the bed with the bedroom turned upside down.

"There was a knife on the floor, a gaping hole on her chest, a hammer on the floor. One of her eyes was gorged out. When I saw it, I thought there was nothing in the socket," Bisi, the deceased's stepmother, had said during her testimony.

"Something that looked like a lump of flesh that must have been chopped off from the deceased was lying on the floor," she added.

Police witnesses also narrated details of the bloodied crime scene and how the corpse was taken to the hospital.

But it was the "expert" witness of John Obafunwa, a Forensic Pathologist and Chief Medical Examiner at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, that provided ample evidence that the prosecution used to nail Mr. Arowolo.

The judge, while reading out her judgment on Friday, described Mr. Obafunwa's evidence as "completely professional," noting that he was "objective, formal, and impassioned."

After he conducted a five and a half hour post mortem examination on the corpse on July 6, 2011, Mr. Obafunwa said, during his testimony, that he discovered at least 76 stab wounds resulting from the use of "tremendous force" on the chest, heart, lungs, liver, diaphragm, hands, and other parts of the deceased's body.

"You can actually see through to the inside of the chest wall which had collapsed. A particular stab went through the rib cavity to the heart, the stomach was completely torn open.

"All these injuries could not have been self-inflicted because at a point, you would have dropped the knife," said Mr. Obafunwa, a professor of Forensic Pathology.

'Contradictory' defense

The defence produced six witnesses which included the defendant, his parents, and one Efe Alexandra, who works with a non-governmental organization that visits the prison.

Mudashiru Arowolo, the convict's father, said that his son's marriage to Titilayo had been characterized by undue interference by her father and stepmother.

Mudashiru accused the deceased's stepmother of attempting to take away the placenta of the couple's new baby as well as introducing fetish things into their home.

He also accused the stepmother of assisting the deceased to "abort a baby and tie her womb as a form of family planning" without informing his son.

He further said that his son had been a youth pastor at the Foursquare Gospel Church in Festac Town before they moved to Isolo and he started attending The Redeemed Church at Gbagada.

He also denied claims that his son was suspended by the church for womanizing and wife-snatching.

"The defendant (his son) had over 21 wounds and the deceased had three. I was shocked to read that she had 76 wounds. It must be the doctor's imagination," Mudashiru added.

During her testimony, the second defence witness, Bolanle Arowolo, had described her son as a well-behaved child who had never showed traits of violence.

In addition to describing the defendant's parents as not being "witnesses of truth," the judge also said they were diversionary, covering up for their son and refusing to answer deep questions during their cross examination.

The defendant's own testimony served to tighten the noose around his neck as it was riddled with contradictions, disjointed statements, and "faux pas", according to the judge.

In his statements to the police after he submitted himself for arrest, Mr. Arowolo had claimed that he was forced by the police to write that his wife's stab wounds were self-inflicted.

However, while giving evidence, Mr. Arowolo did a volte face and insisted that his wife had only sustained cuts on her hands before he left her to seek for help.

"In a statement, he wrote that she persistently stabbed herself, that something went wrong either mentally or spiritually.

"I have not ignored this piece of evidence that he was guided to write the statements... The statements were disjointed and contradictory during testimony.

"I note that he proferred excuses for the strange behaviour of his wife. This explanation obviously came from him and not from anyone guiding him. The defendant in the box was trying hard to renege from his earlier statements," said the judge.

The judge also said that Mr. Arowolo's claim that his late wife had attacked him with a knife was inconsistent with the pathologist's revelation that the deceased received multiple stab wounds resulting to a "blunt force trauma."

Two prison wardens dragged Mr. Arowolo out of the court room, after the judge rose, as he continued to scream and protest his innocence.

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