The Supreme Court has sentenced James Chiokwe to death by hanging for the brutal rape and murder of a 15 year secondary school girl, Dorothy Ibekwe at Ugboh Edem Nike, Enugu on March 5, 1983.
Chiokwe had met the deceased harvesting yams on the farm on that fateful day and held her by her neck and took her to the side of the farm where he had sex with her with brutal force.
The convict who confessed to the commission of the heinous crime to the police initially said that he did not know what went into his head after having sex with her, when he took a knife and cut the girl’s neck and killed her.
‘’After I had sex with her, I took my knife and cut her neck, I also cut her on the hand and on her head and she died.’’
A police officer, Nicholas who investigated the crime said in part, ‘’on March 7, 1983- I was on duty at state Criminal Investigating Department (C.I.D.) office when a case of murder was referred to me for investigation. In the course of my investigation, I visited the scene of crime in the company of the accused. There, the accused showed me where he saw the deceased in a farm when she was harvesting yams. The accused told me that he held the deceased by her neck and took her to the side of the farm where he had sex with the deceased.
‘’The accused also took me to a dried river very near to the farm where he said he killed the deceased and dumped her corpse there and covered it with dried leaves.
‘’The accused also showed me a window in Dorothy’s house which he said he broke a day before he killed the deceased and that before he could enter the room, he was challenged and he ran back to his house’’.
After Chiokwe was convicted at the High Court of Enugu, his counsel tried in vain at the Court of Appeal in Enugu to discredit the confessional statement of the accused.
He had, in the alternative, urged the appellate court to be lenient to the accused by reducing his conviction to manslaughter.
Chiokwe through his lawyer further told the appellate court that the accused had ordinarily set out to have intercourse with the girl on the farm and along the line he lost his senses and killed her after the act. He added that the murder could not have been premeditated.
But the appellate court held that to convict a person charged for murder with manslaughter is not a matter of leniency but evidence adduced before the trial court.
‘’Where the evidence is sufficient to warrant the trial court to convict the accused for murder the trial court cannot do otherwise but convict the accused for murder and the appellate court has no discretion to be lenient to convict the accused for manslaughter’’.
The five-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, on December 14, upheld the concurrent findings of the trial and the appellate court and consequently dismissed the appeal of the convict for lack of merit.
‘’I affirm the decision of the Court of Appeal which affirmed the judgment, conviction and sentence to death by hanging of the trial High Court’’.