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Court sentences a Briton to death over murder in Nigeria

Posted by THE GUARDIAN on 2003/10/27 | Views: 772 |

Court sentences a Briton to death over murder in Nigeria

A BRITISH citizen, Mr. Ian Hazlett Miller, was at the weekend sentenced to death by a Lagos High Court over the death of his live-in lover, Miss Anne Marie Gale, an Australian citizen, aged 43.

Miller had been standing trial before Justice Grace Onyeabor since October 3, 2002 and first appeared in court over the one count murder charge on September 19, 2002.

Before the death of Miss Gale, the two lovers had lived together at No. 19, Dakar Road Apapa and both are directors of Ian Consultants Limited jointly established by both of them.

Miller before running into trouble had had quite a sojourn in Nigeria. He was a general manager in a glass industry (name withheld) in Ondo State, while his last paid employment was with a merchant bank in Lagos, where he held the post of an executive director.

The condemned man, a six footer, had been a resident of Lagos University Teaching Hospital since the case started, where he was being treated for diabetics which had left him with a sore on his right foot and a walking stick.

Miller was accused of killing Miss Gale on or about April 12, 2002 and leaving her body under her room in their house until it was discovered on April 14, 2002.

The state had thereafter, following the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) advice, charged him with murder.

The state, represented by Mrs. Margaret Asumah, chief state counsel in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, called eight witnesses to support its case.

The first prosecution witness, Mr. Clifford Richards Oghebor, a former employee of the lovers, told the court how he worked with them but had to leave because their business was not doing well.

The second witness, Mr. Sam Onobe, a retired Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) is a friend to the deceased's father, and also the complainant. He told the court how he was informed by the deceased neighbour of her death.

He told the court that he immediately made a complaint to the police at Apapa and visited the scene of the crime in company of policemen, including the Investigating Police Officer, Sgt. Luka Fada and police photographer, Sgt. Fada. The IPO also testified before the court how he visited the scene of the crime in company of his superior officer. He told the court how the deceased was identified to him by the accused and deposited in the mortuary.

Another witness, Dr. Adewale Adebayo, a medical doctor with Lagos General Hospital, who performed autopsy on the deceased, told the court that the cause of death was "asphyxia respiratory failure consistent with fractured thyroid cartilage with haemorrhagic harynogcheits.

The injury to the doctor could not have been self-inflicted.

The cook to the couple, Mr. Andrew Kanu, told the court that he had served the accused person for eight years and that he lived at the boys quarters of the house. He told the court that he saw the deceased last on Easter Monday of the year 2002. He said that throughout the period he had stayed with them, the deceased never left her food uneaten.

He told the court he was surprised and worried when for one week prior to the death of the deceased, whenever he served food for the two, Miller would eat his own and direct him to keep the deceased food in the refrigerator.

He told the court that the accused person always told him that, "Madam was sleeping."

Kanu further told the court that the only area of the house he had access to was the kitchen, and that since he did not have access to the deceased room, he could not found out what was wrong with the deceased.

The last prosecution witness, Victor Akpan, was the night guard in the house. He told the court that there was no robbery or buglary incident in house in his two years of working there. He testified that the main gate of the house was always opened for him by the accused person on assumption of duty, and always locked by the same accused person on his closure of work.

"On April 14, Mr. Miller asked me to call the driver and revealed the death of the deceased to him. I heard of the death of Miss Gale from the driver who resides at the boy's quarters', he testified further.

In arguing her case, Mrs. Asumah told the court that she would be relying on both medical and circumstantial evidence.

She argued that to establish the offence of murder, there were three things to be established that the deceased has died; that the death of the deceased had resulted from the act of the accused; and that the act of the accused was intentional with knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was probable consequence.

She further submitted that all acts, including the demeanour of the accused point to no one else but him as the murderer.

Asumah said: "I respectfully urged my lord to hold that the circumstantial evidence before this court in the instant case is positive, cogent, compelling and irresistibly point to the fact that the accused person and no one else killed the deceased. Also there are no co-existing facts and circumstances, which could weaken the inference. I urge your lordship to convict the accused person accordingly."

The defence counsel, Mr. Emeke Ngige (SAN), who was briefed by the British High Commission to defend Hazlett, however, submitted before the court that the prosecution has not been able to prove the case of murder against his client as provided by the law.

Ngige called four witnesses, including the accused person to debunk the prosecution's case. Others are Dr. Matty Okwulisa Udoye, an Assistant Chief Laboratory Officer with NAFDAC, Prof. Stephen Olafunmi Elesha, a consultant with the College of Medicine, LUTH and a professor of Pathology; and Dr. Aso Briggs, personal doctors to the accused person.

Ngige submitted: "The onus of proving the commission of a criminal offence against an accused person lies in the prosecution. It is not for an accused person to prove his innocence. I submit with all respect that on the totality of the case as presented by the state, it has woefully failed to discharge the burden of proof cast on it by the law. In other words, the prosecution has not proved the case against the accused person beyond all reasonable doubts.

"Consequently, the accused person is entitled to be discharged and acquitted by this court as there is nothing linking him with the death of the deceased Miss Anne Marie Compton Gale."

The judge, Justice Onyeahor, did not however share Ngige's view.

In her judgment, she said, "on a calm and sober review of the totality of the evidence available, the only conclusion reasonable and irresistible in the circumstances is that the deceased died in the hands of the accused.

"I am of the clear view that the prosecution have proved the offence charged beyond any reasonable doubt as required. The circumstantial evidence adduced is cogent and compelling and does not admit of any reasonable doubt that the accused and no one else committed the crime. The verdict of this court is that the accused is guilty of the murder."

At this stage, Justice Onyeahor called upon Mr. Miller to make his allocutus. To this, the accused person responded: "It is not necessary. I thank my lord for conducting the case expeditiously."

Justice Onyeahor then pronounced the sentence: "The sentence of this court upon you Ian Miller is that you be hanged on the neck until you be dead and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul."

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