An Igbosere High Court in Lagos yesterday sentenced a Béninoise househelp, Christian Hounvenon Yavine, to death by hanging for the July 1, 2014 murder of a 78-year-old woman, Mariam Atinuke Abiola.
Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye found Yavine, 23, guilty of nearly severing Abiola’s neck with a knife while she slept in her daughter’s Ipaja, Lagos home.
Abiola was the mother of Ajoke Ashiwonyi Abiola, Yavine’s employer, who was away to a church vigil.
The judge convicted Yavine following a three-year trial.
The convict, on April 15, 2016, pleaded not guilty to a one-count charge of murder preferred against him by the Lagos State Government.
Prosecuting counsel Akin George said the incident happened on July 1, 2014, at Block 74, Flat 4, Ipaja Low Cost Housing Estate, Pen Cinema, Lagos.
He said the offence was punishable under Section 221 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
In her judgment, Justice Ipaye dismissed Yavine’s defences, including a claim that he was 14 years’ old at the time of the offence, having been born in the year 2000.
The judge observed that there was ample corroborative evidence that falsified his claim.
She noted that the prosecution’s evidence showed that at the time of the murder, Yavine was seeking admission to a higher institution, and would have registered to sit an entrance exam, but for financial challenges.
The judge noted further that it was unlikely that the defendant was seeking university admission at 14 years old.
The judge also observed that a birth certificate obtained by the Lagos State Government from Yavine’s alleged birth hospital in Benin Republic showed that he was born in 1996.
The court also considered Yavine’s claim that the confessional statement tendered by the government against him, was contrived by the police.
The convict had claimed that being a French speaker, he could not have made the statement, which was written in English, a language he did not understand.
But the judge observed that there was corroborative evidence to the contrary.
Justice Ipaye noted that Yavine lived with the deceased for two weeks before the incident, during which he also went to the market with her.
She wondered what language he spoke with her, if he truly did not understand any English.
Furthermore, the judge held that the deceased was also caught by the Doctrine of last seen.
Justice Ipaye also noted that Yavine was the only one with Abiola while she was alive on the night of June 30 and in the early hours of July 1, when she was found dead.
The judge noted that the doctrine requires that a person charged with murder who was the last person seen with the deceased, should offer some explanation as to how the deceased met his death.
During the trial, Yavine, who was led in evidence by his counsel Demola Dere, claimed that the police wrongfully charged him for the offence, because he failed to pay a N200,000 bribe.
Yavine testified through an interpreter that on June 30, 2014, his employer locked him and the deceased in separate rooms before leaving for a vigil.
According to him, there was also one Mr Gbenga, who stayed in the house for about a week.
He said: “That day, my boss said she was going for vigil and that she was going to leave her mother at home with me. Before she left, she locked me inside a room and also locked her mother, who was sleeping, inside the palour. She said when she returned, she would open the door.”
The defendant explained that when his boss arrived the next morning, she began banging on the door of the room where he was, asking him what happened to her mother.
“My boss said that thieves came to attack the house and killed her mother. That morning there was one man that came into the house; I don’t know his name, I also didn’t know who called the police that same morning. Gbenga, who was with us, I couldn’t find him”.
When asked what the deceased was doing in the sitting room, the defendant said she slept in the palour because she and her daughter usually quarrelled if they slept in her daughter’s room.