Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere on Monday convicted and sentenced a Béninoise housekeeper, Christian Hounvenon Yavine, to death by hanging for killing the 79-year-old mother of his employer.
Justice Ipaye condemned the foreigner to death after she convicted him one-counts charge of murder brought against him by the Lagos State government.
Yavine was accused of slashing the throat of his victim, Mrs. Mariam Abiola, 79, nearly cutting off her head, while she slept.
The state had claimed that the convict committed the offence on July 1, 2014 at the residence of his employer located at Block 74, Flat 2, Ijaiye Low Cost Housing Estate, Pen Cinema Agege, Lagos State.
Yavine, who was 18 when he allegedly committed the crime had pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was translated into French by an interpreter.
In her judgment on Monday, 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 held that there was ample corroborative evidence that falsified his claim.
The court observed that the prosecution’s evidence showed that at the time of the murder, Yavine was seeking admission to a university, and would have registered to sit an entrance exam, but for financial challenges.
She further held 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 judge 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 observed that Yavine lived with the deceased for two weeks before the incident, during which he also went to the market with her.
The judge 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.
She 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.
He was thus the last person to see her alive and the first person to see her 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.
The prosecutor had alleged that “The convict killed a septuagenarian, Mrs. Mariam Abiola, the mother of his employer by stabbing her repeatedly in the throat with a kitchen knife.
“The defendant committed the murder after his employer, Mrs. Joke Akinsemoyin, left the deceased and the teenage housekeeper in her home to go for a vigil, scheduled for 10.30 p.m. in her church.
“When Akinsemoyin returned in the early hours of the morning, she inquired about her mother from Yavine and he told her that she was sleeping in the bedroom.
“When she wanted to go into the bedroom to check her, she was refused entry by Yavine and she immediately became suspicious.
“After a physical struggle with the defendant, she gained entry into the bedroom where she saw the body of her mother lying in a pool of her blood on the bed,” he said.
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 quarreled if they slept in her daughter’s room.
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