A high court in Ikeja on Thursday sentenced a couple, Fortune and Stephen Nwankwo, to 14 and 2 years respectively in prison for the unintentional murder of their 19-year-old maid, Joy Adole.

In rendering his judgment, Judge Oyindamola Ogala found that the prosecution had convincingly proved the charge of manslaughter, conspiracy and attempted perversion of justice and misconduct with respect to a dead body against Fortune .

While the court found Stephen guilty of conspiracy and attempted perversion of justice, misconduct with respect to the corpse and after-the-fact accessory to the crimes.

She, however, freed them and acquitted of charges of accessory after the fact to murder and accessory after the fact to crimes.

Ogala said the court was satisfied that the testimony of prosecution witnesses was not only strong, but also corroborated that the maid died from the beatings of Fortune (first defendant).

“The first defendant beat the deceased, which caused her death as she was not feeling well before the incident.

“The defendants did not notify or call the deceased’s family from 5 a.m. when they discovered she had died until noon when the second defendant called the deceased’s sister and asked her his full name and other personal information to allow them to embalm him at the morgue.

“The second defendant, having discovered that the first defendant had killed the deceased because of the beatings, helped her to pervert the course of justice by hanging the body with a rope.

“There were three adults in the house, the defendants and the cleaning lady.

The defendants were the last two adults to come into contact with the maid before her death.

“The hanging was staged and the deceased was hung up by a rope and the position the police found her body in did not amount to suicide as her feet were on the ground,” she said.

The judge further ruled that the defendants had tampered with the evidence because they had already embalmed the body, which made it difficult for the toxicologist to carry out an autopsy because the cause of death was uncertain.

“Dr Sunday Sokunle-Soyemi testified in court that the body of the deceased had been embalmed before she was brought in for an autopsy.

“As a result, the cause of death cannot be established as the body should not have been embalmed prior to the autopsy.

“In the circumstances of this case where the medical evidence is inconclusive, the court must infer evidence on the available evidence.

“The doctor said toxicology could not be performed because the defendants had embalmed the deceased before the autopsy could be performed.

“The defendants are the last couple to be seen with the deceased. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.

“It is also imperative to say that the testimony of the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) of what he saw at the scene can never be hearsay. Evidence of an IPO should never be characterized as hearsay as claimed by the defense in this case,” Ogala said.

The judge, subsequently, sentenced the first defendant to 14 years for manslaughter and five years for attempted to pervert the cause of justice and misconduct in relation to the corpse and ordered that he be executed concurrently.

The judge also sentenced the second defendant to two years in prison, following the defense lawyer’s speech.

OI Barrah, in his address, urged the court to temper justice with mercy as the defendants were a young couple and had two small children aged two and one.

“We implore the court to temper justice with mercy. They are a young couple and their children are only one and two years old respectively. The court must take into account the age of the children.

“The defendants have no criminal record prior to this. I pray my lord to show them his mercy,” Barrah said.

NAN reports that prosecution attorney Sule Yusuf made no submissions to the court following the defense attorney’s address.

The prosecution had charged the defendants with an eight-count amendment bordering on conspiracy, manslaughter, corpse misconduct, after-the-fact accessory to crimes and after-the-fact accessory to murder.

The prosecution argued that the defendants committed the offense on April 20, 2020, at No. 18, Ogundola St, Bariga, Lagos State.

The defense had made a declaration of dismissal when the prosecution closed its case on October 12, 2021, after calling eight witnesses.

The court rejected the request on November 24, 2021, for lack of merit, and asked the defendants to open their defense.