Trial commenced today in the case of Mr. Lekan Shonde who is facing trial for the murder of his wife, Ronke Shonde. The prosecution made progress, calling three witnesses in the charge which is pending before Hon. Justice Oyefeso of the High Court of Lagos State sitting in the Ikeja Judicial Division.
The story hit the papers in May 2016, that Mr. Shonde, a dockworker in Apapa Lagos was alleged to have gone into hiding after killing his wife in jealousy, leaving their two children. Mr. Shonde subsequently showed up at the State CIID, Panti, Yaba and was charged before a Magistrate Court at Ebute Metta for murder where a remand warrant was issued pending an advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He has been remanded in prison since the 10th of May 2016. He was arraigned at the High Court on the 24th of October 2017 on a single count of murder, a capital offence to which he pleaded not guilty.
At the proceedings today, the prosecution called three of its witnesses – the couple’s landlady, the Investigating Police Officer from Panti and the deceased’s sister who narrated what they knew and investigated about the incident surrounding the death of Mrs. Shonde which occurred on the 5th of May 2016. The couple’s landlady, Mrs. Evelyn Tiemo was the first witness. She testified that at that time, she lived at No. 5, Tiemo Street, Egbeda, Lagos while the couple lived at No. 3, Tiemo Street. The houses were adjoining houses sharing one wall and had separate gates. She testified that a few minutes after 7 am on the 5th of May 2016, she heard the children of the couple screaming and crying that they could not open their door and their mummy was not waking up. She thus ran into their compound and met several people including the children’s nanny, other neighbors occupying other flats in the compound and neighbors from surrounding houses trying to forcibly open the Shonde’s door but could not as the door was metallic. When she inquired what was happening from the nanny, the nanny said she had called Mr. Shonde and he said he was on his way to the house. She testified that because the door was an iron door and it was difficult to forcibly open it, she asked some young men who were neighbors to break the ceiling in her own roof and use it to access the Shonde’s home. They did and found Mrs. Shonde lifeless in the living room with a swollen face and a mucus-like substance coming out of her nostrils. A welder eventually forced the door open and they all came in and saw the body.
She testified that she took the two children and went to Idimu Police State to report the incident. She stated that on her way to the police station, Mr. Shonde called her son on his phone and said that he was on his way. She stated that an uncle to Ronke (the deceased) met her at the police station and together with the police, they returned to the house and the police took the body to the mortuary. She stated that she did not see Mr. Shonde until about four to five days later when he returned to the house with the investigating officers.
She testified that she had known the Shondes since May 2013 and that sometime in late December 2015, Ronke called her at about 5:30 a.m. asking her to please come over to their flat. When she got there, she met the couple, Ronke’s elder sister and mother, their pastor and another couple that lived in the flat behind them in the same compound. She stated that Ronke’s sister and mother reported that whenever the couple had any misunderstanding, Lekan Shonde would collect Ronke’s phone and lock in her so as not to have access to anyone. Ronke confirmed it though Lekan denied it. The issue was resolved between them and Lekan pleaded that they help him appeal to Ronke’s mother as he promises that they would live in harmony. She stated that the issue was resolved.
Under cross-examination by Lekan’s counsel, Robert Clarke SAN, Mrs. Tiemo who stated that she has been married for thirty-six years agreed that quarrels are normal between husband and wife. She stated that outside the invitation of December 2015, she had no course to go to the couple’s flat to settle any more quarrels. She stated that she never spoke to Lekan on the day of the incident as it was the couple’s children’s nanny and her son that spoke to him and told her that he said he was on his way. She stated that she knows that Lekan works in Apapa and that it is a long distance from the house and would take about four to five hours to get to the house assuming he left there at about 7 am.
The second witness was Inspector Akpan Nseye, the investigating officer of the case from the Criminal Investigation division of the Lagos State Police Command, Panti. He testified that he had been a police officer for nineteen years and had spent ten years at the State Criminal Investigation division. He testified that in May 2016, the Deputy Commissioner of Police referred the case file of Ronke’s murder to him. It was a case referred from Idimu Police Station. The case file contained the statements of Mrs. Tiemo who reported the incident and the photographs of the deceased taken at the scene. When he received the file, he took the statement of the investigating officer at Idimu Police Station as well as another statement from Mrs. Tiemo. He stated that the next day, Lekan turned himself in and his statement was also taken. The statement of Ronkes’s sister, Bola Bewaji was also taken. His team of investigators visited the scene (the couple’s home) with Lekan where he executed a search warrant and got information from Lekan. From the information garnered, he discovered that the couple was a working-class couple and Lekan leaves home between 5 and 5:30 am for Apapa where he worked. Both of them have keys to the house and when Lekan leaves for work, he usually leaves the entrance door open for the nanny (who is not a live-in nanny) to come in to tend to the children. He however did not do this on the day of the incident as the visit to the home showed clearly that the door was forcibly opened. He testified that the set of keys belonging to Ronke have not been found till today.
He further testified that Lekan informed him that the day before the incident, he returned home at about 2045 hours with ‘moi-moi and eko’ and while ascending the staircase, he heard his wife conversing on the telephone with the General Manager where she worked and she was praising him for his sexual prowess. He lost his temple and assaulted his wife and it quickly became a physical altercation between them. He stated that Lekan informed them that he retired to the master bedroom with their children while Ronke slept on the sofa in the living room with her phone by the head of the sofa. Ronke ate the ‘moimoi and eko’ which he brought home and he also ate some moi-moi and drank garri along with it.
Inspector Akpan testified that he invited the General Manager who volunteered a statement to the police and admitted that he had a telephone conversation with Ronke around the time mentioned by Lekan but he didn’t ask him the contents of their discussion. He also testified that the search warrant executed did not divulge anything as no deadly weapon or chemical was found in the home. He further testified that the defendant stated that he went to work around 5 am as usual on the day of the incident. He also testified that Ronke’s phone was found on and recovered from Lekan.
Inspector Akpan stated that he visited Ronke’s body at the mortuary and was present when the autopsy was carried out by a team of pathologists led by Dr. S.S. Shoyemi of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja. The ‘moimoi and eko’ was discovered among Ronke’s stomach contents during the autopsy. He testified that his inspection of the body revealed bruises on neck, blunt forced trauma injury to the head and mucus emanating from her nostrils. He also stated that he invited forensic experts who lifted fingerprints from the bruises on the neck.
Inspector Akpan concluded by testifying that the investigation showed that on the night of the incident, only the couple and their children slept in the house, and that Lekan was the last person who had known physical contact with Ronke.
Under cross-examination, Inspector Akpan stated that he had spent ten years in homicide investigation and has attended several courses. When asked if he interviewed the children and asked them if they heard any noise on the day of the incident, he stated that he interviewed the children who were aged 6 and 5 at the time but that it was not written. The children told him that they were asleep when everything happened. He stated that he was a married man with three children and a grandchild and as a man would act erratically and even get physical if he heard his wife discussing how she enjoyed sex with another man.
When asked why the police didn’t charge for manslaughter and instead charged for murder when there were no eyewitnesses, Inspector Akpan stated that it is the Ministry of Justice that files charges and information in such cases and that the investigation revealed murder.
The prosecution also called Ronke’s sister, Bolatito Bewaji who testified of the history of violence in her late sister’s marriage. She testified that sometime in October 2015, Ronke called her and she had a black eye and bruises on her back and that Ronke told her it wasn’t the first time her husband had harassed and beat her. She testified that Ronke told her that the bruises on her back came about from Lekan lifting her and throwing her against the wall. She testified that in December 2015, their mum was with her when they received another distress call from Ronke around 10:30 – 11p.m. and their mum had to leave for Ronke’s house immediately. She stated that the next morning around 6 am, she went to Social Welfare located at a police station around Ikotun area to report the case because she felt that if she didn’t do anything, the man was going to kill her sister. She was however told by the police officers she met at the Social Welfare officer that she was not the proper person to report the case and that she should bring the victim to report the case. She stated that she went to her sister and tried to make her follow her but Lekan would not let her out as he had locked the door and he stated that his wife was not going anywhere. She testified that when her sister was able to come out, he chased after them and the three of them were running on the street like kids. Eventually, she noticed that her sister was not behind her anymore and went back to her sister’s house where she met her crying. She stated that she wasn’t surprised when she was called that he had finally killed her sister because she knew that was what he was going to do one day. She stated that one of her sister’s friends had told her that Ronke had gone to see a lawyer to ask about divorce proceedings.
Under cross-examination, she stated that she asked her sister’s children what happened and they stated that they just saw their mummy lying on the floor. She stated that her sister never told her personally of her intentions to file for divorce. When asked if her sister told her of the cause of the altercations between them, she replied that the altercations were caused by Lekan’s insecurity and jealousy. She admitted that she wanted her sister to leave the house and the marriage. When asked whether she inquired why her sister would still stay in the house when she was seeking a divorce, she stated that she didn’t bother inquiring as the deed had been done and her sister had already been killed.
The trial continues next week.