A Lagos High Court has sentenced a police officer, ASP Darambi Vandi to death by hanging for killing a Lagos-based lawyer, Mrs Bolanle Raheem on Christmas Day.
Raheem, who was pregnant at the time of the incident was shot by ASP Vandi on December 25, 2022, at Ajah Roundabout on Lekki expressway.
The killer cop was attached to Ajiwe Police Station in the Ajah area of Lagos State and had spent 33 years in the police force before the unfortunate incident.
He was arraigned on one-count of murder on January 16, 2023, before the Lagos State High Court sitting in Tafawa Balewa Square. The case was filed by the Lagos State Government.
Murder charges contravenes Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
Given the widespread condemnation that trailed the incident, the Assistant Superintendent of Police was arrested, remanded and the case was granted accelerated hearing.
Delivering judgment on Monday, Justice Ibironke Harrison said though none of the eyewitness saw the defendant pull the trigger but circumstantial evidence was overwhelming to prove that Vandi murdered Raheem.
She stated that a defendant could be convicted when circumstantial evidence is overwhelming, adding that the question in the mind of the court is whether the prosecution provided additional evidence.
“The court finds that the ammunition of the other officers who were on patrol with the defendant remained intact but two of the defendant’s ammunition were missing,” she added.
Harrison said that the defendant had alleged that the shortage in his ammunition was because it was counted in his absence.
The judge stated that Vandi testified that the bullet tendered in court did not belong to him, noting that the officer constituted himself as a ballistician pathologist without tendering a certificate to that effect.
She, however dismissed the evidence.
“The court finds that the forensic expert and the medical doctor’s evidence confirmed the circumstantial evidence that the defendant had the opportunity to shoot the victim and that the victim was shot and died from the gunshot.
“Every eyewitness heard the loud noise and passers-by shouted in Yoruba Language (oti pa eyan) meaning: you have killed someone.
“The death of the deceased was instantaneous. There is no other explanation, it was the gunshot that shattered the side glass and pierced the victim’s chest.
“It was the defendant who had an AK-47 riffle whose ammunition was missing after the armourer counted it,” she said.
Harrison argued that the defendant did not say that he pointed the gun to force or scare people in the vehicle to obey order and park the vehicle or that the shooting was accidental, which would have earned him a smaller sentence of manslaughter.
“Therefore, the defendant is found guilty of the one count charge and sentenced to death by hanging until he dies,” she added.
The prosecution called 11 witnesses, including eight police officers during the trial.
Inspector Mattew Ameh, the first prosecution witness, had on January 16, 2023, testified that the defendant, Inspector Ebimine Fiyegha and himself were sent to Ajah under bridge on a stop-and-search operation.
He said that a Toyota car with no number plate was flagged down by Fiyegha, but it did not stop, adding that it also flagged the car to stop but it did not.
He informed that the next thing he heard was a gunshot.
But Vandi in his defence, told the court that he had never seen the bullet shown in the court as the weapon used to murder Raheem.
He noted that the bullet was not the same ammunition in his rifle on the day of the incident.
To that effect, the prosecution closed its case on February 25.
On February 28, Vandi, through his counsel, Mr Gbenro Gbadamosi filed an application, praying the court to quash the charge against him.
Gbadamosi argued that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses were inconsistent and did not link Vandi to the murder.
However, on April 3, the court dismissed the no-case submission.
Justice Harrison held that the prosecution established sufficient oral and documentary evidence linking Vandi to the crime, which required explanation from him.
She pointed out that the evidence by Vandi would shed light on what happened. Vandi gave evidence and closed his case on May 31.
Gbadamosi had informed the court that Vandi was the sole defence witness.
But on July 13, the parties adopted their written addresses and the court reserved judgment until October 9, when the judge sentenced the killer cop to death by hanging.