A Mild drama ensured last week at a High Court sitting in Port Harcourt , Rivers State, when all the suspects in the Murder trial of late Chidi Onwukwe, were declared Absent , even as a defense counsel told the Judge that she doesn’t know the whereabout of her client ,who she confirmed met with her, a day before the proceeding.
Our correspondent reported that the unexpected absence of suspects in court stalled the murder case proceeding
In the charge sheet delineated as PHC/667/CR/2022, four suspects, namely Samuel Onwukwe (1st defendant) Andrew Epai Otanye (2nd defendant), Samuel Emmason (3rd defendant) and Promise George (4th defendant) are standing trial over their alleged involvement in the killing of the victim .
The victim, Chidi Onwukwe, was said to have been killed in his house at Elelenwo Housing Estate (a gated community with security check point) in Port Harcourt Rivers State, on the early morning of January 27, 2021.
It was alleged that on the day the victim was killed that he was alone with his nephew, Samuel Gozie Onwukwe, who is the 1st defendant, before the killers alleged broke in and reportedly stabbed the victim to death.
According to report , the intruders allegedly gained access by scaling the periphery fence and expanding the burglar proof of an open parlor window with the victims car jack.
News planet international.com also gathered that the invaders had killed their victim, ransacked his room, emptied his document drawer, transferred a lot of money from his bank account, and left with his vehicle, a 2008 Toyota 4-Runner.
The matter was first reported to Elelenwo police station and promptly assigned to the State Criminal Investigation Department, SCIID, but that much success was only recorded in the matter when it was later moved to the Rapid Response Unit.
It was also learned that RRU of the state police command in its investigation allegedly arrested some individuals in possession of the victim’s SIM card, one of his phones and someone to whose account funds were transferred from Chidi’s account, but that the suspects were granted administrative bail.
When court resumed last week for the four persons standing trial to take plea, none of the suspects was present in court, forcing the court to adjourn till a later date.
While the 1st to 3rd defendants had no legal representation in court at the last proceeding, the 4th defendant whose counsel, J. Okpamen, appeared, informed the court that she does not know the whereabouts of her client.
Okpamen told the court: “I don’t know her whereabouts. I saw her last on Sunday when she came to see me in my church. She is aware that today is her sitting, but the number she used in reaching me has been switched off.”
The Prosecuting Counsel, Essien Edet had when the matter was mentioned in court expressed regrets that the Investigative Police Officer, IPO, handling the matter could not bring Samuel, the only suspect in detention, to court, adding that others were not also in court to take plea.
Edet: “The case is for plea. The problem is that the suspect are not in court. We cannot serve them the process because we don’t know the whereabouts of the suspects.
“Give us another date if they are not there you can make your declaration. The 1st defendant is in police custody but the IPO is in Bayelsa for special assignment. We are asking for adjournment to enable the defendants to appear to take plea.
Worried, the trial judge, Justice Sylvester Popnen, urged the prosecutor to prepare himself for the matter and be very aquatinted with the procedures of administration of criminal justice.
Adjourning the case to June 17th,2022, Justice Popnen advised the prosecutor to ensure he serve the process on the defence to enable them appear in court to take their plea .