An Abudu High Court in Edo State has sentenced a stepmother, Betty Stephen, and two teachers to death by hanging over the murder of a two-year-old girl.
Stephen and her accomplices, identified as Johnson Ogbeide and Nancy Aiwuyor, had been arraigned for conspiracy and murder of her stepdaughter.
They were said to have committed the offence on February 24, 2009, at Erhiborhibo village, in Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the state.
In her judgment, Justice Geraldine Imadegbelo, said the prosecution led evidence to the fact that the stepmother gave the victim to Ogbeide, who in turn gave the child to Aiwuyor to be sold for ritual purposes.
Justice Imadegbelo held that the parents of the victim had left the child in the custody of her stepmother while they went to farm.
She also noted that Stephen had confessed to the parents of the deceased, when they returned and could not find their child, that she had stolen her in collaboration with the two other convicts.
According to the judge, the prosecution established that the victim was sold for N1.5m, before nine of her fingers were chopped off and her hair shaved for ritual purposes.
The court, which sat in Benin, also held that it was safe to hold that the victim was dead, seven years after she disappeared in the hands of the convicts.
“In the instant case, Exhibits B to D, coupled with the evidence of the prosecution witnesses and, in particular, the confessional statement of the DW2 (defence witness) on how the ritual was to be performed and the disposal of the remains, all support the proof of the prosecution’s case that the victim is dead,” Justice Imadegbelo said.
The judge, who also sentenced the convicts to 14-year imprisonment for child stealing each, added, “In the circumstances, the DW1, DW2 and DW5 cannot exculpate themselves from the disappearance and death of the deceased. The acts of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd accused persons, which caused the death of the deceased, was unlawful.”