Two Nigerians have been sentenced to death by hanging for kidnapping and killing four girls in Takoradi in 2018.
Samuel Udoetuk-Wills and John Oji were sent to the gallows yesterday by the Sekondi High Court, presided over by Justice Richard Adjei-Frimpong, a Justice of the Court of Appeal, sitting as a High Court judge.
That was after a seven-member jury found them guilty on eight counts of murder.
Justice Adjei-Frimpong reminded the two convicts of their right to file an appeal within 30 days.
The two men will swell the number of prisoners on the death roll to 162.
Kidnapping and death
The four victims — Ruth Abekah, 18, Priscilla Blessing Bentum, 21, Ruth Love Quayson, 18, and Priscilla Mantebea Koranchie, 15, went missing between July and December 2018 in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis.
Their case became known as the ‘Takoradi missing girls’, with numerous campaigns organised across the country to put pressure on authorities to find them.
All efforts to find the girls, however, proved futile.
During the earlier stages, the kidnappers contacted the relatives of the victims and demanded ransom for their release.
On December 22, 2018, investigations led to the arrest of Wills, only for him to escape from police custody on December 30. He was recaptured on January 3, 2019.
Wills confessed to being part of the kidnapping syndicate that took the girls, but he took the police on a wild goose chase which even led the police visiting Nigeria, but all the efforts did not help in finding the girls.
During investigation, Wills mentioned John Oji as his accomplice and on June 4, 2019, Oji was also arrested at Aflao on the Ghana-Togo border.
Further investigations by the police between August 2 and 6, 2019, led to the discovery of skeletal remains in a septic tank in the residence of Wills at Kansawrodo, a suburb of Sekondi, and in a well around the uncompleted building, where he was recaptured.
The DNA tests conducted on the skeletal remains matched the DNA samples obtained from the parents of the victims and proved that the skeletal remains were those of the four girls and that they were all dead.
There were outbursts of emotions from family members and sympathisers of the victims after the court slapped the two convicts with the death sentence.
The family were, however, divided about the whole case.
The father of Priscilla Mantebea Koranchie, Mr Alexander Koranchie, welcomed the ruling and said it would help remove deviant and unscrupulous elements from society.
“I am happy they have been sentenced even though it will not bring back my daughter, but the two are isolated from society so that such heartless and heinous crime will not continue,” he said.
The father of Priscilla Bentum, Mr Francis A. Bentum, said he would not accept that the daughter was no more, and that he was not comfortable with the process leading to the conviction of the two.
“Let me tell you, people vanish in this our society and reappear years later to tell their stories and some even come with children. I will say, my daughter will come back one day. I am really disappointed; we were not even invited to the final ruling, we heard it on radio,” he said.
For his part, the grandfather and guardian of Ruth Abaka, Mr Emmanuel Anzah Cobbinah, said the death sentence would not bring finality to the case, saying “we rejected the bones, the police told us they knew the whereabouts of the girls and now convicting these two who kidnapped our girls and now murder. No, we will not accept it.”
“Even though the human remains of the girls were shown to us, I still insist they are not that of our girls, those bones are over 60 years and other evidence shown us, we will not accept,” he said.
There was heavy security on the court’s premises and members of the public interested in the case were all well seated by 8:30 a.m.
The two accused persons were brought in early, sat next to each other, looked calm and chit-chatted intermittently.
Earlier, the prosecution, led by Chief State Attorney, Ms Patience Klinogo, in her final submission, prayed the jury to consider all the evidence levelled against the accused persons.
The Chief State Attorney told the court that the prosecution had successfully proved all the offences against both accused persons beyond all reasonable doubt and the only possible verdict in this case was guilty on all the four counts of conspiracy and all four counts of murder against the accused persons.
Ms Klinogo said in the light of the evidence adduced, “we submit that the two accused persons agreed to act together in this case with one common purpose of committing the offence of murder through the means of kidnapping the four girls and killing them”.
“I, therefore, urge you to return a verdict of guilty against both accused persons on each of the eight counts after my Lord has summed up the case.”