A defence witness, Mr Ige Afolabi, on Tuesday narrated before an Ikeja Special Offences Court how his younger sister, Mrs Feyisayo Obot (nee Afolabi), was allegedly murdered by a chef in a hotel in Lagos.
Afolabi was testifying at the commencement of the trial of Joshua Usulor, a 21-year-old chef accused of killing Obot at the Citiheights Hotel located at the Opebi Link Road, Ikeja.
Led in evidence by the lead state counsel, Mr Olakunle Ligali, Afolabi described himself as the eldest brother to the deceased – a mother of two.
The witness told the court that Obot, a lawyer who worked with an Abuja-based Non-Governmental Organisation called Save the Children, had in January 2019 come to Lagos for a few days to write a project management examination.
Afolabi said that on Jan. 29, 2019, he sensed that something was amiss when he received panic phone calls from his wife that Mr Anderson Obot, his brother-in-law had been unsuccessfully trying to reach his wife who was due to return to Abuja on that day.
“He (brother-in-law) also called me and told me that he was at the airport and that he had been trying to reach his wife, but her phone was switched off. I reassured him and told him that she was probably airborne.
“He called about three minutes later and said he got a message from her work colleagues, stating that she was sick and unconscious in her hotel room.
“I asked for the name of the hotel and he told me that it was Citiheights Hotel at Opebi Link Road, Ikeja,” he said.
Afolabi said that he immediately drove to the hotel and while on his way, he received another phone call from his brother-in-law to the effect that an ambulance was about to be contacted to go to the hotel.
He said that on arrival at the hotel, he walked into the reception area, and when he saw the faces of individuals gathered there, he knew something went wrong.
“My sister had lodged in room 501, which was on the fifth floor; when we got into her room, she was on the floor wrapped in a duvet and, of course, there was blood around her.
“The hotel management contacted the Ikeja Division of the Nigeria Police and one Insp. Elijah came to the hotel. It was when he came that the duvet was removed. She was lying face down in a pool of blood.
“When she was about to be lifted and put in a body bag, the men carrying her observed that her throat was slit.
“We went to a hospital and she was confirmed dead on arrival and taken to the morgue, the hotel paid some of the bills,” he said.
Afolabi told the court that the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Ikeja visited the crime scene at the hotel and also visited the Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) camera room of the hotel to watch some CCTV footage of that day.
He said that it was realised that the deceased was murdered by Usulor who was another guest at the hotel.
“My sister came into the hotel on Jan. 23, 2019. The defendant arrived a few hours after she arrived.
“He stayed on the third floor, in room 311, while she was on the fifth floor, in room 501.
From the CCTV footage, at about 7.29 a.m. on Jan. 26, 2019, which was the day she was to depart for Abuja, Usulor came upstairs to the fifth floor.
“While on the fifth floor, he heard a noise of someone approaching and he hid; he came out from hiding, went to my sister’s room and knocked twice and the door opened.
“He was in her room for less than nine minutes and he ran out,” Afolabi said.
He told the court that he met one Mr Alabi, the Chairman of the hotel, who had asked if his sister had any known enemies which he denied.
“The chairman said he was surprised because after he viewed the CCTV, he noticed that the person who killed her is a guest and he had come after she checked-in,” he said.
The witness said that the following morning, he and the police went to the crime scene and traced droplets of blood from his sister’s hotel room to room 311, the defendant’s room.
“We got to room 311, but the room had been cleaned. The cleaner was called by the management and police.
“She said that when she was cleaning the room, she noticed blood on the bedsheets, shower and shower basin.
“She had wondered why there was so much blood in the room and made a report to her supervisor,” he said.
While being cross-examined by defence counsel, Mr Spurgeon Ataene, Afolabi said he did not come to court to give false evidence.
He testified that he recognised Usulor as the individual in the hotel’s CCTV camera, when he saw him at the Force Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Panti, Yaba.
“I immediately recognised him because he has a special way of walking,” he said.
A policeman and the second defence witness, Insp, Elijah Egwoaikhede, in his evidence, told the court how police investigations into the alleged murder at the hotel was carried out.
He said that he served at the Ikeja Police Station under Area F.
“On Jan. 26, 2019, I was at the police station when the management of Citiheights Hotel came to inform us that someone had killed a female lodger in one of their hotel rooms.
“I went to the scene, saw her lying dead in a pool of blood and noticed how blood was coming out from her throat. She was slaughtered.
“We took her to the mortuary at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), and I went back around 11.30p.m. to the hotel with one Insp. Onah to watch the CCTV footage,” he said.
The policeman said the footage showed the defendant trying to avoid being spotted before entering the room of the deceased.
“Since the matter was beyond the scope of our investigation, it was transferred to the Force CID. I also went to Panti to give a statement,” Egwoaikhede said.
Usulor who resides at No. 30, Fadiya St., Ketu, Lagos, had pleaded not guilty to a count charge of murder, contrary to Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo had rejected the defendant’s application for bail.
Taiwo ordered that he should be remanded in a custodial centre.
She adjourned the case until March 18 for the continuation of trial.