The Sekondi High Court Presided over by Justice Richard Agyei Frimpong has sentenced to death two Nigerians, Sam Udeotuk Wills and John Orji for their involvement in the kidnapping and murder of four girls.
The judgement comes after a seven-member jury found them guilty on all the eight counts of the charge of conspiracy to murder and murder.
Justice Agyei Frimpong who reminded the counsel of the two convicts of their right to appeal within a 30-day window, gave the verdict after close to three hours sitting.
The two convicts kidnapped and murdered Ruth Abakah, 19; Priscilla Blessing Bentum, 21; Ruth Love Quayson,18 and Priscilla Koranchie, 15 between July and December 2018 in one of the most talked-about criminal cases in recent times.
The incident triggered a national discussion with many public protests staged especially in Takoradi to demand the return of girls and impress upon the government to act swiftly.
Samuel Udeotuk Wills was first arrested in December 2018 over the matter but broke jail days later. He was quickly rearrested and tried for that offence.
On 29th April 2019, he was sentenced to 18 months prison term on two out of the three charges of unlawful escape from lawful custody and destroying public property but cleared on the charge of resisting arrest.
John Orji was later arrested and put before a Sekondi High Court on 12th June 2019.
The two of them appeared together before the High Court on 26th June 2019.
They were subsequently charged with conspiracy and kidnapping.
On 31st July 2019, their plea on the offences of conspiracy and kidnapping was taken and the facts given.
The fact sheet disclosed to the court that the accused person’s Facebook chats revealed coded language on kidnapping and blood sacrifice.
After the discovery of the skeletal remains on 2nd August 2019 and upon further investigations including the results of the DNA samples taken from the families, the accused persons were charged with conspiracy and murder.
In all, 27 witnesses appeared before the court to give statements and also faced cross-examination.
During their statement and cross-examination, both Sam Udeotuk Wills and John Orji denied kidnapping or murdering any of the girls.
Wills however admitted knowing and being friends with two out of the four girls, namely Priscilla Blessing Bentum and Priscilla Mantebia Kurankyi.
Wills also denied his Facebook chat with some of his friends submitted to the court by the investigators as evidence of discussing kidnapping and blood money.
He told the court that Samuel Udeotuk Wills is not his Facebook name but King Samuel.
John Orji on his part denied four of the charge sheets read to him and had his signature, as well as thumbprint, picked.
He also denied that he told investigators Sam had told him he had killed someone when he visited him in Takoradi.
Orji said all this information didn’t come from him while some were taken under duress.
The Sekondi High Court on 3rd February set Friday, 5th March 2021, to deliver its verdict in the murder trial of the two suspects after the lawyers of Sam Udeotuk Wills and John Orji closed their defence and subsequent cross-examinations.
The State Attorney, Patience Klinogo, filed her written address on 17th February 2021, but the defence counsels failed to file their written address on 24th February 2021.
Both defence counsels and prosecution were expected to give their oral addresses to the seven-member Jury on 3rd March before the judgment day, but they failed to appear before the Court on that day.
This forced the Presiding Judge to adjourn the addresses to 4th March.
On the 4th of March, the defence counsels for the two accused, George Essilfu-Ansah and Mark Bosia, representing Sam Udoetuk Wills and John Oji respectively, again did not show up, but the counsel for the second accused rather sent one Samuel Agbota, also a lawyer, as his representative.
State Attorney, Patience Klinogo, however, gave her oral address to the Jury where she questioned John Orji’s inability to state his “Alabi”, thus his whereabouts at the time the crime was committed.
She however said both Sam Wills and Orji have contradicted themselves in the cross-examination of the statements they gave to the police and signed, and are therefore liable to the eight counts of a charge of conspiracy to murder and murder.