A High Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo state Capital yesterday, sentenced eight (8) persons to death by hanging for their involvement in the brutal murder of one Nze Dominic Ohamadiaku Duru, an ex-Police officer from Izombe in Oguta Local Government Area of the state.
High Court 7, Owerri, presided over by Justice C.M.I. Egole found the accused persons guilty of murder, following an overwhelming evidence before it; even as it freed the ninth accused person-Sussana James Duru for having not actively participated in the dastardly act.
The convicted persons, who were all found guilty of first degree murder are: James Ugwuoha Duru, Fester Nuforo, Alexander Nnadi (Alias Apollo), Friday Nuforo, Jonathan Chuddy Nnadi, Chifoanu Okorie, Mattias Ohazurike and Evans Egbujor.
Delivering the landmark judgement in suit number: HOW/4C/2007, the presiding Judge analysed all the evidence before it and found eight, out of the nine accused persons guilty of conspiracy and murder.
“You are to be hanged by your neck until you are drained of your life breath and you are dead and may God have mercy on your soul,” the judgement reads in part.
Investigations revealed that the freed Sussana James-Ugwuoha (wife of James Ugwuoha Duru) was linked to one of the murderers by marriage and although she was said to have accompanied her husband to the house of the deceased on the fateful day to lure him to the scene of the crime, she hadn’t actively participated in the dastardly act.
The accused was therefore freed and allowed to return home. All the condemned criminals were led away in handcuffs to a waiting Black Maria by armed security officials and prison guards.
Making their last comments as they were being led out by security operatives, Festa Nuforo wailed, ‘Nze Dominic was my father!; while James Ugwuoha contended in vain with his captors for a chance to shake his wife’s hand, retorting that he already knew that he would never return home alive.
When given the chance by the trial judge to offer their famous last words or plead for leniency, the convicts took turns to eulogise the deceased, describing him as ‘our father and benefactor’; but showed no remorse.
In his quiet side, Evans Egbujor rued with mounting trepidation the uncertainty that has enveloped his family, with his wife, Rose currently lying in a morgue; with her people (from Awa Community in Oguta LGA) insisting that Evans murdered their daughter (while out on bail) for ritual purposes and demanding that he (Evans) swears an oath or else, face withering repercussions. Rose lies unburied still: even as Evans contemplates his date with the hangman.
As the prisoners and captives filed out of the courtroom, hand-cuffs jangling, death-silence fell upon the courtroom.
Our correspondent who managed to sidle up to Jonathan Nnadi (Elder Joe, as he is fondly called, a staff of Imo Broadcasting Corporation, Owerri) had the following exchange with him: ‘Elder Joe, you told the judge today that you are an only son? Is this claim true? What about Obumneke? We understand that he is your younger brother? Isn’t it true that the man you murdered is not only an only son but also an only child?” before he could respond, his jailers shepherded him away.
The journey to the hangman started when the convicted persons conspired and murdered the deceased on the 3rd of March, 2005 following a protracted land matter and other sundry community issues.
According to available reports, the condemned persons had on the said day, lured the deceased to his farm land in a bush (Okpouzi) in the village where they laid siege for him and ended his life.
In an attempt to cover up their atrocity, the murderers earlier influenced the falsification of the autopsy conducted on the corpse of the deceased, alleging that he died of a natural cause. They had also touted a traditional story of the deceased being used for rituals; the diversionary steps never yielded fruits.
Following a Federal High Court ruling, the falsified autopsy was nullified and an independent autopsy ordered. The independent autopsy is said to have revealed the actual cause of the death of Nze Duru, having died as a result of “multiple homicidal injuries…”
The matter which lingered for seven years survived all intrigues adopted by the accused persons to either buy time or pervade justice.
Reacting to the judgement, first son of the deceased, Chief Emmanuel Duru described the ruling as victory for justice, even as he commended the Judiciary in the state for maintaining its status as the last hope of a common man.
He lamented the incessant killing of innocent people in the area and called on the government to take urgent steps to sanitize the area in the interest of the citizenry.
He however urged the people to flee from evil practices and turn to God for salvation.
A visit to Izombe community in Oguta LGA of Imo State, where the crime was committed revealed that while many jubilated over the landmark ruling, especially, in neighbouring villages where similar murder cases involving most of the same convicted persons remain unresolved, families of the condemned persons were in grief.
Speaking to our Correspondent, a leader of thought in Izombe, who spoke on the grounds of anonymity expressed gratitude to God for what he described as ‘justice at last’.
“My brother, finally, justice has come. This is justice at last. Majority of the people who were condemned are from Amaudara village, where the murdered Nze Duru is from. Two of them are from my village, but I am happy. Those people, especially, Amaudara people are very heartless. That was how they killed Joe Nwanyiafor, an indigene of Amakpuruedere, a neighbouring village in cold blood. Till today, the matter was closed in the most unceremonious manner. These people are members of a notorious killer-gang. God has exposed them. That is not all. Some of the members of the killer squad are still at large. One day, God will also catch them with their sponsors.”
Investigations revealed that late Nze Dominic Duru is the seventh in the series of unresolved murder cases in Amaudara village. All the murder cases were committed in the bush in Amaudara, a small village in Obeabo Autonomous community of Izombe in Oguta LGA of Imo state.
Following Justice Egole’s landmark judgement, there are strong indications that relatives and friends of victims of previous unresolved murder cases in the area may raise agitations for the resuscitation of the cases of the murder of their loved ones, since they have seen that justice is possible.
Meanwhile, youths of Imo State, under the aegis of Imo Youth Congress have hailed the Judgement, describing it as victory for all lovers of truth.
National President of the Body, Comrade Prosper Nwokocha who made their position known during a telephone interview with our Correspondent also called for a review of previous unresolved murder cases in the area.
It would be recalled that following the several cases of unresolved cold blooded murder in the area, an Owerri-based tabloid (Newspoint), in one of its 2005 publications described Izombe as Imo’s Golgotha.
Amaudara, the tiny village in Obeabo, Izombe, in which every other thing seems to be in short supply except misery and pain, is no stranger to mysterious disappearances, and homicide: even of a fratricidal kind.
Anthony Ezema, a village thug was felled in a cult-related killing in Amaudara in 1983; next in line was Joseph ‘Joe’ Nwanyiafor, from the neighbouring Amakpuruedere village whose body is yet to be found till this day. Edward Ezema (elder brother to Anthony) was later to boast during a drunken-spree that ‘the easiest way to make a body disappear, together with its bones is to have it interred in an anthill’. Edward, Anthony and the just condemned Matthias ‘Hitler’ Ohazuruike are brothers (of the same parents).
Then, there followed Augustina Cyril-Uzoma, a middle-aged woman who left her home early in the morning to harvest cassava, only to turn up two hours later in a body-bag. Then, Francis Onyejiekwe, a middle aged farmer followed suit: his fate similar to Augustina’s. It was a bountiful harvest of death.
The 7th on the list of murdered persons, Nze Duru is the only case that has been prosecuted to a conclusive end; a development many see as commendable.
James Ugwuoha-Duru had lured Nze Ohamadiaku Duru, the Patriarch of the famed Durunaegbu dynasty to the farm where he was mercilessly massacred by a gang led by Alexander Nnadi and cohorts.
Reports have it that, that same day, an old woman from the oil-rich Ugbele village in Izombe broke into tears, while in between quipping ‘Amaudara, you cursed village, you have seen the last of me…so, Evans, it was Nze Duru that was being referred to when you were stridently warned by our prophet that “this abomination you are hatching presently will consume you?”
After the dastard act of eliminating Nze Duru, they commenced a scheme of plundering the farmlands and agricultural produce of the aged wife of Nze Duru (an issue that is the subject of a civil suit in Oguta High Court at the moment).