An Ikeja High Court yesterday sentenced a 36-year-old woman, Stella Gilbert, to death for stabbing her neighbour, Mrs. Stella Godwin, to death during a fight at their house in Ajegunle, Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the fight was over a bench on the premises of their single room apartments, also called ‘face-me-I-face-you’.
The fight was caused by an argument over who should use the bench, which belonged to their former neighbour.
Justice Raliatu Adebiyi sentenced Stella after dismissing her claim of self defence.
The judge held that the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
“The defendant used a knife on the deceased. By any standard, a knife is a lethal weapon.
“The evidence of PW2 (Prosecution Witness 2), the cousin of PW1 (the deceased’s husband), and that of PW3, the female police officer, was that the deceased was stabbed in the chest.
“The coroner’s report tendered in evidence by PW4 confirmed that the deceased was stabbed in the chest.
“The chest is where the heart is; the defendant, by stabbing the deceased in the chest, a very fragile part of the body, clearly intended to cause the most harm to her.
“The death of the deceased occurred as a result of grievous injury caused by the defendant. The defendant is culpable of the offence of murder,” she said.
The judge remarked that a lot of cases in courts were caused by animosity and violence due to individuals living in close proximity in the metropolis.
She said the situation called for improvement in social housing in Lagos State.
Justice Adebiyi said: “From the evidence, the fight took place in a room; although no evidence was given about the size of the room, it could not have been a very large room.
“The evidence was that the deceased and the defendant lived in a house consisting of rooms occupied by families, popularly called ‘face-me-I-face-you’.
“It is worrisome that the level of violence, unnecessary animosity and death, which occur among our citizens as a result of living together in close proximity without sufficient personal space and boundaries, remain unabated.
“There is clearly a need to improve social housing and living conditions.
“The court hopes that this message will be conveyed to the necessary authorities through prosecutors, who have the responsibility to prosecute these cases and should be able to provide vital statistics.”
Following the conviction of Stella, her counsel, Mr. Y. E. Yusuf, prayed the court to temper justice with mercy.
“The defendant has been in detention for six years. During that time, she lost her parents and her brother. She is in her late 30s and unmarried, she has gone through a lot.
“She was not harbouring the intent to murder when the incident occurred.
“I want my lord to temper justice with mercy and refrain from giving the defendant the maximum sentence,” he said.
However, the judge passed death sentence on Stella.
“The defendant, Stella Gilbert, is hereby sentenced to death. May God that grants life have mercy on your soul,” she said.
On hearing the sentence, Gilbert collapsed in the dock. Wailing loudly, she said: “Please ma, temper justice with mercy, why me oh, only me…”
In tears, she was led out of the courtroom and had to be carried by a mobile policeman and a prison warden out of the court complex, to avoid disruption of proceedings in other courtrooms.
NAN reports that during the trial, four witnesses – the deceased’s husband, the brother-in-law of the deceased, the investigating police officer and the coroner – testified for the prosecution.
The defendant testified alone in her defence.
According to the state counsel, Mrs. O. R. Ahmed-Muili, the convict murdered Godwin, mother of three, on June 22, 2013, at 59, Ojora Street, Ajegunle, Lagos.
The convict stabbed the deceased in the chest with a knife during the fight.
NAN reports that murder contravenes Section 221 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011 and is punishable with death by hanging.