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2 NDEA officers freed on murder charge

Jul 9, 2013, 10:30 AM | Article By: Malamin ML Conteh

Two officers of the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) were yesterday acquitted and discharged on a charge of murder by the Special Criminal Court in Banjul.

The officers, Edrissa Jarju and Edrissa Jaiteh, were alleged to have caused the death of one Alpha Omar Jobe, who was at the time of the alleged incident, a detainee at the Manjai Police Station, after being suspected of possession of illicit drugs.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Emmanuel Nkea stated that the two accused persons were jointly charged with the murder of one Alpha Omar Jobe.

He said it had been alleged by the prosecution that on 10 December 2011, at Manjai, the accused persons murdered the deceased by subjecting him to brutal acts of torture, a charge both the accused persons denied.

The trial judge further stated that the prosecution led evidence through seven witnesses and tendered exhibits, while the accused persons testified as lone witnesses and tendered two exhibits in support of their defence.

Both sides waived their rights to address the court, he said.

The judge added that the prosecution’s case was that on 10 December 2011, the two accused persons and one Sang Paul, now at large, being officers attached to the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA), arrested the deceased for allegedly being in possession of cannabis sativa.

“In the process of the arresting the deceased, the three officers beat up the deceased before taking him to the Manjai Police Station, where he was briefly detained and then released,” the judge said of the case of the prosecution.

The judge continued that the deceased went to the Kanifing Hospital the next day, where he was given medication and sent home, and about a week later, the deceased was seen vomiting blood and was again taken to the Kanifing Hospital where he was again examined, given medication and sent home.

The deceased later died and the corpse was taken to the then RVTH where an autopsy was conducted and the report thereof issued, which was received in evidence as an exhibit, he added.

“The accused were arrested and statements recorded from them. These statements were in evidence as exhibits,” Justice Nkea continued.

Justice Nkea further stated that the accused persons denied the charge both in their statements to the police, and in their evidence before this court.

He pointed out that the chief consultant pathologist at the then RVTH noted that there were no bruises or wounds, and if the deceased had sustained a fractured neck from the 10 December assault, it was likely that he would have been admitted in the hospital and not asked him to go home after the consultations on 11 and 16 December 2011.

“It is the viva vorce evidence of PW1 that the deceased did not go to the hospital until the next day, the 11 December 2011,” he said, adding that from the above piece of evidence, it seems to him that if the  deceased had sustained such severe injuries as a fractured spine on the neck, as a result of the assault of the 10 December 2011, he would have laboured in the severe pains during the day and night and could not have stayed that night at home without being rushed to the hospital.

“There is no evidence on record, even from PW1, who lived in the same house with the deceased, that the deceased complained of any pains on the neck on that day of the assault or at any time prior to his death a week later,” the judge said in his judgment.

He said if the deceased had sustained a fractured spine on the day of the assault, he would have fallen sick the same day and not the next day.

“This is one of the reasons why it is difficult for me to determine whether the injuries were sustained as a result of the assault on him on 10 December 2011,” he added.

“There is no report or proof of any medical examination conducted on the deceased immediately after the assault on the 10 December 2011. There is, therefore, no medical evidence to confirm that the deceased sustained injuries as a result of assault of 10 December 2011,” he continued.

Furthermore, there was no medical evidence before the court to determine whether the deceased was diagnosed with a fractured spine when he was seen by the doctors at the Kanifing Hospital on 10 December 2011.

Whether the deceased ever went to that hospital in the first place was never established by any concert evidence, he said, adding that there was no consultation card of the deceased before the court, and if there was any, it would have shown very clearly that the deceased had complained in the hospital.

The medical diagnoses and the prescription would have determined in a very conclusive way whether the injuries from which the deceased died were present on him at the time, and this could have been suggestive of whether the injuries were inflicted by the assault of the accused persons or not.

He added that since there was none, it was hard for him to reach that conclusion.

“This is another reason why it is difficult for me reach that conclusion and these were the missing links in the prosecution case, and these ends that have created doubts in my mind where the same issues that formed the basis of the acquittal in the case of State versus Alhagie Conteh and the State versus Musa Camara,” he adduced.

By resisting lawful arrest, he went on, the evidence on record presents the deceased as a truculent fellow, and while there was no direct evidence on record showing that the deceased sustained the injuries from elsewhere, there was also no evidence of another assault from the accused persons on the deceased after the 10 December 2011.

In addition, there was evidence from PW1 and PW2 that the deceased person was sick prior to the 10 December 2011 assault, so it could not be determined whether his going to the hospital was to attend to the earlier ailment or as a result of the 10 December 2011 alleged assault.

“On the evidence, therefore, I have a serious doubt whether or not the deceased sustained the injuries that led to his death from the 10th December 2011 assault of the accused persons.

“As a result, I cannot come to the irresistible conclusion that it was the act of the accused persons that caused the death of the deceased,” he adduced.

The allegation by PW2 raised strong suspicion that the accused persons are responsible for the death of the deceased, he stated, adding that the allegation was not borne by evidence on record.

“From the totality of foregoing, I hold as a fact that I do not find any cogent and compelling evidence linking the injuries of the deceased to the assault by the accused person,” he went on.

“The prosecution having failed to prove the element of participation against the 1st and 2nd accused persons, I am bound to reach the conclusion that the prosecution had failed to prove the offence of murder against the accused persons,” Justice Nkea concluded.

 He finally acquitted and discharged the accused persons accordingly.