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Concerning David West's Murder Trial: The Task Before Honourable Justice Adolphus Enebeli

The alleged serial killer, Gracious David West, opened his defence on Friday and did not admit to committing crimes he allegedly committed.

He's facing prosecution for alleged murder of women last year in hotels in Port- Harcourt and other cities in Nigeria.

He said that he does not know anything about the crimes attributed to him as he took witness box to open his defence on 14 February.

Led in evidence-in-chief by his lawyer, Vincent Chuku, David West had said “I don't know anything about that” to each of crimes allegedly committed by him on each count.

He faces ten counts - nine of murder - and one of attempted murder.

He said he did not kill or strangle any woman, as his lawyer led him in evidence.

The alleged serial killer had said he was on his way to Akwa Ibom State around July last year when he was arrested by a team of policemen.

He said the policemen who were fully armed were on stop-and-search operation on the road.

He said that the policemen had asked his identity and he told them his name adding that he also told them he was phone technician and computer repairer and was from Buguma in Asari-Toru Local Government Area, of Rivers State.

He said that he was arrested and was kept in a Jeep but was later asked to come down and was searched by the team of policemen.

He said they found on him N60,000, two phones and one Army camouflage bag, which he said they collected.

David West said that he was then taken to the Bori Police Division, SARS Unit, and from there was taken to Commissioner of Police who interrogated him.

He had said that he told the Police Commissioner he knew nothing about the allegations.

He was then taken to SARS Unit, Rukpokwu Police Division and was asked about the allegations, he further said.

David West had pleaded guilty to nine counts of murder and not guilty to one count of attempted murder and then pleaded he was not guilty.

He's alleged to have lodged in hotels and killed women who stayed with him, allegedly taking their possessions.

A prosecution witness, Sergeant Ogbomudia Emegbokuro, of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Nigeria Police Force had said that the alleged serial killer took belongings of his victims after killing them.

He told the court that David West allegedly took handbags, phones, jewelry and cash from his victims saying that he had threatened them with kitchen knife and had got their ATM passwords, with which he withdrew money from their accounts.

He said that the accused used the same pattern in killing his victims - tying, and strangling them to death.

This was as he gave findings from investigation conducted by the SARS as directed by the police commissioner.

In court on Friday was also a woman, Nimi ThankGod, the second accused, who faces a one-count charge of misconduct with corpse.

She is prosecuted because she had allegedly moved body of one of the victims of David West out of her hotel and had dumped it at a dumpsite, and had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

She was in another witness box as David West opened his defence.

The presiding judge of the Port-Harcourt High Court, Honourable Justice Adolphus Enebeli, adjourned the case at a point to 21 February on Friday's hearing. He said the case generates interest in Nigeria and overseas and the image of the country is at stake. As in all cases, the accused is presumed innocent until found guilty, and in this case the honourable justice will rely on available evidence before him to dish out justice – whether for or against the accused.

Speaking in an interview on Friday,14 February, the prosecuting counsel, Chidi Ekeh, who earlier closed his case had said that he called  total of eight witnesses.

“We've closed our case because the trial began some months ago and we've been calling our witnesses, so today we (have) formally closed the case of the prosecution. We announced to the court that we have closed our case. We don't have any further witness to bring and, so the defence opened its case today with the evidence-in-chief of the PW1 who is the first defendant, Gracious David West. We called a total of eight witnesses for the prosecution. The last was one of the IPOs who testified on behalf of the prosecution as to their findings in the course of investigation, “he said.

Also speaking in the interview, counsel for the first accused, Vincent Chuku, told reporters David West could have been in “different temperament of mind” when he pleaded guilty to nine counts of murder and not guilty to one count of attempted murder and then pleaded not guilty to all charges.

 “It's not a question of being worried … During the course of trial the defendant may not really know what he is doing if he's properly put on a proper alert … He may be in a different temperament of mind to say what he want to say. Sometime he may not even understand what he's saying. So the issue of pleading guilty or not pleading guilty, sometime he does not know the consequence. What we are doing here is a capital offence matter and the punishment is death. So even that he pleads guilty, he will not be presumed to have pleaded to be guilty (as) the court will still go on to review the evidence and then find out to the irresistible fact that yes actually he's guilty. That proceeding of whether he pleaded guilty or not is not before the court any longer because the prosecution amended their charge and, what is in issue now is the present proceeding that is going on. A reliance or reference to the earlier proceedings of court whether he pleaded guilty or not is immaterial and cannot be used by the court, and the burden is on prosecution to prove …The burden had never shifted and will never shift”, he said.

The Rivers State government which took over prosecution of the case from the State Police Command has Chidi Ekeh, as the prosecuting counsel, who is of Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the Ministry of Justice.