37-year-old fetish priest to die by hanging
4/26/2012 2:04:34 PM -
A Koforidua High Court Wednesday sentenced a 37-year-old fetish priest to death by hanging after he was found guilty of murdering a 30-year-old trader, Rita Baah, at Okorase near Koforidua.
Joseph Tetteh, alias Mallam, was unanimously found guilty by a seven-member jury for murdering Rita, alias Afia Atta, at his shrine at Domeabra, a suburb of Okorase, on November 15, 2009.
The judgement came after a two-year legal battle in a case that saw most lawyers in Koforidua declining to defend the spiritualist in a bid not to incur the anger of residents of the regional capital where Rita was very popular.
Luckily, a lawyer from Nkawkaw, Mr Kin Hussein Ibn Alhassan, took up the case to defend the convict.
Pronouncing the sentence, the presiding judge, Justice Simon Suurebareh, said, 'You are to be taken back to the prison where you came from and you will be hanged with a rope till you are dead and your body will be buried at a place the Republic may order.'
After the sentence by the court, which was attended mostly by the family of the deceased who were clad in black, Tetteh, who wore a T-shirt over a pair of trousers, sat undisturbed.
'Only God knows how innocent I am. I will come out while those who want me to be jailed will pay dearly,' he remarked.
Prior to the sentence, a State Attorney, Ms Akpene Motey, had told the court that Rita was a trader residing at Osabene, Mile 50, near Koforidua, while the convict, who was 25 at the time he murdered Rita, resided at Domeabra Junction at Okorase, near Koforidua.
She said about 12:50.a.m. on November 15, 2009, the Chief of Ahwerase-Akuapem, Nana Semanshia Ohene Ansah Akofa II, and four of his elders were travelling from Akropong-Akuapem to Suhum.
When they reached Okorase, they saw the convict on his motorbike, with registration number GN 8843 Z, heading towards Mile 50 in Koforidua.
'They thought the convict had stolen a goat when they saw something tied to the motorbike and when they got closer, they saw a human hand stick out of the cloth used to wrap the body of the deceased,' Ms Motey said.
On seeing the human hand, Nana Akofa and his elders sped to catch up with the convict.
When they caught up with him, they confronted Tetteh and when they tried to arrest him, he abandoned the motorbike and Rita's body and ran away.
'Nana Akofa and his elders called the Koforidua Central Police Station to report the incident and a number of police personnel were later dispatched to the scene, where they found marks of violence on the body of the deceased,' she stated.
The State Attorney said that the convict was later arrested in a bush by a search party at Tei Nkwanta, also near Okorase.
She said the police accompanied him to his shrine where he lived and found a bloodstained hammer, a knife, red calico soaked with blood, the deceased's slippers, wristwatch, purse and mobile phone, as well as a mat soaked with blood.
Justifying her call on the jury to enter a verdict of guilty, Ms Motey said a medical report adduced in the court by a pathologist revealed that Rita had sustained a 4.2 centimetre deep cut on her head, fractured skull, marks of violence on her body and suffocation that caused her death.
'From these pieces of evidence, Rita died from sustained damage to the brain, trauma, fractures to the skull and these unlawful harm were intentionally caused by the convict,' she stated.
According to her, the convict had been inconsistent in giving evidence in court and to the police.
'In evidence in court, the convict said he was taking the deceased to the hospital, but in his caution statement to the police, he said he was going to dump the body of Rita at Osabene, where she lived,' she told the court.
She said when police investigators went to the convict's house, they found a pair of trousers and a sponge stained with blood which the convict admitted that he had used to clean the blood in the shrine.
She informed the court that the convict, in his evidence, had attempted to shift blame on his landlord, Papa Yaw, and his friend, Martin, as those he suspected to have killed the deceased.
'If the convict had not killed Rita, the first thing he should have done was to have reported her death to the police or call for help from his neighbours, but because he knew what he had done, he attempted to clean the bloodstains from his shrine,' she noted.
Responding, the defence counsel, Mr Alhassan, said the prosecution and all those who testified in the case had failed to prove the convict's guilt beyond reasonable doubt, as no thorough investigations were conducted into the death of the deceased.
'The investigations carried out by the prosecution were an armchair one', he said, asking, 'Will it be enough to say that the body of the deceased was found in his shrine and hence he is guilty when some people might have killed Rita?'
According to him, the prosecution also failed to bring to book the landlord and his friend, as well as heed the order by a magistrate court to take the landlord and his friend to the Police Hospital in Accra for a forensic test to determine fingerprints on the hammer and the knife found in the convict's house.
'Besides, the prosecution failed to take the landlord and his friend for laboratory tests to have their fluid and spermatozoa to determine who had intercourse with the deceased,' Mr Alhassan said, adding that 'the prosecution failed to do this because the police could not afford GH¢4,000 for the test'.
'Is GH¢4,000 more valuable than the life of an innocent man before this court?' he asked the jury, saying that 'there are loopholes and doubts in the case presented to this court by the prosecution'.