The Lagos High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square, has sentenced a Danish man, named Peter Nielsen, to death by hanging for killing his Nigerian wife Zainab and their 3-year-old daughter, Petra. Justice Bolanle Okikiolu-Ighile passed the sentence on Friday after an almost five-hour judgment.
The judge convicted Peter Nielsen on a two-count charge of murder. Kogi-born Zainab, alias Alizee, was signed to an Asian record label Petra Entertainment and was on the course of promoting her January 2018 single, ‘Alhaji Musa’, before the alleged murder.
The Lagos State Government accused Peter Nielsen, now 57, of smothering her and their daughter to death around 3:45am on 5th April 2018, at No. 4, Flat 17, Bella Vista Tower, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos. Peter Nielsen was arraigned on 13th June 2018, on a two-count charge of murder under Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
He pleaded not guilty, and that was how his trial commenced in 2018. During the trial, the court heard that Zainab and Petra died of head injuries and asphyxia (or suffocation) that was not self-inflicted. A Consultant Pathologist, Prof. John Obafunwa, told Justice Bola Okikiolu-Ighile that his post-mortem examination of Zainab’s corpse suggested that she was killed when her nose and mouth were forcibly closed which deprived her of oxygen.
She had also suffered bruises around her head which were consistent with “blunt force trauma that were not enough to cause any fracture.” Prof. John Obafunwa said evidence showed the deceased struggled to free herself from her killer’s grip using her hands and nails. The result of a DNA analysis of Zainab’s nail clipping, the witness added, revealed the presence of her DNA material and that of “an individual described as Peter”.
On September 20, 2019, the Prosecution team led by Ms. Titilayo Shitta Bey (now Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice) concluded their case.
Rather than open his case, Peter Nielsen argued that the prosecution had failed to link him with the alleged deaths, noting in particular that a particularly important prosecution exhibit was missing. He filed a no case submission, praying the court to end the proceedings and set him free.
But on 19th July 2021, Peter Nielsen lost his bid to regain freedom. Justice Okikiolu-Ighile dismissed his application seeking to be discharged of the double murder charge. The judge noted that the application, filed by Peter Nielsen’s counsel, Mr Olasupo Shasore (SAN), though brilliant, was premature.
She held that both prosecution and defence had called witnesses and tendered exhibits which were not premised on the said exhibit.
The Danish man had presented his application on a missing piece of critical evidence said to have been destroyed during the burning down of the Igbosere High Court last October. Peter Nielsen’s counsel, Mr Olasupo Shasore had prayed the court to discharge the defendant on the basis that the exhibit, Nielsen’s late wife’s nightgown containing DNA evidence was missing.
According to Shasore, the nightgown the woman wore the night she was killed could no longer be found in the court’s record due to the burning of the court by hoodlums who hijacked the October 2020 #EndSARS protest.
He submitted that substantial justice could not be done in the absence of the exhibit. “The submission of the learned silk is premature, the application sought and the consequential relief are hereby dismissed,” the judge held. The judge ordered Peter Nielsen to open his defence. In his defence, Peter Nielsen affirmed his testimony that he did not kill both Zainab and Petra.
He told the court on 11th January 2022 that he found the duo dead when he awoke from sleep that morning and tried to revive them. According to his words; “I remember that on Thursday, 5th of April, 2018 was an Easter vacation day. When I woke up, I was looking for Zainab and Petra from the balcony overlooking the field in the Estate,” Peter added. Unfortunately, he was found guilty of the charges leveled against him and was sentenced to death by hanging.
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