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Kidnapped and murdered Ubulu King: Pathologist’s Oath holds up trial

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After a series of adjournments, the trial of the accused persons in the case of the abduction and murder of late Ubulu-Uku monarch, Obi Akaeze Edward Ofulue III, opened for hearing yesterday at the Asaba High Court One, temporarily sitting in nearby Ibusa.

Though the four accused persons, three suspected kidnappers and the person from whom the police recovered the late king’s telephone handset, were brought to court, the case was adjourned almost as soon as it was called.

The exact mode for administering the oath on the medical doctor who performed the autopsy on the late Obi Ofulue, was disputed. The pathologist refused to take the normal oath that is usually administered on court witnesses on religious grounds because he is a member of the Jehovah Witness Christian denomination.

He vehemently refused to swear on the Bible arguing that the Bible has warned Christians against swearing oaths but simply to tell the truth. Thus, he said he would affirm that he would tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

The counsel for the defence had accepted the doctor’s affirmation option but demurred when the doctor also refused to do this with his hand raised as is usual in court, while making the affirmation.

As the defence lawyers quoted legal authorities to oppose that sort of affirmation from the pathologist and the Delta state director of public prosecutions also countered by adducing reasons a variation, especially on religious beliefs, would not be alien to law and court practice, the trial judge adjourned hearing to early November this year to rule on this side issue.

The late Obi and his companion, Pastor Afam Ugboh, were abducted in February 2016 at Obior town, a few kilometres from his domain.

Weeks later, his sole companion escaped from the kidnappers but the monarch’s body was found in the bush around Umunede town by a combined team of the police and Ubulu-Uku vigilante team.

Fortunately, the police made a breakthrough in the case when it tracked the late Obi’s telephone to somebody who was using it. That breakthrough led to the arrest of four persons suspected to be directly involved in the kidnap.

The trial has advanced considerably with Pastor Ugboh led in evidence in the course of it. He identified the accused persons as those who kidnapped them and gave vivid details about them, the way they were treated and how and why he was able to recognise them.

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