Crime

Iniubong murder: Court sentences Uduak Akpan to death by hanging

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By Ridwan Adekunle

The Akwa Ibom State High Court on Thursday sentenced Uduak Akpan to death by hanging for the murder of Iniubong Umoren.

Umoren, a graduate of Philosophy, University of Uyo, was killed in April 2021. She was job hunting while awaiting mobilisation for the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.

The judge, Bassey Nkanang, in his judgment on Thursday, said the convicted man should be killed by hanging.

Ms Umoren went missing on 29 April 2021 after she was lured out of her home in Uyo with a fake job interview by Uduak Akpan.

On April 30, 2011, Ms Umoren’s corpse was disinterred in a shallow grave by police operatives, a day after she was raped and killed at Akpan’s family compound.

Her repulsive murder sparked nationwide outrage and condemnation over increasing rape cases in Nigeria.

The situation forced several Nigerians to use the hashtag #FindHinyUmoren to help track the missing woman’s location or uncover the identity and location of the person she went to meet.

Uduak Umoh, who is a friend of Ms Umoren tweeted during the search then. she heard her scream for help when she established contact with her on the phone.

“She sent me a 1 sec audio record on WhatsApp and I had to call her back to know if she wanted to say something to me but immediately I called her, I heard her screaming.”

When Uduak Akpan first appeared in court on July 26, 2021, he pleaded guilty to murder, but not guilty to rape.

Having admitted to murdering the victim, the court, however, entered a not-guilty plea for the murder of Ms Umoren.

“For a capital offence, an accused person pleading guilty is neither here nor there. As far as the law is concerned, he is not guilty until we (prosecution) prove our case,” the Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, Uko Udom, who led the prosecution team, told reporters then.

“So, if an accused person pleads guilty in a capital offence like this, the court normally would enter a plea of not guilty for him.”

To the surprise of many, Akpan later made a U-turn during his trial and denied raping and killing Ms Umoren.

He told the court that he had a fever the day he pleaded guilty and that it was the influence of his Investigating Police Office that made him plead guilty.

The convict also denied the confessional statements he made to the police, stressing that a similar statement made to the Department of State Services (DSS) was done under duress.

But Ama Okeke, a call data analyst with the DSS, who testified before the court, presented a video recording of Mr Akpan’s interview session which countered his claims. The court admitted the video as evidence.

Presenting a call record analysis in court, the DSS official said Akpan and Ms Umoren were at the same cell record and coordinate (location) in Nung Ikono Obio in Uruan Local Government Area.

According to Okeke, investigations by the secret service led to the arrest of Mr Akpan’s sister, who is the 3rd accused person, Bassey-Awan, in Calabar, Cross River State.

Apart from his confessional statements to the police and the DSS, the convict told reporters how he lured and killed the victim while he was paraded at the police headquarters in Uyo.

In his testimony before the court to justify his son’s innocence, Frank Akpan, the father of the convict, told the court his son had a mental disorder and was an outpatient at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital.

Nkanang also found Mr Akpan guilty of rape and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Akpan confessed to committing the crime, saying he was ready to die if found guilty but recounted his confession days later.

“When I met her, I asked her whether she would like to work in a hard drug farm and she agreed,” Akpan said.

“When we got to the house, I asked her for sex and she agreed and insisted I use condom.

“It was when I tried to remove the condom that she picked up the stabilizer and hit me and blood was coming out of my head.

“At that point, I grabbed the stabilizer and hit her, trying to make her submit peacefully. It was not my intention to kill her, but if at the end of everything I am found guilty, I am ready to also die.”

The judge, Bassey Nkanang, said the prosecution has proved beyond doubt the case of rape and murder against Mr Akpan.

He, however, discharged and acquitted the father and sister of Mr Akpan, who were the 2nd and the 3rd defendants in the case.

After the judge read out the judgment, the convicted rapist attempted to escape from the courtroom but was overpowered by security officials.

Mr Nkanang took over two hours to finish reading the judgement.

After Nkanang read out the judgment, the convicted rapist attempted to escape from the courtroom but was overpowered by security officials.

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