Nigeria: death sentence for convicted ritual murderers though victim is still missing

The following post refers to a complicated legal verdict. Most people may find the following text incomprehensible. Be that as it may, the reason for including it here is that – summarized – the accused have been found guilty of the crime of murder although the dead body of the victim was never found.

As I often state here, most ritual murder cases which are discovered only represent the tip of the iceberg: many ritual murders are never discovered.

The accused, Nancy Aiwuyor, and two other persons were found guilty by the Supreme Court of Nigeria of – again summarized (FVDK) – conspiracy, child stealing and murder. See the first paragraph of the article below (‘Facts’).

In the last paragraph it becomes clear that the accused stole the child – apparently a baby, see the last but one paragraph – for ritual purposes: The Supreme Court held that the prosecution (a lower court) has proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that the acts of the three accused caused the presumed death of the child they stole for ritual purposes (italics mine, FVDK).

Hence, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of the three accused  who will face the capital punishment for the crime(s) committed.

The Supreme Court’s decision does not reveal the identity of the victim, a child who has been missing for (over) seven years. The incident took place in 2009. The importance of the Supreme Court’s decision lies in the accepted legal principle that the person who was last seen in company of a missing person can be charged with murder.

Doctrine of Last Seen in a Charge of Murder

Published: January 25, 2022
By: This Day, Nigeria

In the Supreme Court of Nigeria Holden at Abuja On Friday, the 11th day of June, 2021

Before Their Lordships Amina Adamu Augie Uwani Musa Abba Aji Mohammed Lawal Garba Tijjani Abubakar Emmanuel Akomaye Agim Justices, Supreme Court

SC. 996C/2018


Nancy Aiwuyor Appellant


The State Respondent

(Lead Judgement delivered by Honourable Mohammed Lawal Garba, JSC)


The Appellant and two other persons were charged and tried for offences bothering on conspiracy, child stealing and murder, contrary to the provisions of Sections 516, 317 and 319 (1) of the Criminal Code. Five witnesses testified for the prosecution; while the Appellant was the sole witness. The trial court convicted the Appellant and others for the offences charged, and they were sentenced to death for the offence of murder. The Appellant’s appeal to the Court of Appeal, was dismissed. The Appellant further appealed to the Supreme Court.

Issue for Determination

The Supreme Court considered the following sole issue as being central to the appeal and decided the appeal thereon:

“Whether the lower court was right, that the prosecution had proved the offences the Appellant was charged with beyond reasonable doubt by the evidence adduced before the trial court.”


Relying on the decision of court in COP v AMUTA LPELR- 41386(SC), counsel for the Appellant submitted that in criminal trials, the burden of proof is beyond reasonable doubt, and this burden rests on the prosecution throughout trial. Counsel contended that the burden is to be discharged by credible and cogent evidence, which is sufficient to eliminate reasonable doubt that it was the accused person who committed the offence he was charged with. Counsel relied on IGBABELE v STATE (2006) 5 NWLR (Pt. 975) 100 for the three ingredients of the offence of murder which the prosecution is required to prove together or conjunctively, in order to satisfy the proof beyond reasonable doubt. It was the position of counsel that the prosecution did not, by the evidence adduced at trial, prove any of the offences against the Appellant, particularly murder, beyond reasonable doubt. He argued that the witnesses called in the case did not give evidence in that regard, and that the Court of Appeal erred in law to have affirmed the conviction of the Appellant in the absence of proof beyond reasonable doubt. Further relying on the case of ORISA v STATE (2018) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1631) 457, Counsel argued that the evidence of the Appellant was cogent, unequivocal, and remained unshaken during cross-examination, but the trial court simply disregarded it in its judgement. Counsel argued that it is the duty of the trial court to resolve any doubt in the circumstantial evidence in favour of the accused person where it is capable of two interpretations; one showing the innocence and the other, the guilt of the accused person.

In response to the submissions above, counsel argued for the Respondent that the prosecution had discharged the burden of proof of the offences the Appellant was charged with, and that the trial and lower court were right to have convicted and affirmed the conviction of the Appellant; respectively. Counsel submitted that the concurrent findings of the two courts are not only borne out of abundance of evidence, but also based on relevant principles of law in Section 135(1) of the Evidence Act. Relying on OSENI v STATE (2012) 208 LRCN 151, he posited that that proof could be in any of the following ways: confessional statement by an accused person, circumstantial evidence or evidence of eyewitness of the crime. Counsel submitted that conspiracy, which is an offence that may not always be proved by direct evidence, and is distinct from the main offence, can be inferred from the facts and circumstances of a case – IKEMSON v STATE (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt. 110) 455. Counsel contended that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, depicted vividly how the Appellant in company of the 1st & 2nd accused persons in consensus ad idem, stole and eventually murdered the victim for ritual purposes, and that the evidence of DW1 and DW2 corroborated the prosecution evidence to prove the charge of conspiracy as required by law. For the offence of child stealing, counsel argued that citing the evidence of PW1 and statement of the Appellant, established that the Appellant actively participated in the commission of the offence and that no evidence was given in rebuttal by the Appellant. On the offence of murder, counsel relied on EDAMINE v STATE (1996) 3 NWLR (Pt. 438) 530 for the essential ingredients of the offence, and argued that the law is settled that where the victim was last seen with the accused person and has not been found after a period of more than seven years, death would be presumed by virtue of Section 164(1) of the Evidence Act. Learned counsel submitted that the evidence before the trial court, was that the victim was last seen by and with the Appellant who received her from the 2nd accused person, and the victim has not been seen or found since February 24th, 2009, thereby giving rise to the reasonable presumption of death. Counsel submitted further that concurrent findings by the two lower courts, was rooted in the evidence which sufficiently established the ingredients required to prove the offences beyond reasonable doubt against the Appellants.

Court’s Judgement and Rationale

Before deciding the sole issue, the Supreme Court pointed out that the law permits a Respondent who did not file a Cross-appeal or a Respondent’s Notice of Appeal, to formulate issues from the grounds of appeal filed by the Appellant, and in so doing, adopt a favourable slant. Such Respondent does not have to adopt the form or style of the Appellant, in the formulation of the issues for determination -ATANDA v AJAYI (1989)3 NWLR (Pt. 111) 511.

Deciding the sole issue, the Supreme Court held that it is elementary in all superior courts of record in Nigeria, that by the combined provisions of Section 131, 132, 135(1) and 139 of the Evidence Act 2011, the burden of proof in all criminal trials is on the prosecution, to prove the offences which the accused persons are alleged to have committed beyond reasonable doubt. Another settled principle of law is that, the burden of proof imposed on the prosecution in criminal trials can be effectively discharged, and the presumption of innocence in favour of an accused person completely displaced by any of the following ways: confessional statement of the accused person which satisfies the requirements of law, direct eyewitness evidence or circumstantial evidence which meets or satisfies the requirements of the law – IGBABELE v STATE (2006) 5 NWLR (Pt. 975).

The court held that for the evidence to be adduced by the prosecution in the discharge of the burden of proof in any of these ways, by law, all material ingredients or elements which constitute the offence with which he was charged before the court, must be established together or conjunctively. Where a trial court failed or omitted to adequately, properly, and fairly consider a defence disclosed in the evidence before it which is open and available to an accused person before convicting him for the offence he was charged with, an appellate court would readily consider such defences in the event of an appeal on the failure or omission by the trial court – OJO v STATE (1973) 11 SC. An appellate court lacks the judicial competence to consider, deal with, pronounce and decide any issue or point which is outside of and not related to the grounds of an appeal contained on the Notice of Appeal filed before. In this instance, however, the Appellant did not, by his Grounds of Appeal or the issues submitted to the lower court for its determination, raise the issue of omission or failure by the trial court to consider the defence raised by the Appellant during trial, in the judgement appealed against. Not being an issue submitted to it or arising from any of the grounds of appeal before it, the lower court had no obligation or duty in law, to deal with or make pronouncement on the alleged omission or failure by the trial court to consider the defence raised by the Appellant at the trial court – IYAJI v EYIGEBE (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 61) 523.

Further, the proof of the offence of conspiracy lies in the inferences to be drawn from subsequent illegal acts or conducts by the individual conspirators. towards meeting or achieving the common intention and purpose. From the series and sequence of the acts and conduct by the accused persons, as narrated in their respective statements, there is no reasonable doubt that they could only come from the personal knowledge and common intention of persons who had agreed to commit an illegal act for a common purpose as envisaged by the provisions of Sections 7 and 8 of the Criminal Code, in order to constitute the offence of conspiracy between them. The evidence adduced by the prosecution through PW3 – the victim’s father, established beyond reasonable doubt that the victim who was a three-year-old at the material time, was taken away from their care, possession, and protection, forcibly and with the clear intention to steal her for an illegal purpose. The evidence leaves no reasonable doubt that the offence of child stealing under Section 371 of the Criminal Code was committed, in furtherance and pursuit of the common intention by the Appellant and her co-conspirators; the first and second accused persons. Consequently, the offences of conspiracy to commit felony and child stealing have been proved by the evidence, adduced by the prosecution, beyond reasonable doubt, as required by the law and the lower court was right to have affirmed her conviction for the said offences.

On the charge of murder, the court held that the law is firmly settled, as seen in loads of judicial authorities, that for the prosecution to secure a conviction for the offence of murder, the following crucial, vital and essential elements must be proved conjunctively, beyond reasonable doubt, that the death of the human has actually and in fact, taken place or occurred, the death was caused by the acts done or attributable to the accused person charged with the offence and the acts was done by the accused person with the intention to cause the death or that at the material time he knew or had reason to know that death was the probable, and not only a likely consequence of the act- OKORO v STATE (1988) 12 SCNJ.

In this case, the child who the Appellant and other accused persons conspired with, and stole was not found up to the time her trial commenced and ended. The lower court believed and relied on the evidence that since the Appellant and the co-accused conspired and stole the missing child who had not been seen or found for a period of seven years thereafter, there was the presumption of her death, and the Appellant had the duty to explain what happened to her because they were last seen with her. As shown by the evidence, the Appellant and the 2nd accused person were the last persons seen with the victim, when she was handed over to them by the 1st accused person on the 24th February, 2009 and they took her away alive, but she had since then, not been traced, seen or heard of or about. The Appellant has the duty to give or offer an acceptable explanation on the whereabouts, the condition or situation that the baby victim has been from the time they took her away from the village until she was traced, found or heard of or about, if ever. The fact that there was no direct evidence of her death or that her dead body was not found, would not affect or detract from the statutory presumption of her death, or its proof by the cogent and compelling circumstantial evidence placed before the trial court – STATE v SUNDAY (2019) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1676) 115. The court held further that the lower court was right that the presumption provided for and envisaged in the provisions of Section 164(1) of the Evidence Act applied in the Appellant’s case such that until rebutted by the Appellant, it was safe to say that the death of the child was proved beyond reasonable doubt in the circumstances of the case.

On the element that the death of the child was attributable to or resulted from the acts of the Appellant, the court held that the prosecution has proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that the acts of the Appellant along with her co-conspirators, caused the statutorily presumed death of the child they stole for ritual purposes. Thus, the second element of the offence of murder was thereby, satisfied. On the last of the elements, their Lordships held that with the brutal removal of nine fingers and the hair of the three year old victim, no reasonable doubt exists in the Appellant’s case that she indeed intended and knew that the death of their unfortunate victim was the inevitable result or consequence of their nefarious acts. The court therefore, affirmed the conviction of the Appellant.

Appeal Dismissed.

Olayiwola Afolabi for the Appellant.
Paulyn O. Abhulimen for the Respondent.

Reported by Optimum Publishers Limited, Publishers of the Nigerian Monthly Law Reports (NMLR)(An affiliate of Babalakin & Co.)

Source: Doctrine of Last Seen in a Charge of Murder

Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) asks government to speed upon ‘albino’ cases, criticises cover-ups and the protection of high-placed politicians

Unfortunately, the below article contains a too familiar story. Attacks on persons with albinism, mutilation, murder, involvement of high-placed politicians, cover up practices. The President of the Associations of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM), Ian Simbota, again turned his attention to the country’s rulers and requested the government of President Lazarus Chakwera to speed up all abduction and murder cases which targeted people with albinism (PWA) for ritualistic purposes, often involving high-profile politicians.

It is shocking to read the following article. I won’t repeat here what follows. Once more, however, I want to draw attention to these heinous crimes which threaten people with albinisme on a daily basis. Ritual murders must end. Politicians and other culprits who are involved must be apprehended, put on trial and sentenced. Simultaneously, a national awareness campaign must start, emphasizing the sanctity of life, the need to protect innocent people, the promotion of human rights notably to right to live and the right to live without fear. The government must take its responsibility and act accordingly – or resign.
(webmaster FVDK).

APAM asks Tonse Alliance Govt. to speed upon ‘albino’ cases

Published: April 29, 2021
By: Nyasa Times – Tiwonge Kumwenda

Source: APAM asks Tonse Alliance Govt. to speed upon ‘albino’ cases

Nigeria: ritual killing: Osun man sentenced to death by hanging

Several Nigerian states (Osun, OndoRivers) have enacted laws making it possible for judges to pronounce the death sentence for a specified number of crimes. Osun State is one of them. Ritualistic murders occur frequently in this southeastern state. Among the crimes mentioned in the law which carry the capital punishment when found guilty is murder committed for the purpose of a ‘money ritual’, as ritualistic murders are called in Africa’s most populated country.

More than one Nigerian state faces this phenomenon which seems difficult to eradicate. In my view it will not be eradicated by any severe jail sentence, not even by the capital punishment. The only solution is education, to instruct people that superstition does not lead to success, power or wealth. Nonetheless, the rule of law must apply and perpetrators of heinous crimes must pay for their deeds. (webmaster FVDK).

Ritual killing: Man sentenced to death by hanging

Published: July 7, 2020
By: The News, Nigeria 

An Osun State High Court sitting in Ile-Ife on Tuesday sentenced a 37- year-old man, Ogunyemi Oluleke, to death by hanging for murder.

Oluleke was arraigned on March 6, 2013 on two-count charge of murder and conspiracy to murder contrary to Sections 319 and 324 of Criminal Code, Laws of Osun State.

The offences were allegedly committed at Iredunmi area of Ile-Ife and at Oketase area in Ile-Ife around 10:00 a.m on Feb. 17, 2010.

At about 10:00am on Feb. 17, 2010, one Moshood Babalola was killed by cutting off his head with knife at Iredunmi area, ile-ife.

Mr Babalola Sikiru lodged the complaint of his lost son (Moshood Babalola) at More Police Station, Ile-Ife, on Feb. 18, 2010.

The Prosecution Counsel from the Ministry of Justice, Lawyer Tijani Adekilekun, called five witlessness and rendered several exhibits to prove the case.

Adekilekun also informed the court through one of his witnesses, Insp. Rasheedat Olanrewaju, that she was among the three policemen that went to a village in Agbedegbede area.

Olarewaju said that her team went to the house of the convict for a search and during the search, they saw decomposed body of one person in the convict’s house.

In his additional statement after the discovery of deceased corpse in his house on Feb., 2010, Ogunyemi confessed that he killed Moshood Babalola for rituals.

Justice Adedotun Onibokun found the accused guilty of the charges preferred against him.

The Defence Counsel, Mr Olalekan Banjo, pleaded to the court to temper justice with mercy, claiming that his client was a first offender.

Onibokun sentenced him to death by hanging.

Source: Ritual killing: Man sentenced to death by hanging

Related article:

Osun man to die by hanging for ritual killing

Published: July 8, 2020
By: Punch, Nigeria – Bola Bamigbola, Osogbo

Source: Osun man to die by hanging for ritual killing

Osun State, Nigeria: two men sentenced to death for murdering Uniosun student for money ritual

On Tuesday, March 10 the Osun State House of Assembly passed into law a bill that made kidnapping, banditry and ritual killing a crime punishable by death. See my March 13, 2020 posting.

Therefore, the following is not surprise. Recently, on Thursday, April 2, an Osun State High Court in Ikirun has sentenced two men to death by hanging for murdering Rofiat Adebisi for money ritual purposes. Rofiat Adebesi was a a student of the Osun State University when she met her untimely death. The following article provides more details though it is not known when the hanging will take place (webmaster FVDK).

2 Men Sentenced To Death For Using Uniosun Final Year Student For Money Ritual (Photos)

Published: April 3, 2020
By: Sundiata Post (Ebere)

An Osun State High Court sitting in Ikirun has sentenced two men to death by hanging for killing one Rofiat Adebisi, who at the time of her death was a student of the Osun State University, Osogbo.

Giving his judgment on Thursday in the trial that lasted almost two and half years, Justice Oyejide Falola, said 25-year-old Elijah Oyebode and Jelili Raji, aka Ifa, 35, should be hanged after he found them guilty of murdering the undergraduate.

The convicts were first arraigned on November 14, 2017, alongside one Yusuf Ajibade on three counts bordering on conspiracy to commit murder and murder contrary to sections 324 and 316, and punishable under sections 319 and 322 of the Criminal Code, Cap.3, Laws of Osun State, 2002.

The prosecution team called five witnesses and tendered exhibits before the court, while the accused testified for themselves.

Giving the facts of the matter, the lead prosecution counsel, Kareem Adekilekun, who appeared with Kemi Oyolola for the Ministry of Justice, said on December 22, 2016, Rofiat, a 400-level student of UniOsun, Ipetu-Ijesa campus, boarded a car driven by Oyebode and went missing.

However, a day after, Rofiat’s dead body was found by the Egbeda/Iragbiji Road.

Following investigation by the police, Ajibade was arrested for selling the deceased’s iPhone to one Kolapo Quadri on the instructions of Oyebode.

When apprehended, Oyebode claimed that Raji hired him to get a lady with the aid of a charm he gave him, which would make the victim to obey all instructions given to her.

Oyebode said Raji paid him N10,000 to bring the victim to his shrine, adding that he hit Rofiat with the charm, while she was putting her luggage in the car.

Giving evidence, a police officer from the Homicide Section of State Criminal Investigation Department, Adeyeye Simon, told the court that Oyebode, a commercial driver plying the Akure-Owena Road, took Rofiat to Raji house’s after he had sex with her.

He also claimed that Rofiat died at Raji’s house, while Oyebode assisted him to dump her remains on the road.

Another witness, Olatomiwa Alade, from the Department of the State Services, said the deceased’s phone was traced to Quadri, who claimed that he bought it from Ajibade.

The counsel for the accused, Suleiman Bello, urged the court to be merciful on his clients.

In his judgment, Justice Falola found Oyebode and Raji guilty of murder and conspiracy, and sentenced them to death by hanging.

The court, however, discharged and acquitted Ajibade on the counts of murder and conspiracy, but sentenced him to two years in prison for receiving stolen property.

Source: 2 Men Sentenced To Death For Using Uniosun Final Year Student For Money Ritual (Photos)

Related article: Two to Die by Hanging in Osun for Killing Final Year Student

Published: April 2, 2020
By: Sundiata Post

Abuja – Justice Jide Falola of Osun High Court sitting in Ikirun has sentenced two men to death by hanging for murder.

Falola, in his judgement on Thursday, said the prosecution counsel proved his case against the convicts – Elijah Oyebode, 25, Yusuf Ajibade, 28, and Jelili Raji, 35 – beyond reasonable doubt.

He, however, acquited the second convict, Ajibade, of two-count charge of murder and conspiracy but convicted him on the third count charge of receiving stolen property.

The judge sentenced him to two years imprisonment, while Oyebode and Raji were sentenced to death by hanging.

He also said that the shrine where the deceased was murdered be forfeited to the state government.

The convicts, who were first arraigned on Nov. 14, 2017, pleaded not guilty to three-count-charge of conspiracy to commit murder, murder and stealing preferred against them.

The State Counsel, Mr Kareem Adekilekun, had earlier told the court that the defendants murdered one Miss Rofiat Adebisi, a 400-level student of Osun University, Ipetu-Ijesha, on Dec. 22 2016.

Adekilekun said the offences were contrary to Sections 324 and 316, and punishable under Sections 319 and 322 of the Criminal Code Cap.3 Law of Osun, 2002, respectively.

The prosecution counsel told the court that on that fateful day, the deceased boarded a golf car with Lagos number plate FKJ 636 DL, driven by the first convict, Oyebode.

Adekilekun further told the court that on Dec. 23, 2016, the lifeless body of the deceased was found by the road side along Egbeda road in the state.

He said the convicts were arrested with help of the police through the iPhone 5 of the deceased, which was sold to Ajibade.

Adekilekun said Oyebode, in his confessional statement, said that Raji asked him to supply him a maid.

According to the prosecution counsel, a charm was given to Oyebode by Raji to charm any lady that he will bring and that such lady will be unconscious.

He also explained that in Oyebode confessional statement, he said the charm was used against the deceased.

He said Oyebode thereafter handed the deceased to Raji in his shrine and paid him N10,000.

He also told the court that the confessional statements of the three convicted persons were corroborated by the police, whose report showed that Oyebode had sex with deceased before taking her to Raji’s shrine.

Counsel to convicts, Mr Suleiman Bello, pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy.(NAN)

Source: Two to Die by Hanging in Osun for Killing Final Year Student

Liberia: ritualistic killings spark mob action in Maryland County (2005 article)

There are so many reports on ritualistic killings in Liberia, one should almost lose track. Below is another article, dating from 2005, on ritualistic murders in Maryland County, perhaps the most notorious region of Liberia as far as ritual murders are concerned. (webmaster FVDK)

Hanging of Convicted Ritual Killers (‘Harper Seven’) in Harper City, Maryland County (1979) – Picture by FVDK Fred van der Kraaij

Published: January 27, 2005
By Josephus Moses Gray – The Perspective 

Some panic-stricken inhabitants of the southeastern county of Maryland, mainly in Harper city, over the weekend took the law into their hands when they staged a violent protest over the wave of ritualistic killings which has re-surfaced in the area.

The county is noted for ritualistic killings, despite serious actions taken over the years by the Liberian government – by putting perpetrators to death by hanging while giving others lengthy prison sentences.

According to latest report emerging from the county, hundreds of angry residents came out to protest the alleged failure of the appropriate security apparatus to curtail the wave of ritualistic killings in the county.

During the violence demonstration staged by the youth of the county, several persons were victimized while several business houses and private homes were reportedly attacked and looted by the mobs. Liberia’s Justice Minister, Cllr. Kabineh Ja’neh told journalists in Monrovia this week that the mobs attacked the National Police Headquarters on Green Street in Harper and released several prisoners sentenced for various crimes.

The Justice Minister explained further that the mobs ransacked the Harper Police headquarters and flogged two detainees severely. The two victims, according to minister, have been accused of being involved in the ritualistic killing in the county.

In order to restore calm in the area, the transitional government has imposed a dust to dawn curfew in the county, while at the same time the government has instituted a thorough probe into circumstances that led to the mob action.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative in Liberia, Ambassador Jacques Paul Klein told journalists in Monrovia that the UN Mission in Liberia is carefully studying the situation in the county.

According to the UN diplomat, UN peacekeepers are on standby to move into the county should the situation continue in an effort to help ensure the safety and security of the people of Maryland. Warning the residents to remain in doors during he curfew which run from 6: PM to 6:AM daily, ambassador Klein said UNMIL will provide full security for the people of the county.

The situation in the past led to severe punishment administered against convicted sons and daughters of the county, with some of them being publicly hanged to death, while others were given long prison sentences. Among those hanged were the former Superintendent of the County, James Anderson, Jr., Allen Yancy, Francis Nyepan, Philip Seton, Oldman Barclay and Madam Wreh Tarnyonoh, just to name few. They were hanged on 17th February 1979 during the regime of the late President William R. Tolbert, Jr. after a guilty verdict was brought down against them for killing a popular Kru traditional singer Moses Tweh.

Similar situation re-emerged in 1986 and took away the lives of two little kids in the county. Those connected to the act include former NDPL county chairman, David Clark, Alfred Davies, Jasper Bedell, Gbason Toe and one Gardner. They were arrested and brought to Monrovia where they were sentenced to prolong detention while under going investigation.

Another 200 persons were round-up by the former Superintendent of the county now Minister of Internal affairs, Minister H. Dan Morais for the mysterious death of Lt. Alphonso Chalde, former employee of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN).

Source: Ritualistic Killings Spark Mob Action in Maryland

Malawi sentences man to death for murder of albino teenager

Published: May 3, 2019
By: Reuters – reporting by Frank Phiri; editing by Alison Williams

BLANTYRE (Reuters) – A man was sentenced to death in Malawi on Friday for killing an albino teenager in a case has become a campaign issue ahead of a national election this month, with the opposition accusing the government of inaction. 

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in rural Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, fuelling ritual killings particularly targeting people with albinism because of the belief that their body parts can increase wealth. 

In the first such punishment for the abduction and killing of people with albinism, Justice Mclean Kamwambe said he wanted to send a stern warning to would-be offenders. 

“The death sentence is appropriate as it reflects a sense of justice in the circumstances,” he said at Malawi’s High Court. 

The judge said the killings and abductions of albinos since 2014 had tainted the international image of Malawi, and had reduced the country to “a state of terror”. 

The focus on albino murders has sparked finger-pointing amongst politicians ahead of the election on May, 21 with the main opposition party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), accusing government of doing little to stop the killings. 

The government, which formed a judicial inquiry into the killings and abductions, has denied this saying it cannot interfere in work of the police and courts. 

The government has also offered cash rewards for information about the abductions and killings, which have reached at least 150 since 2014 according to the United Nations. 

According to the court’s ruling, the convicted 28-year-old confessed to the murder and said he wanted to use the 19-year-old victims’ body parts to become rich on instructions from a witch-doctor in neighboring Mozambique. 

The superstitions, stigmas and maiming and killing of people with albinism is visible across a number of southern and East African countries with cases reported in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa with a lucrative market for the trade in albino body parts, in the region and internationally. 

Source: Malawi sentences man to death for murder of albino teenager