A High Court of Lagos State has convicted and sentenced a Danish man, Peter Nielsen, to death by hanging for killing his Nigerian wife and daughter.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Bolanle Okikiolu-Ighile convicted Nielsen, 54, on two counts of murder brought against him by the Lagos State Government.
Justice Okikiolu-Ighile sentenced Nielsen to death by hanging on both counts.
The Dane was charged with the death of his wife and singer, Zainab, and their three-year-old daughter, Petra.
Lagos State Government accused him of smothering Zainab and Petra to death at 3.45 a.m. at No. 4, Flat 17, Bella Vista Tower, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos State.
He pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge of murder contrary to Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
Justice Bolanle Okikiolu-Ighile passed the sentence on Friday after an almost five-hour judgment.
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.
Nielsen was arraigned on June 13, 2018, on a two-count charge of murder under Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
He pleaded not guilty, following which trial commenced.
During the trial, the court heard that Zainab and Petra died of head injuries and asphyxia (or suffocation) that were 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.”
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, 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 July 19, 2021, Nielsen lost his bid to regain freedom.
Justice Okikiolu-Ighile dismissed the Dane’s application seeking to be discharged of the double murder charge.
The judge noted that the application, filed by Nielsen’s counsel, 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 Dane had premised 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.
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 Nielsen to open his defence.
In his defence, Nielsen affirmed his testimony that he did not kill both Zainab and Petra.
He told the court on January 11 that he found the duo dead when he awoke from sleep that morning and tried to revive them.
“I remember that 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.