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Barely two years after, an Anambra State High Court sitting in Awka Monday, April 15, 2019, discharged and acquitted remaining two suspects in the killing of 13 worshipers at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of the state.
Recall that the early Morning Mass killing happened on August 6, 2017, when a gang of AK 47 welding killers drove into the church premises, rushed into the church as Service was on and opened fire, killing about seven on the spot while the remaining badly wounded six later died in hospitals.
Though preliminary but unconfirmed report linked one of the community’s illustrious sons based in South Africa, Chief Bishop Aloysius Ikegwuonu, however, during the trial there seemed to be no fact connecting him hence he was never declared wanted nor arrested as he later came home and visited the church compound in company of the State governor, Chief Willie Obiano.
Bishop’s father, Cyprian Ikegwuonu was among the seven victims failed by the bullets of the killers as he was one of the church members at the service on that fateful day of attack. Locals had rumoured that the killings were in reprisal to similar killings allegedly linked to his son in random South African drug war. However, these claims had been rested as untrue in the course of community investigations after all.
Today in a three-hour judgement, Justice Fidelis Aniukwu faulted claims of the prosecution counsel, concluding that he has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the culpability of the defendants, Chinedu Akpunonu and Onyebuchi Mbanefo, concerning the killings.
Recall that the same Court had earlier in December 2018, discharged two out of the four suspects arraigned before it on the matter, leaving the last two who were freed on Monday.
Business Hilights South East Bureau chief gathered that the Court chided the prosecution team including witnesses for their inability to “provide any evidence linking the defendants to the murder as alleged.”
Though the lead prosecution counsel, Mr. Jay Jay Ezeuko, SAN, averred that his next line of action will depend on after going through the certified true copy of the judgement, defence lawyer, Mr. Festus Kayemo, SAN, noted in reaction that the judgement is “a landmark”, arguing that “It’s the prosecution’s right to appeal the judgement. But from what I witnessed in the court today, it will be very difficult for the appeal court to upturn the judgement.”
The two freed suspects who were seen in endless cries of joy said they had forgiven their accusers. Both freed suspects had been in detention since their arrest shortly after the killings.
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