Lagos State Chief Judge, Ayotunde Philips

Lagos State Chief Judge, Ayotunde Philips

A housemaid, Mary John, has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for stealing her mistress’ jewellery estimated at N35m.

The 30-year-old woman slumped moments after hearing the sentence, hitting her head against the carpeted surface of the court room.

The impact shook the walls of the court room, but she was quickly resuscitated and carried out by prison warders.

The convict had been arraigned since September 2012 on four counts of conspiracy, entry, breaking and stealing.

Her mistress, Mrs. Esohe Kadiri, a lawyer, said she stole wristwatches valued at N9m, bangles and bracelets worth N10m, diamond set worth N8m, rings worth N3m, chains and pendants worth N5m, and a camera priced at N100, 000, which all totalled N35, 100,000.

The theft was said to have occurred in July 2012 at her residence in Victoria Garden City, Ajah.

Kadiri, in her evidence before the court said John took advantage of her travel outside the country to perpetrate the theft.

She said she was alerted to the crime by her sister, and after challenging John on phone, she suddenly became incommunicado.

Together with three other witnesses- Kelvin Ikeagwe, Francis Ugbem and Inspector Patrick Onu- 34 exhibits were tendered to nail the accused.

John, however, in her oral testimony, told the court she was hypnotised by some men whom she met on the road.

She also claimed she was taken to an herbalist’s house where she was told that if she told anyone about her experience, she would die.

She said she took the men to her mistress’ residence, and they broke through the burglar proof door to steal the items.

The magistrate, Mrs. Aje Afunwa, in her ruling however observed that the defendant’s written statement was inconsistent with her oral evidence.

She said John had indeed confessed to the crime in her written evidence which the court would admit as true.

She said, “In her evidence, she confessed to breaking the door, climbing the house and stealing the jewellery.

“I choose to believe more the defendant’s written statement than her oral evidence which is an attempt to shift the blame to another person. I believe her oral statement is a figment of her imagination.

“More so, hypnotism or superstition is a phenomenon which is not admissible in law.”

She further referred to her demeanor which she said did not show any sign of “one whose eyes had just been cleared of hypnotism.”

Afunwa said John did not show any remorse or regret for her action and hence deserved full punishment for her action.

She said, “I strongly believe that the defendant stole the items by herself with the help of another person who is at large.

“In view of the rampancy of such a crime where house helps, clerks and servants engage in the stealing of the property of their employer, this honourable court will not be lenient with the accused to serve as a deterrent to others.

“I therefore find the defendant guilty on the four counts of conspiracy, breaking, felony and stealing. She is to serve a prison term of seven years on each count, with hard labour, and the terms are to run concurrently for a maximum of seven years.

“And probably while serving her jail term, she would have a change of heart and probably confess as to where the jewellery is.”