Facebook criminals, who raped and killed a General’s daughter, Cynthia Osokogu, five years ago in Lagos, were sentenced to death today.
Justice Olabisi Akinlade of the Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere sentenced the felons, Okwumo Nwabufo and Olisaeloka Ezike, to death by hanging. She asked their accomplices, Orji Osita and Ezike Nonso, to go home and sin no more.
Osita is the pharmacist who sold the sedative that the killers used to drug Cynthia. He was discharged of the charge of recklessness and negligence for selling prescription drugs without prescription.
Nonso was docked for selling items stolen from Cynthia. He was also discharged and acquitted.
Twenty-Four-Year-Old Cynthia, a single mother and the only daughter of retired General Frank Osokogu, was murdered on July 22, 2012 at Cosmila Suites and Hotels, Lakeview Estate, Satellite Town, in Lagos by Facebook felons who lured her to Lagos from her base in Nassarawa State almost 1000 kilometres apart.
They drugged her with a potent sedative called Rohypnol, tied her up in a hotel room all night, gang-raped, tortured, and strangled her to death.
Her body was found in a Lagos morgue a month after she was declared missing by her family.
The late Cynthia was a post-graduate student, a model, and a successful businesswoman who had a boutique in Nassarawa.
Newsmakersng learnt that she modeled herself on her idol – Tyra Banks. She had participated in beauty pageants and was preparing to contest for the Miss Nigeria Crown, when she became friends with the stalkers on Facebook.
Facebook is the largest social networking company with about 1.55billion active users in the world and 16million in Nigeria,
according to a 2016 statement from the social media operators.
Justice Akinlade ruled that after carefully analysing the evidence before the Court, testimonies of prosecution witnesses, and confessional statements made to the police, she had no doubt that Nwabufor and Olisaeloka killed Cynthia.
She also found them guilty on the second charge of committing felony by stealing her Blackberry phone. She said that the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused intended to take, and in fact took, the life of the deceased in the process of stealing her phone and belongings.
She as well found the duo guilty of the first and third charge of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to steal.
Police detectives led by the then Area Commander of Festac Town, Mr. Dan Okoro, were celebrated nationally and internationally when they cracked the case quickly with the aid of technology and arrested four suspects – Echezoma Okwumo Nwabufor, 33; Ezike Ilechukwu Olisaeloka, 23; Orji Osita, 33; and Ezike Nonso, 25.
Cynthia’s Lagos trip was organized by Nwabufor, who she had met through the BlackBerry Messenger service and Facebook.
For months, he and Cynthia had chatted through these social media platforms and soon she had also accepted his cousin, Olisaeloka, as a friend.
Nwabufor had told Cynthia that he was a student at Lagos State University, and that he had connections that could help her with her fashion business. But Cynthia never knew that Nwabufor had been stalking her for months, patiently gaining her confidence through frequent chats and postings.
Nwabufor made Cynthia an offer that she couldn’t refuse: a flight ticket to Lagos and decent hotel accommodation, where he would bring his business associates to meet her.
Detectives were assisted by CCTV installed at the hotel, where Cynthia was killed.
The detectives told Newsmakersng that after spending the night with Cynthia’s body, the suspects left the hotel in the morning. Then, they placed a call to the hotel reception and told them to get “the body of that bastard” out of the room.
Meanwhile, Cynthia’s mother, Mrs Joy Osokogu, was making frantic efforts to reach her on phone for five days. The phone was switched off.
On the seventh day, the suspects answered the phone and told her that Cynthia was sick. Soon, they were asking her to pay ransom.
“I asked them if they killed my daughter and they said no, she was just sick and couldn’t come to the phone,” Cynthia’s mother said.
Within three weeks, the police were able to arrest the suspects through cell phone records and CCTV footage of them leaving the hotel.
The police arrested other men in connection with the crime, including the pharmacists who sold the Rohypnol to the killers without a prescription, their driver, and a man who assisted the murderers in selling what they stole from Cynthia.
After the arrest, several other women came forward to say how they survived when they also fell victims in the hands of these same felons, who had robbed them after they were drugged and tied up.
The suspects were arraigned on a six-count charge, bordering on conspiracy, murder, stealing, recklessness, negligence, and possession of stolen goods.
They were charged to court, on November 5, 2012, exactly one month after Cynthia Osokogu was buried.
The murder trial began on February 8, 2013, with the state calling the hotel’s receptionist as the first witness.
When the trial resumed on January 12, 2017, Justice Akinlade of the Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere reportedly complained about lawyers using delay tactics.
Akinlade had frowned at the delay by the second defendant’s counsel, A. Nwachukwu, in filing his final written address.
She said that the Court would not entertain delay tactics from any counsel to forestall justice in all cases.
Victor Okpara, who spoke for all the defence counsels, said that the trial was fair.
They were, however, expecting their clients to be discharged and acquitted.
Cynthia’s mother had described her in 2012 as “hardworking, loving, industrious and beautiful.”
She said, “She had achieved so much at age 24.”
The crime buster, Okoro, now a deputy commissioner of police, got a National honour from President Goodluck Jonathan, then, for his accomplishments as a detective and his rejection of a N15 million bribe that was allegedly offered by one of the felons.
He was also rewarded by the then Inspector-General of Police, M.D. Abubakar, with a 24 karat merit gold medal award for his excellent and credible performance.
Cynthia’s murder through the use of social media numbered among several of such cases around the world.
In the United States, Julissa Brisman was murdered by Philip Markoff who used Craigslist to find his victims. Christopher Dannevig pleaded guilty to murdering 18-year-old Australian student Nona Belomesoff after stalking her on Facebook.
On January 26, this year, members of a gang that groomed teenage girls on Facebook before raping them in attacks in Coventry, UK, were jailed for a total of 44-and-a-half years.
The five men, who are all from the city, plied their victims with alcohol and drugs before the attacks in 2015 and 2016.
Waqaar Khan, Marcus Woolcock, Kadeem Bourne, Keenan Kelly and Zahid Chaudhary were found guilty of a total of 18 offences just before last Christmas.
The police say Cynthia’s murder case is a cautionary tale. They called on parents to become more aware and vigilant about what their children are doing while surfing the web.