The trial of Jeffery Okafor, the 23-year old Nigerian arrested in Asaba in September for the murder of a teenage university student, commenced in London Friday.
Mr. Okafor was extradited to London and handed over to prosecutors in the case on Thursday, November 6, icirnigeri.org can authoritatively report.
An officer of the Homicide and Major Crime Command of the British Police, who does not want to be named, confirmed to our reporter on Friday morning that Mr. Okafor was charged before a Croydon Magistrate Court for murder early Friday.
According to the source, since the magistrate court does not have the competence to try a murder case, the matter is expected to be transferred to a higher court in the following days. The higher court will determine when Mr. Okafor’s trial will start and whether he should be held in custody until his trial proper commences.
Mr. Okafor, who is being tried for the murder in August 2009 of Carl Beatson Asiedu, a 19-year old disk jockey, fled London in August 2009 using his younger brother’s passport. The brother, Junior Okafor, was prosecuted and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on August 12, 2012 for aiding the fugitive’s escape.
Their mum, Lynn Kanebi, was also prosecuted on the same charge but was found not guilty and acquitted.
The Nigerian Police arrested Okafor on September 23 in Asaba, capital of delta State, five years after he fled London and possible prosecution for the August 1, 2009 murder.
His arrest was announced by the police this week in a press statement signed by Emmanuel Ojuku, its spokesman.
The fugitive’s arrest came after a desperate Facebook campaign by Mr. Asiedu’s family and a £10,000 reward offered by British Police to anyone who could provide useful information leading to his arrest.
Known as DJ Charmz, Mr. Asiedu was stabbed in the heart on a London street shortly after performing at the Club Life Nightclub in Goding Street,Kennington, South London.The police said the victim was walking down the street along with friends to their car when they were approached by Mr. Okafor and a group of other guys.
An argument broke out between the two groups which led to Asiedu’s stabbing. The young man died on the way to the hospital. A friend of Asiedu was also stabbed but he was rushed to hospital and he has since recovered from his injuries.
Mr. Okafor fled London two weeks later to Nigeria. Evidence presented in court indicated that Junior gave his brother the passport with which he travelled to Nigeria. CCTV footage shown in court also showed Okafor and his younger brother at the Heathrow Airport before the former boarded his flight to Nigeria.
Mr. Okafor’s friend, Junior Ademujimi – Falade, 20, was charged for murder on the basis of joint enterprise but he was found guilty and convicted on December 2, 2011 of violent disorder and manslaughter and sentenced to three years and eight years imprisonment respectively to run concurrently.
Witnesses told the court that Ademujimi – Falade was hiding an object under his shirt moments before Asiedu was stabbed and killed.
Two other, Bolaji Koko – Are and Abu Mansaray, were also prosecuted and convicted of violent disorder in may, 2011. They were both sentenced to three years in prison.
Detective Inspector Alison Hepworth of the Homicide and Major Crimes Command said all the evidence in Asiedu’s murder case point to Okafor.
“… there has always been one outstanding individual whom we sought to trace whom we believe delivered the data stab wound. that person is jeffrey Okafor. There is strong evidence indicating his involvement on the night when Carl died,” he stated.
Speaking further, Detective Hepworth said, “We know Jeffrey fled the UK to evade arrest and avoid facing justice. He flew to Nigeria entering the country illegally under false identity,” and alleged that family and friends of the fugitive in Nigeria and the UK were supporting him and shielding him from justice.
Frustrated by the failure to apprehend Mr. Okafor, the British Police early this year offered a £10,000 reward to anybody who could provide useful information leading to his arrest.
Besides, a huge Facebook campaign was also launched to exposed his crime and help trace his whereabouts. The police said they knew that Mr. Okafor was a Facebook user and still maintained communication on the social media platform with friends in Nigeria and the UK who might not have known that he was a fugitive from the law.
Asiedu, from Norbury in South London was studying Media Production at Leicester University at the time he was killed. His death has seriously traumatised his family, with his father declaring that a “life sentence of sorrow had been placed on him.
John Asiedu, the victim’s father, in a statement released during the investigation issued a passionate appeal to Okafor to give himself up.
“Five years have passed since carl was murdered. I still feel the pain and get a lump in my throat whenever his tragic death crosses my mind or when i hear that someone has been stabbed to death. Part of me died with me.”
“I would urge Jeffrey Okafor to do the right thing and give himself up,” the aggrieved father appealed.
Annabelle Asiedu, the victim’s sister described him as “extremely talented, charming and always smiling.”
“Carl told me the week before he was taken from us that he was going to be famous before the end of the summer. In his words he said he was allergic to being broke, addicted to achievements and success was his catalyst.”
Those dreams have died with the teenager and the man who cut them short now faces a sentence of death or life imprisonment if found guilty.
This story was first published by International Centre for Investigative Reporting. We are republishing here with the permission of the author.