On Trial – Episode 14
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
‘The essence of recording this discussion is so that I can play it back later in the day to see if there is any part of your response that needs to be expunged or built upon,’ Kaira carefully explained to Koje. ‘I would have taken notes in long hand since I don’t know short hand, but that would take a longer time.’
‘Lose it,’ he ground out.
Kaira lifted both hands in frustration.
‘You are being irrational.’
‘I am being irrational?’ he repeated, outraged.
‘Yes you are. I want us to cover a lot of ground before I close for the day but if you prefer that I don’t record you then fine. I’ll point out those areas I ‘remember’ and hope the prosecution does not take advantage of the areas I don’t remember since I’m not a computer to retain every single thing I hear in my memory bank.’
He gave a sigh of defeat.
‘When you put it that way…All right let’s get this over with. I also need to be out of here in time. This trial has been a great distraction to my businesses. And it is not good.’
She pressed the red button on the recorder.
‘Please tell this court where you were between the hours of 10:00pm and 11:00pm on the 18 of February 2016.’
‘I had left Laide’s apartment several minutes earlier. I stopped briefly to pick up the chicken suya I had booked earlier, about N3000 worth, and then hurried to the May-Weather Supermarket to pick up the provisions I had paid for before following Laide outside. I bought a carton of chivita and paid for it and then I left with the provisions.’
‘Do you have a receipt for your purchase from the supermarket?’
‘Yes, I do. Two receipts actually.’
‘How can you identify them?’
‘I signed the customer column on each one.’
She pretended to show him and an invisible counsel the receipts and then she sought to tender them before the court as an exhibits.
‘What happened after you left the supermarket?’
‘I dropped the sales girl who had watched over my provisions when I left the supermarket earlier a lift to Rukpokwu and then headed home. I usually go to the club most evenings but on that particular day I wasn’t really in the frame of mind to hang out with anyone. I was surprised when I woke up to police presence in my home.’
Kaira made a few notes on a plain white paper she had inserted into his case file. She noted that he hadn’t linked the certainly of the time he’d left Laide’s apartment to his meeting with DW1. His evidence that he had given one of the sales girls a ride after she had closed for the day was a perfect link, proving that he had been at the Supermarket before they had closed for the day.
She switched to the role of the prosecution. She threw questions at him intended to keep him relaxed until she got to her main questions. There was nothing as bad as cross-examining a witness who expects the worst from you as such a witness becomes defensive and you can’t get much out of him or her. Keep the witness so relaxed that he or she wouldn’t realise that a rope is going around his or her neck until it has reached strangling point.
‘Mr Quadri, you told this court that you were at the residence of the Prosecutrix on the said day.’
‘Yes I was. But I left before 10pm.’
‘How long were you there?’
‘About half an hour or thereabout.’
‘So it would be correct to say that you arrived at about 9pm?’
He made a mental calculation and said, ‘ Bẹẹ ni.’
She looked at him. ‘You can use your language with me, Quadri but not in open court, okay?’
‘How well do you know the Prosecutrix?’ she continued.
‘She worked for me for two years plus as my personal assistant before she took up another employment.’
‘In the years she worked for you, what sort of relationship did you have?’
‘A very cordial relationship. I had no complaints about her professionalism.’
‘And she was and still is a very beautiful woman, right?’
‘Yes, she is. But-’
‘And naturally no one would blame you for being attracted to her. After all, you are a man with needs.’
‘What are you insinuating?’
She ignored the question.
‘Was she happy working for you?’
‘To the best of my knowledge, yes.’
‘But she resigned.’
‘Yes she did.’
‘Do you consider yourself a ladies’ man, Mr Quadri?’
‘In what context?’
‘You’re a young, affluent and good looking man and I’m sure you have had ladies throwing themselves at you.’
‘I guess so.’
‘Yes or no, Mr Quadri,’ Kaira interrupted.
‘I’m not sure how to answer that question.’
‘Yes or no,’ Kaira repeated.
‘Yes,’ he finally answered.
‘And you’re the kind of man who can have any lady he wants. You’re not used to being rejected.’
‘Well, I’ve never had my proposal rejected, if that’s what you’re asking.’
‘Not even once in the past?’
‘I envy you,’ she said with a smile, then continued. ‘Do you consider yourself to be sweet tempered, Mr Quadri?’
‘I’m not hot-tempered,’ he ground out.
‘But you lose your temper once in a while.’
‘Yes. Everyone does that when the situation calls for it.’
‘And what kind of situation would call for it?’
‘If I’m provoked.’
‘By, like say, something you consider a betrayal?’
‘Yes or something that renders me mega pissed.’
Betrayal, she thought. That’s a good one.
‘Would a feeling of being used amount to a betrayal?’
‘Yes. And I am sure any other person in my position would feel the same way.’
‘But of course. After all, we are mere mortal, and betrayal is something only saints can handle.’
This wasn’t the exact sequence she would follow as a prosecutor and the questions may not be so straight-forward but she would still achieve something at the end of the day.
‘Back to the case at hand. When was the last time you saw the Prosecutrix before the date in question?’
‘About six months earlier.’
‘Six months,’ she repeated. ‘And was there any form of communication between the two of you before then?’
‘Not really. I called but she wouldn’t take my calls or respond to my messages so I let her be.’
‘So until about six months after she had left your employment, there was no communication from her end.’
‘And what was her reaction to meeting you again months after she resigned?’
‘I couldn’t really tell. She was in the company of friends and besides the exchange of pleasantries, she didn’t say much to me. She spent the entire time with her friends.’
‘And was there any further communication after then?’
‘Not on her side. I sent her a chat on Whatsapp and she didn’t respond. I could tell she had seen it but she said nothing.’
‘Why did you keep on trying to contact her?’
‘Because I liked her,’ he admitted. ‘At the risk of sounding like a stalker, it wasn’t because she had rejected my affections. When she wouldn’t take my calls or respond to my messages, I let her be and moved on.’
‘Until the night of the incident.’
‘Yes. I admit it was stupid of me to go after her like that. I probably should have just drawn her attention at the supermarket…’
‘What do you do for a living, Mr Quadri?’ she asked, cutting him short.
‘I am a business man.’
‘And what kind of business are you into?’
‘I have a night club and I started a transport company for trips to the southwest about three years ago.’
‘Before the transport company, you only ran a night club?’
‘No. I also have a consultancy firm – Q-Tech Consults. That business predated every other one. We consult on management and a lot of things and also offer Human resources services, helping with the interview of likely candidates for several positions in firms and companies.’
‘And which part of your business was the Prosecutrix involved in?’
‘All of them. She was my personal assistant but her office was at the consultancy firm.’
‘It is your evidence that you had driven from the office to Igwuruta on the night in question. Which one of your offices was that?’
‘And that is situated where?’
‘Trans Amadi, by Mother Cat.’
Trans Amadi was a great distance from Igwuruta.
‘Where do you live?’
He hesitated before saying, ‘Randolph Drive, Off Peter Odili Road.’
‘So it is correct to say that you drove all the way from Trans Amadi to Igwuruta just to buy provisions from a supermarket.’
That sounded ridiculous even to him as there were lots of supermarkets within Port Harcourt and there wasn’t a popular one in Igwuruta which he could have used as an excuse. Like saying he went to Spar because it was a one stop shop.
‘Yes. I had a terrible day at work and needed to drive a distance to put my thoughts together,’ he replied and she wasn’t sure if he hadn’t made up that answer just then.
‘And the court is to believe that it was a coincidence that you drove to Igwuruta.’
‘Yes, because that’s the truth.’
‘Where was the Prosecutrix residing at the time she was in your employment?’
‘Circular Road, Elekahia,’ he replied.
‘So she moved to Igwuruta after she had left your employment.’
‘It is correct to state that in the course of exchanging pleasantries with you the last time you met, the Prosecutrix did not disclose her new address.’
‘No, she didn’t.’
‘How then did you get her address?’
He paused this time.
‘Remember that you are under oath, Mr Quadri,’ she reminded him.
‘I overheard two of my employees talking about how Laide had secured a beautiful apartment on the ground floor of two storey building not far from the NNPC filing station in Igwuruta, and that she was hosting them that weekend in her home.’
‘So she didn’t have issues with your other employees.’
‘No, she didn’t. They kept in touch as should be expected.’
She nodded as though making a mental note.
‘And that informed your surprise visit.’
‘I didn’t have her complete address,’ he reminded Kaira. ‘I felt it would be nice to see her again and it would have been weird asking one of my employees to part with her address. But I didn’t go to Igwuruta that day with the intention of looking for Laide. I just found myself driving down there and deep in thought.’
‘Was that the first time you had visited the area?’
‘No. I had bought a few things from the All-Weather supermarket a few years ago on my way to Port Harcourt from Owerri.’
‘When was that exactly?’
‘Three years ago.’
‘And do you patronise them often?’
‘Just twice before the night in question.’
‘So in essence, you weren’t really a customer but someone who only shopped there when it was convenient.’
‘You could say so.’
‘What made up the provisions you have told this court that you bought?’
‘Two loaves of bread, Kellogg’s cornflakes, green tea, a bottle of wine and toiletries.’
Two things caught her interest from his list: the loaves of bread and the bottle of wine. A decent prosecutor would also hinge on those two.
‘Were the loaves of bread you bought customised by the supermarket?’
‘No, I bought Nibbles.’
‘And Nibbles can be found in any Kilimanjaro fast food joint, that is correct?
‘I believe so.’
She left it at that.
‘Would it be right to say that in your subconscious mind at the time you drove to Igwuruta, you were hoping to run into the Prosecutrix?
‘I guess so.’
‘And this is a woman who hasn’t kept in touch with you for over a year.’
‘I just wanted to talk to her,’ he replied. ‘I felt bad about the way she had left. There was unfinished business between us.’
‘You still wanted her.’
‘Yes I did. She was in my blood.’
‘And how did you locate her apartment?’
‘I saw her in the supermarket that night and followed her home.’
‘With her consent?’
‘No, she didn’t see me.’
The thought of this man hiding his bulky body from the sight of a woman was a really funny thought.
‘You drove behind her?’
‘No, I left my car in the supermarket and walked the short distance to her apartment.’
‘You seem familiar with the area.’
‘I had once helped a friend search for a decent accommodation within the area. That was the only two storey building rented out to tenants that was close to the NNPC filing station.’
‘You had an idea that was where the Prosecutrix lived?’
‘I had my suspicions but didn’t act on it.’
‘What was her reaction when she saw you on her doorstep?’
‘She was surprised. I told her I was within the area and had seen her get into the apartment.’
‘Did she let you into her apartment?’
‘Yes, she did. And we just talked.’
‘Now, Mr Quadri, it is true that you recommended the Prosecutrix to her current employer.’
‘Yes I did.’
‘How well do you know her employer?’
‘He’s a client and also comes to my club every now and then.’
‘And so it would have been easy for you to access the company premises whenever you wanted.’
She left the question there. If he could easily access the company then he could easily have seen Laide without having to seek her at home.
‘It is your evidence that you shared a drink with the Prosecutrix and then left.’
‘Was that the drink you bought at the supermarket?’
‘Yes. It was sampled in the refrigerator and that’s why I bought it.’
‘And with the intention of having a drink with the Prosecutrix that night.’
‘No. I didn’t even know I was going to see her.’
‘And yet you went for a cold bottle of wine.’
‘None in the house?’
‘There was but not that particular one. It was my intention to buy a carton subsequently.’
‘So you just had a drink with the Prosecutrix and left her apartment. Just like that!’
‘May I remind you that you are under oath and perjury itself is an offence punishable with 14 years’ imprisonment?’
He looked at her.
‘What did you do besides drink with her?’
She arched an eyebrow.
‘And so you didn’t get to tell her how you were still into her but you weren’t happy that she didn’t return your affections after driving all the way from Trans Amadi to see her?’
‘I did and she felt the same way. It was in her response to my kiss,’ he snapped.
‘Oh so you kissed her.’
He paused, realising his blunder. They were playing a courtroom scenario. He shouldn’t have just blurted out those words as though he had no sense.
‘When did you kiss her? Before or after you shared a drink?’
‘After we had shared a drink. I kissed her and she responded.’
‘What kind of kiss was it? Short, deep, or the one that involved ripping of clothes?’
‘A very intimate kiss. And there were no clothes peeled off.’
‘Who broke off the kiss? You or the Prosecutrix.’
‘Remember that you are under oath.’
‘She wanted me.’
‘Who broke off the kiss, Mr Quadri?’
‘Laide did but only because neither of us had protection.’
‘And how did you know this? Did she whisper against your lips that she wasn’t in her safe period?’ she asked mockingly.
‘Of course not.’
‘And yet you were sure that’s why the kiss ended.’
‘There was no other reason.’
‘Hmmm. The arrogance of a man. Did it occur to you that she ended the kiss because she didn’t want to be with you?’
‘She wanted to be with me…’
‘You had never been rejected by a woman before and that was why you couldn’t get over the Prosecutrix. She rejected you at every turn.’
‘You are so used to having women fall all over you in worship that you couldn’t believe she genuinely didn’t want you.’
‘This has nothing to do with-’
‘You couldn’t believe that a woman would respond to your kiss and still look you in the eyes and say no. That was unheard of and you couldn’t handle it.’
‘You felt used and that made you so angry. She had no right to do that to you. She had no right to give you hope and then quash it. You hadn’t driven all the way from Trans Amadi to get laid only just to have the object of your affection reject you.’
‘The timing should have told her that you were serious. You went through traffic just to be with her, she should have appreciated that.’
‘If you’d let me explain-’
He was beginning to get angry and she fed on his anger.
‘You didn’t hide from her in that supermarket and then follow her home just to say hi. If you had wanted to, then you would have drawn her attention to your presence there. She should have appreciated the sacrifice you made just to see her.’
‘Didn’t appreciate the sacrifice? And so you had to teach her that Abayomrunkoje Quadri was not the kind of man whose emotions you toyed with and got away with it. You had to show her she wasn’t too good for the likes of you. You had money, you had the looks all working for you. Who was she to reject you?’
‘She rejected my affections but…’
‘…but you had to do what? Prove to her that she wasn’t immune to you? You were aroused and someone had to take care of that erection she had caused! There was no way you were going to pick up a prostitute along the way when you had a woman right there with you, the cause of your present condition!’
‘I wanted her very much but…’
‘But the lower part of your anatomy was in charge at the time. You couldn’t just walk away. It pushed you until you ignored the struggles of the young woman who had served you loyally for two year plus and forced yourself on her, taking by force the pleasures she had denied you for years.’
‘That’s not how it happened? You imagined in your head that she wanted it? Was that it? And you came to your senses before ejaculation and that’s why there was no semen found in her.
‘At what point did you hit her? Before or after the deed.’
‘I suggest to you that you knocked her out so she wouldn’t scream and alert her neighbours of your presence and what you had done to her.’
‘You weren’t there.’
‘No I wasn’t,’ she said in agreement. ‘But you were in that apartment when you said you were and in order to cover up your tracks, you bought N3000 worth of chicken suya so the suya seller wouldn’t easily forget your face knowing you couldn’t consume that quantity alone.’
‘I had paid for it earlier.’
‘To create an alibi,’ she conceded. ‘You returned to the supermarket, picked up the provisions you had bought earlier and added a carton of chivita to the list, offering the salesgirl a ride so she would be willing to give evidence on your behalf, knowing she would never have gone anywhere with you if she had known you had just returned from raping an innocent woman a few blocks away!’
‘It was not my intention to rape Laide!’ Koje snapped.
‘Of course not! That is all for the defendant.’ Kaira concluded.
To be continued