The Lagos High Court sitting at Tafawa Balewa Square annex on Friday found Dane, Mr. Peter Nielsen guilty of two counts of murder of his Nigerian wife, Zainab, and daughter, Petra.
Justice Bolanle Okikiolu-Ighile delivered the judgment in a more than five-hour lengthy hearing, which started at about 11:15 p.m.
The Lagos State Government arraigned the 53-year old defendant on June 13, 2018, on a two-count charge of murder, punishable under Section 223 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos, 2015, which prescribes the death penalty if convicted.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Nielsen was said to have killed his wife, a musician also known as Alizee, and his daughter on April 5, 2018, at about 3.45 a.m. at their Banana Island residence in the Ikoyi area of Lagos.
Okikiolu-Ighile based her decision on the post mortem examination led by Prof John Obafunwa on the deceased persons.
Obafunwa submitted that the bruises found on the head and neck of Zainab were consistent with blunt trauma.
The autopsy report also stated that the “tiny signs of bleeding” proved to be smothering as the cause of death.
Smothering, which caused the absence of oxygen in both deceased persons, was also established as the cause of Zainab’s death.
The court held that it “couldn’t have been self-inflicted or due to epilepsy”, as that wasn’t included in her medical history.
On whether the deaths were caused by the defendant (Nielsen), the court recounted several testimonies by the prosecution’s witnesses, including a housemaid, Zainab’s sibling and two police officers.
The defendants testified during the trial to domestic violence incidents perpetrated by Nielsen on the late musician.
The court particularly described Zainab’s sister, Pepe, who was about 13 years old at the time of the incident, as a witness of truth who testified about a fight between the couple in 2017.
The court added that the defendant had threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone about what she saw.
According to the court, DNA results of the extracts found under Zainab’s fingernail showed she tried to fight back in the deadly encounter and that those samples were found to match the defendant’s.
The judge said: “The nail scrapings showed contact between them, which wasn’t a normal contact between husband and wife, but that of struggle.”
The court added that the fact that he didn’t call for help immediately he claimed he found them lying in the kitchen but carried them to the living room and applied CPR on them, showing “he certified they had died before calling for help. I find it hard to believe he is absolved of having a hand in their deaths.”
The court also noted that the couple fought that night, despite his denials and claims that he had a pleasurable night with his family.
“The evidence shows that he beat his wife and smothered them. Police extracts showed reports of domestic violence by the defendant.
“Zainab once ran away to Abuja and said she wanted a divorce, which wasn’t necessary because her marriage to the defendant was null ab initio. He was still married to his wife in Denmark and had three children with her.
“She even prophesied her death by telling her driver and step-dad that the defendant would kill her. This is a case of domestic abuse. The DNA result showed she tried so much to defend herself. But unfortunately, it was too late.”
In her sentencing, the judge held that, in line with Section 223 (2) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos state, 2015, “subject to the provision of any other law, the death sentence is the punishment for murder.
“I, at this moment, find you, Peter Nielsen, guilty of the murder of Zainab and Petra, as charged. I also prescribe the court’s sentence upon you for both counts of murder to be death by hanging. May the Almighty God have mercy on your soul.”