THE Lusaka High Court has entered a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity in a case in which a house maid and her daughter were charged with the murder of six people, among them family members.
The bodies of the deceased were discovered in an unfinished building in Chalala area in 2016 in a decomposed state.
Lusaka High Court judge Wilfred Muma has further ordered that the duo be detained at the President’s pleasure.
Judge Muma noted that although the evidence adequately connects the two women to the murder charges, the medical report indicates that Jenipher Mwanza (a house maid) has a major psychotic disorder and that according to the doctor’s opinion, she was labouring under the infuence of the said disorder at the time of the commission of the offence.
He added that with respect to Mwanza’s daughter, Delia, the observation of the doctor was that she was not aware of the wrongfulness of the act due to the shared psychotic disorder she suffered at the time of the commission of the offence.
Judge Wilfred Muma has however, acquitted the duos co-accused, Susan Chimfwembe, stating that she was also a victim who suffered the trauma of the acts of Jenipher and Delia.
In this matter, Jennifer Mwanza Chilimungula, Susan Chimfwembe and Delia Mwanza who was a juvenile in 2016, were facing six counts of murder which they denied.
It was alleged that the trio, on dates unknown but between July 28 and August 1, 2016, jointly and whilst acting together murdered six people namely, Albert Mwanza, Martha Mwanza, Leocadia Mwanza, Blessings Mwanza, Brian Banda, and Amos Banda.
The prosecution called eight witnesses during trial.
The first witness, Brian Banda testified that on August 1, 2016, he received a call from a police officer from Chilenje Police beckoning him to the police station.
He said when he arrived there, he discovered that his children Brian and Amos Banda had been killed.
Banda explained that he had been separated from his wife, Susan (second accused person), who was residing with the children.
He confirmed that Susan was mentally stable when they separated.
Another witness was Susan’s 13-year-old daughter who testified that she was one of the occupants at a house in Chalala where she was staying with her mother, her mother’s friend Jenipher (first accused person) and others.
She informed the court that on a fateful day, she heard Jenipher making a pronouncement that she wanted all the children to be killed so that they could rise again.
The witness testified that in the night, she heard children crying from the room where her mother (Susan) slept with Delia and Jenipher.
She said when she peeped through the room, she saw Jenipher and Delia sleeping on top of three children, adding that the children kept crying throughout the night.
The 13-year-old said on another day, Jenipher’s husband Albert Mwanza went home and inquired about the whereabouts of the children but was told that they had gone to play.
She said when Albert, who appeared drunk, insisted on seeing the children, Jenipher pushed him to the ground and sat on his chest before instructing Delia to fetch a knife and chilli.
The witness said Jenipher started cutting her husband’s hands and applied chillies to the wounds and thereafter cut him on the neck while he was screaming and pleading with her.
She thereafter asked Delia to bring a hoe which she used to chop off the head and Delia cut off the hands.
The following morning, Jenipher continued to cut off the arms of her husband and afterwards picked the chopped off arms and decapitated head and took them to another room.
Other bodies including a body of a baby with no head were later discovered in the unfinished building.
In his judgement delivered on Wednesday, judge Muma said it was not in dispute that on August 1, 2016, some dead bodies were discovered in an unfinished house in Chalala which were identified as being that of the six deceased persons.
He said the testimony of the 13-year-old though being a minor was assessed to possess sufficient intelligence and that he did not find any reason to doubt her testimony.
Judge Muma said it was not a mere coincidence that Jenipher made a pronouncement of the intention to kill all the children, adding that the accused executed her intentions of wanting to kill the children in her own belief and understanding that they would resurrect.
He said he was satisfied that the evidence before him adequately connected Jenipher and her daughter, Delia, to the offence they were charged with but that there was a countervailing factor which had to be taken into account.
Judge Muma said it was true from the doctor’s findings that Jenipher has a major psychotic disorder and it was the opinion of the doctor that she was labouring under the influence of the disorder at the time of the commission of the offence.
With respect to Delia, Judge Muma held that according to the observation of the doctor, she was not aware of the wrongfulness of the act due to the shared psychotic disorder she suffered from at the time of the commission of the offence.
“For the reasons I have stated herein, I therefore enter a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity and order that accused number one and three be detained at the President’s pleasure,” he said.
Judge Muma however, acquitted the second accused person, Susan, as there was no evidence linking her to the murder.