The authorities of the Lagos State Police Command have on Wednesday released Kari Ann O’Rourke, the American lady held in custody since February 9, 2021.
Kari Ann was arrested at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport on February 8, 2021, following the death of her host in Nigeria, whom she left with his family in good health. The police arrested and detained Kari Ann at the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba, Lagos and kept her in custody, even when the autopsy report indicated that her host died of heart trauma and cardiac arrest, thus exonerating Kari Ann of any involvement in his death.
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When all efforts to get Kari Ann released on bail failed, she engaged human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, to challenge her continued detention, following which a suit was filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos on March 18, 2021. In that suit, Kari Ann sought declarations against her arrest and detention, an order for her immediate release and N100m damages against the police. In the course of time, Kari Ann’s lawyers discovered, upon further investigation, that the case file had been forwarded to the Lagos State Ministry of Justice a long ago and that a legal opinion had been issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions, to the extent that there was no prima facie case worthy of prosecution.
In the Legal Advice dated March 5, 2021 and signed by the DPP, it was stated as follows:
“The medical report attached to the duplicate case file establishes that the cause of the deceased’s death were acute cardiac failure and hypertensive heart disease … The presence of Page B1-B4 at the … hotel at the time of death and their actions on how to go about the incidence aroused suspicions by the deceased’s family which led to the suspects’ arrest. They were arrested by the police upon mere suspicion which no matter how strong can never ground a conviction … In the light of the above, this office shall not prosecute the suspects … for the offences of conspiracy to murder and murder … They should therefore be discharged and released if still in custody, as there is no case to be established against them from the facts presented in the duplicate case file.”
Upon obtaining the certified copy of the above Legal Advice, Kari Ann’s lawyers insisted on her immediate release from unlawful custody, following which she was released on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, having spent over 44 days in illegal custody.
Adegboruwa appealed to the police to show greater respect for the rights of citizens, stating that this case has shown the intolerable level of impunity prevalent within the law enforcement agencies, whereby the police did not comply with the valid directive of the Ministry of Justice, which is the body recognized by law for the prosecution of suspects. He lamented that Kari Ann was still being detained even after the police got the legal advice since March 5, 2021.