By Mwaka Ndawa
FOUR former pupils of Twin Palm Secondary School accused of killing a Kabulonga Boys Secondary School pupil Ryan Phiri have been acquitted of murder by the Lusaka High Court.
This is in a matter where Elvis Nsokolo, a former headboy at Twinpalm was jointly charged with three juveniles aged between 16 and 18 for the alleged murder of Ryan Phiri on December 4, 2020 during a fight.
Justice Sharon Newa, who freed Nsokolo and the three juveniles due to lack of evidence, said the death of Ryan which resulted from lawlessness exhibited by the pupils from both schools, was a caution light for all school authorities to be more watchful in handling pupils’ misconduct.
In her Judgement, justice Newa found that when Ryan’s parents reached at the hospital (UTH), evidence on record shows that he was unconscious and the time he woke up, he had told them what transpired and he explained that Nsokolo was part of the mob of Twin Palm pupils that assaulted him.
She said the time Ryan was conscious was the only time he could have explained what happened and although time had passed since he was attacked, the time he gained consciousness was spontaneous because it was the only opportunity he had to tell them about his assailants.
“There was no evidence on record to show that at the time, Ryan had the time to reflect and there was a possibility that he concocted the story or he had distorted it. There is nothing to show that while Ryan said that Nsokolo was part of the mob that assaulted him there is nothing to show what the latter particularly did in assaulting the deceased,” judge Newa said.
During trial, Ryan’s mother, Sharon Syambizi, told justice Newa that before breathing his last, her son informed her that he was attacked by Nsokolo and other pupils from Twin Palm Secondary School.
She said Ryan told her that he was beaten by a mob of Twin Palm Secondary School pupils with golf sticks and that he could only recognise Elvis, the headboy.
However, judge Newa said in order for Nsokolo to be guilty of murde, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt that he and other pupils from Twinpalm Secondary School had formed a common intent to assault Ryan who was from Kabulonga Boys Secondary School and that his death was a probable consequence of execution of that intent.
“While there is no evidence to show when the deceased was firstly assaulted, the evidence shows that he was bleeding from the ears and his head as testified by state witnesses there is no evidence to show that the initial bleeding caused the death of the deceased. The evidence shows thereafter that the deceased was assaulted by a a group of five pupils who used golf sticks,” Judge Newa said.
“There is nothing that establishes that after a fight broke out, Nsokolo participated in the assaulting of Ryan as evidence shows that the pupils scampered.”
She said the testimony by state witnesses shows that while Ryan informed his parents that he was assaulted by a mob of pupils who included Nsokolo he did not explain the role Nsokolo played in the assault as the latter disassociated himself from the group that was involved in the wrestle.
“The burden is on the state to prove that Nsokolo participated in the fight but there is no such evidence. There is nothing to show that Ryan’s parents fabricated a story against Nsokolo when they testified bout what their son had told them before he died,” judge Newa said.
“While the witnesses testified that Nsokolo was present, there is no evidence to establish that he did in fact participate in the fight given the fact that the pupils had scampered when the fight broke out, he disassociated himself from the fight.”
She said according to the testimony of the well wisher who rescued Ryan from his attackers that five pupils assaulted Ryan with golf sticks, Nsokolo was only brought at the scene because there was an altercation between him and Vincent Ngoma from Kabulonga boys and not that he actually participated in the killing of Ryan.
She said while the evidence on record shows that there was a common purpose of attacking Kabulonga pupils, it was not noted that Nsokolo was identified at an identification parade by Ngoma for slapping him, not because he participated in the killing of Ryan.
“There being no evidence to rebut the defense that Nsokolo left after he was punched by Ngoma, there is insufficient evidence to establish that Nsokolo did in fact participate in the assaulting of Ryan. I accordingly find him not guilty and I acquit him forthwith and set him free,” Judge Newa said.
She said with regards to the juveniles, the evidence connecting them to the offence was the testimony of the arresting officer that after he apprehended Nsokolo, the latter mentioned the three as his accomplices.
Judge Newa rules that Nsokolo in his defense did not implicate any of his co-accused and the rest of the evidence on record establishes that none of the juveniles were placed at the scene, neither of them was identified during the identification parade.
“I wish to take note that this is a very sad matter in which a life was lost due to the delinquency of pupils. Ryan was a grade 12 pupil with a future ahead of him which was curtailed by violence at the hands of his peers which should never be allowed to thrive in this country,” judge Newa said.
She added that there was rivalry between the two schools which manifested itself when pupils from Kabulonga Boys Secondary School went to agitate those from Twin Palm Secondary School and upon being released, pupils from Twin Palm Secondary School sought revenge and they surrounded Malata compound and confronted their opponents.
“My view is that pupils from Twin Palm Secondary School should not have been immediately released to go home until the teachers and other school authorities had taken sufficient steps to ensure that there were no Kabulonga Boys Secondary School pupils in the area in order to prevent what had happened (death),” said judge Newa.
“This case is a wake up call for all school authorities to be more vigilant in handling pupils, especially delinquency. There being no evidence connecting the juveniles to the commission of the offense, I accordingly find them not guilty and I acquit them forthwith and set them at liberty.”
Nsokolo who was labelled as the culprit behind Ryan’s death could not control his emotions as he broke down in disbelief that he was saved of a conviction from the capital offence.
His co-accused hugged him in jubilation for their freedom.
Nsokolo’s mother knelt down at the entrance of the Supreme Court building and sang songs of worship and thanks to God fo her son’s release.
She was later heard having a phone conversation where she directed the caller on the other hand to organize beers which would be consumed as she welcomes her son back home.
“Mushite ubwalwa twise tunwe mwalantamba pa TV (buy beers we come and drink, you will watch me on TV,” she said.
The late Ryan’s grandmother who attended the court session on behalf of his parents refused to react to the court’s judgement saying “it is well, I am just from calling his parents they say they don’t want to speak. If the owners of the child don’t want to talk I can’t say anything.”