OSUN, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian court on Friday sentenced a Danish man to death after finding him guilty of killing his wife, a Nigerian, and his 3-year-old daughter at their residence in the West African country in 2018.
Peter Nielsen, 54, is to die by hanging, the Lagos High Court ruled, marking an end to a four-year trial that tested diplomatic ties between Nigeria and Denmark.
In Nigeria, death sentences issued for capital offenses such as murder are common but those executions rarely occur. Only two warrants for death sentences have been signed by state governors in the country since 1999, according to Inibehe Effiong, a Nigerian human rights lawyer.
That notwithstanding, “the only punishment that is available for murder in Nigeria is death (and) under such circumstance, there is nothing a judge can do,” said Effiong.
Nielsen’s trial has been on since June 2018 when he was first arraigned in court. The Lagos State Ministry of Justice cited “overwhelming and compelling evidence, both forensic and direct eye-witness account, showing without doubt that the victims were killed by the suspect.”
“There is also evidence that there was a history of domestic violence against the victim by the suspect,” prosecutors with the Lagos state government said. It was during one of their fights that he killed the two, the court heard.
His wife, Zainab Ali-Nielsen, was 37 and his daughter, Petra Nielsen, was 3 1/2-years-old when they were killed on April 5, 2018, according to court documents.
Nielsen pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge of murder and, according to the government-run Nigerian news agency, told the court last year that he found his wife and daughter lying lifeless on the floor after waking up one morning.
Judge Bolanle Okikiolu-Ighile, however, held that prosecutors were able to prove the “compelling” evidence against Nielsen.
The Danish embassy in Nigeria could not be reached for comment on Nielsen's death sentence but legal experts believe there is still a chance he might not be executed.
"The reality is that the condemned inmates are never executed,” said Effiong.