JELR 81138 (WACA)    
West Africa Court of Appeal  ·  West Africa [For WACA cases]
Other Citations
1943 9 WACA 200-203
Core Terms Beta
grass verge
scene of the accident
trial judge
left hand wheels
great speed
abundance of evidence
director of public prosecutions
learned trial judge
left hand side of the road
line of trees
number of people
appellant's car
appellant’s counsel
careful summary of the evidence
criminal negligence
death of the deceased dinah cookey
evidence of a witness e. barker
following findings of fact
hearing of this appeal
kit car no. ow
left side of the road
main road
months imprisonment
police officer
reasonable doubt
rough sketch of the scene
said drain
short distance
telegraph poles distance
third witness
wheel tracks


In this appeal the accused was on the 13th September, 1943, found guilty of manslaughter and sentence to eighteen months imprisonment. The particulars of the offence are that M a result of his criminal negligence in driving a Kit Car No. OW 2182 on the Aba Owerri road he caused the death of one Dinah Cookey.

It was not disputed that the road where the alleged offence took place is perfectly straight and is sixteen feet broad: that on the left side of the road there is a grass verge of four to five feet broad Charles and then a drain about three feet wide followed by line of trees two or three feet further away from the drain and the road; and the surface of the road was dry.

The evidence for the prosecution consisted of three witnesses who saw the accident; and two who were on the road some three, telegraph poles distance from the scene of deceased’s death, stated they saw the car coming; one deposed that he saw the car coming at a very great speed and the other says the speed was very fast; they both say they shouted, presumably to the people ahead of them “this car may kill someone as it is going at a very great speed “. The car was in the middle of the road when it passed these two witnesses but, they say, a short distance after it had passed them they saw it driven into the drain on the left hand side of the road. They heard a crash and upon coming up to scene of deceased’s death found the deceased lying by the side of the drain and another woman a little further on lying dead also at the side of the drain.

The car was further on, on the right hand side of the road. One of these witnesses stated that he did not see any people walking in the middle of the road; they were all walking on the left of the road.

The third witness who saw the accident deposed that he was behind the deceased and that he was walking on the grass verge on the left hand side of the road close to the drain, and the deceased was also walking on the grass verge a little way ahead of him. He heard some people shout behind him “this car going along the side of the road would kill someone “he looked round saw the car almost on top of him and jumped into the bush with what he was carrying. He heard a crash, came out of the bush and saw deceased lying down in the drain. The car was examined by a mechanic shortly after the accident and found to be free from any mechanical defect.

Another witness, a Police officer, some hours later accompanied the appellant to the scene of the accident in appellant's car, when appellant showed him where the motor pulled up. He stated the wheel tracks were clear and appellant showed them to him; he made a rough sketch of the scene in accused’s presence. This rough sketch which was an exhibit in the case together with a plan, showed that accused left the middle of the road and drove on to the grass verge on the left hand side with the left hand wheels in the drain. After proceeding some eighteen yards with the left hand wheels in the said drain the car came in contact with the deceased and killed her. It then preceded for another ten yards and hit a tree. The car still proceeding with its left hand wheels in the drain after a further eighteen yards hit another woman and killed her; from this spot the car left the drain, crossed over to the right of the road and skidded into the grass verge and drain on the other side.

There was a passenger in the car with the accused who deposed that the car was going slowly, that somewhere near the and scene of the accident he says he felt a blow in the side of his face; he didn’t know what had happened but saw the two bodies lying on the grass verge; he also stated there were many people walking on the road.

The accused in his evidence deposed that he was driving at 25 to 30 miles an hour; there were a number of people on the road and he was continually blowing his horn. Upon coming to the scene of the accident some people came out of the bush on the left side and tried to get to the right side. Then the accident happened unexpectedly. In a statement given to the police, appellant says people came from the right, tried to come to the left, and to avoid them he steered the car to the right but was unable to avoid the accident. It was not true that the two near side wheels were moving along the drain and he never hit a tree. He denied that the car skidded to the right side and what marks were there, were caused by his reversing the car when returning to Aba after the accident. A witness called for the defence, a motor mechanic who inspected the scene of the accident some five months afterwards, deposed that the marks on a tree shown to him could not have been caused by a car and that a car with the near wheels in the drain could not travel at more than 15 miles an hour.

The learned trial Judge after a careful summary of the evidence made the following findings of fact:-

“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accident did “not happen in the manner in which. the accused says it did happen “and that the death of the deceased Dinah Cookey was due to the “criminal negligence of the accused in that he drove the car at great “speed along the highway, lost control of the vehicle, which left the “main road, crossed the grass verge and ran along the drain killing “the deceased who was walking along the grass verge with her back “to the on-coming car” .

He also found that the accident was not due to the unintentional skidding of the car. The trial Judge quite properly and correctly directed himself to the definition of criminal negligence laid down in the cases of R. v. Bateman and Andrews v. The Director of Public Prosecutions.

The grounds of appeal are:- 2. That the trial Judge failed to direct himself to the evidence the witness for the prosecution who was in the car with the prisoner. 2. That the trial Judge failed to direct himself to the evidence of a witness E. Barker called by the defence; and

3. That there being only one crash admitted by the witness it was impossible to say how Dinah came by her death beyond the evidence of accused.

Appellant’s counsel upon the hearing of this appeal argued that the trial Judge misdirected himself with regard to the degree of negligence required to support a conviction of manslaughter.

The trial Judge visited the scene of the accident; he had the advantage of seeing the witnesses and of hearing them give their evidence; he correctly directed himself to the law of criminal negligence.

We have carefully considered the evidence produced by the prosecution and the defence and are of opinion that there was an abundance of evidence to justify the conclusion at which the learned trial Judge arrived and that there is no reason for interfering with his decision.

We also see no reason to interfere with the sentence imposed.

The appeal is dismissed and the conviction and sentence of the lower Court affirmed.