Petauke snake friend to hang for murder


A39-YEAR-OLD Petauke fisherman who murdered his colleague using a puff adder, a deadly African viper, is to hang by the neck until he is pronounced dead, the Chipata High Court has ordered.
The puff adder, also known as Bitis arietans, is a spotted and striped brown venomous species of viper with a wide distribution throughout Africa, and is responsible for many fatal snake bites on the continent.
Lusaka-based High Court judge Nigel Mutuna, sitting in Chipata, sentenced Emmanuel Phiri to death on Monday.
Phiri was charged with murder. He was found to have killed Spider Phiri in Petauke using the snake.
A medical report showed that Spider died of snake bites, which were found on one of his cheeks.
Mr Justice Mutuna said Phiri had no right to move in the community with a dangerous serpent.
“The convict is living in a modern village where moving with a dangerous serpent is not acceptable…I have no option but to sentence him to death to hang by the neck until he is pronounced dead,” Mr Justice Mutuna said.
He handed down the sentence after Legal Aid Board senior defence counsel John Phiri made a submission that both Phiri and Spider had a strong belief in witchcraft, which was why they had engaged in a competition to prove who was stronger between them.
Mr Phiri said Phiri should be given a jail sentence instead of the mandatory death sentence.
But Mr Justice Mutuna said Phiri had to hang by the neck until pronounced dead because no-one should be allowed to move around with dangerous snakes in the community.
Last week, Phiri told the court in his defence that on March 7, 2015 he met Spider in Petauke at a house of a woman where the two engaged in a competition to show which one of them had more powerful ‘spirits’.
Phiri said to prove his supernatural superiority over Spider, he went home and picked his puff adder, named as ‘Londoloni’, which he put in a striped plastic bag and went back to the house where Spider was waiting for him.
Phiri said a ‘tug-of-war’ ensued between the two with Spider pulling the head of the snake and Phiri its tail.
Spider managed to cut off the head of the snake, which he put on fire after it died.
“I told him that the way the snake had died was the same way he would die. I went home and later heard that Spider was sick. His body became swollen,” Phiri said.
He said he was later informed that Spider was critically ill and he took him to a place where he tried to tattoo him in a bid to resuscitate him but failed.
Spider was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead while Phiri was arrested for using the puff adder as a weapon to murder a friend.