An Accra High Court has sentenced Effort Dankwa to 39 years imprisonment for attempted murder.
Effort Dankwa shot his pregnant wife, Benita Dankwa, in August 2015 in the couple’s apartment in Tema Community 11.
Benita, who was seven months pregnant, was delivered of a baby boy through caesarean section later in the hospital on the day of the shooting.
She has remained paralysed from her chest downwards. Her husband, who was the only suspect in the shooting denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty when charged with attempted murder.
The case, which has traveled over seven years, came to an end last Friday, March 10, 2023, when a seven-member jury found Effort Dankwa guilty of attempted murder.
Justice Mary M. E. Yanzuh, who sentenced him today, agreed with the submission by the prosecution that the crime was grave and the punishment should be severe enough to deter men who nurse such evil against their spouses.
The lawyer for the accused, Winston Hayford, had earlier pleaded for mitigation, saying the accused was a first time offender and deserved a second chance. Citing Biblical characters such as Moses, David and Paul, Mr. Hayford said Effort Dankwa was a teacher whose service was beneficial to society. He therefore prayed the court to be lenient with him.
The prosecution, on the other hand, prayed the court to hand him a sentence that was severe enough to deter others. A state attorney told the court that the harm Effort Dankwa had caused his wife was irreversible and that her parents were now taking care of her instead of the other way round.
Justice Mary Yanzuh said the offence was a first degree felony and that punishment could range from a life-imprisonment to a lesser sentence. She said though the court had the discretion to sentence, that discretion must be “fair and judicial”.
She said, in arriving at the sentence, she took into account a number of factors such as the accused being a first time offender.
She said she also considered the fact that the accused said he did not own a pistol, therefore the crime was premeditated.
She added shooting his seven-month-pregnant wife meant that Effort Dankwa had no regard for the “innocent unborn child”. She also said she took into account the degree of the harm caused the victim, who had lost her ability to pass urine and empty her bowels.
The parents of Benita Dankwa, who were in court to hear the sentence, said it was deterrent enough.
On Friday when a seven-member jury found Effort Dankwa guilty of attempted murder, Benita’s parents said they were happy their daughter had finally got justice.
“It is not the number of years he is going to spend in prison that matters to me, but the fact that he has been proven guilty is my main interest. I am satisfied and okay with the court,” her father, Seth O.S. Yirenkyi, told The Fourth Estate.
Her mother, Mrs. Agnes Yirenkyi, said she felt relieved. “My heart is at peace and comforted by God’s word that patience begot victory. Jehovah is a lover of justice. If, after all these years, they have investigated and found that he is guilty, then that is God’s verdict. It isn’t that I am happy nor sad. My daughter is forever incapacitated, but the truth has been unveiled,” she said.
The jury’s verdict came more than seven years after Effort, then 36 years, was arrested after police investigations identified him as the prime suspect in an attack on his wife, Benita Dankwa, then 29.
The Fourth Estate’s Editor-in-chief, Manasseh Azure Awuni, broke the story of Benita Dankwa in January 2016 in a JoyNews documentary titled “Shot and Paralysed”.
She was shot in the chest, in what she believed was an attempt by her husband to kill her. She did not die, but the attack left her paralysed and incapable to pass urine or faecal matter the natural way.
She was first taken to the Tema General Hospital because her husband failed to mention she had been shot. The doctors at Tema General Hospital referred her to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital after noticing the gunshot wound.
“On August 29, 2015, when the nurses saw me, they said this is a gunshot, so they have to report the case before they operate on me,” Benita said.
She was advised to get a police report. Her husband who was in the room with her when she was shot claimed he never heard the gunshot. He also failed to report the matter to the police when his wife’s family asked him to do so. Benita’s brother eventually went and reported to the police.
He was arrested, detained briefly, and released on bail. A family friend who feared the case was not being given the needed attention reported the case to Manasseh Azure Awuni, who produced a documentary on the matter that shocked a number of Ghanaians.
Effort Dankwa was rearrested and charged with attempted murder. He denied the allegation and claimed some armed robbers from Ashaiman might have been responsible for the shooting.
Investigations showed there was no break into the house the night of the attack and the only person Benita spent the night with was her husband.
Effort Dankwa was arrested in 2016 after police investigations identified him as the prime suspect in an attack on his wife.
During the proceedings, Benita told the court that she was convinced her better half perpetrated the act because he did not want a child.
“I wanted to have kids, but he said he didn’t want kids before and during the course of the marriage,” she said in her evidence to an Accra High Court.
She told the court that her husband appeared to care less about her pregnancy.
The bloody towel
According to court documents, a day after the incident, Effort Dankwa, allegedly asked his wife’s cousin, Priscilla, to clean the crime scene.
While Priscilla was doing the chore, she claimed she saw a towel soaked in blood hidden under the bed. She said she immediately identified the owner of the towel because Effort had always used the said towel for bathing.
Describing the towel, Priscilla said it was a green towel with flowers and three red dolls imprinted on it. According to her, when she showed the bloody towel to the accused, he asked her to throw it away.
“When the accused told me to throw it away, I didn’t. I added the towel to the other things and took them to Community 8. There, I washed all the things but left the towel.
“I told my mother that the accused had asked me to throw it away, but she asked me to wash it because we can still use it as a rag. There was so much blood that I had to rinse it twice after washing,” she said.
Watch the full documentary on the shooting of Benita Dankwa here: