Snake friend convicted of murder, awaits sentence

The United States Assn. of Reptile Keepers has filed suit against the Department of the Interior seeking to overturn a ban on Burmese pythons, pictured here, and three other species of large snakes. (Robert Sullivan / AFP/Getty Images / October 10, 2005)

CHIPATA High Court has convicted a 39-year-old Petauke fisherman of murder for causing the death of a colleague using a puff adder, a deadly African viper.
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, convicted Emmanuel Phiri yesterday after putting him on his defence last Thursday.
Phiri was charged with murder. He was found to have killed Spider Phiri in Petauke using the snake.
Last week, Phiri concluded his defence and told the court 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.


He said when he arrived at the house he warned Spider not to touch the plastic bag because there was a snake, but the latter bragged that nothing would happen to him because his spirits were stronger and would protect him from the reptile.
Phiri said a ‘tug-of-war’ ensued between the two with Spider pulling the head of the snake and Phiri its tail.
He said 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.
Phiri said Spider was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Phiri was arrested for using the puff adder snake as a weapon to murder Spider and was put on his defence last week.
But Mr Justice Mutuna convicted Phiri and reserved judgment to November 16, 2016.