When John Wanja, the then Sironko District personnel officer, called his wife, Harriet Negesa, a sub-county chief of Buwaali in Bududa District, it was difficult to know he had ill motives.
It all started on August 25, 2014 when Wanja, a resident of Nabikingi village, Buwangani Town in Kaato Sub-county, Manafwa District, tricked his wife into going with him to buy land for their two children.
Wanja told Negesa that she needed to be a signatory in an agreement on the purchase of the land and she obliged to the request.
On the fateful day, the victim was at Buwaali Sub-county headquarters conducting a training session of people who were supposed to implement the national Identity card enrolment exercise.
While at the venue, she received a call from her husband requesting to meet her briefly.
After meeting for about 30 minutes, the couple was seen by the participants walking away thinking the victim was accompanying her husband.
Wanja then convinced the wife to pass through a short cut on the banks of River Manafwa which could lead them to the main road.
However, when they reached the isolated land site in Bunapolo village, Bubiita Sub-county, Bududa District, Wanja pulled out a machete, which he had been carrying in the bag, and hacked his wife. He aimed at her head but cut her hands as Negesa tried to protect her head.
Negesa sustained cuts on her head, legs and other parts of the body. His wife tried to plead with him to spare her life. When she tried to escape, Wanja pushed her into the water where he continued to cut her body until she lay helpless, before he ran away. A young boy who had gone to fetch water spotted Negesa and alerted residents.
Residents reported the incident to district police commander Ayatollah Kapchemut. Kapchemut and the district officer in charge of criminal investigations, Henry Akera, rushed to the scene as police officers took the victim to Bududa hospital.
She was referred to Mbale Referral Regional Hospital and later Kumi hospital.
A case of attempted murder was then registered at Bududa Central Police Station. Kapchemut assigned Akera to handle the case and ensure the culprit was arrested and prosecuted.
The two police officers also visited the victim at Bududa hospital that day.
According to police, the victim was almost lifeless, she could not talk at that time. They photographed her for investigations.
“The whole body had deep cuts with blood everywhere,” said Akera.
He said they opened a file to start investigating the matter to make sure the culprit is arrested.
However, according to Akera, it was difficult to investigate the case as most of the witnesses feared to record statements.
“I tried to convince them to record statements in order to have enough evidence, but they refused,” Akera said.
On August 29, 2015, he visited the victim at Kumi hospital and recorded a statement.
“I went there [Kumi hospital] to interview her and record her first statement as well as issuing police form three for medical examination,” he said.
From the preliminary investigations, the victim told police she was cut by Wanja and this is where the manhunt started, according to Akera.
According to Dr Denis Omiat, who examined the victim and filled the police form three, the victim was in a bad state and had deep wounds on the head. Upon getting the medical examination results from the doctor and a few witness accounts, police intensified the investigation.
“We were equipped with enough evidence to pin the suspect,” Mr Akera said.
The police officer said he dispatched other detectives and informers to hunt for the suspect, but in vain.
“The information we had was that the husband was on the run and hiding in Nyeri in Kenya,” Akera said, adding that Wanja was staying with a cousin.
Akera said police did not have transport means to arrest the suspect in Kenya. “This was a challenge to the police. I then asked myself where we could begin from to fulfil our mission to arrest this suspect,” said Akera.
He said he co-ordinated with the Elgon regional criminal investigations office in Mbale and the headquarters in Kampala for guidance on how to pick the accused.
Akera said on November 5, 2014, he drafted a charge sheet of attempted murder and submitted a file to the regional office for assistance.
He said the charges were sanctioned by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mbale office on January 21, 2015.
The DPP later applied for a warrant of arrest with immediate effect on January 23, 2014 although the suspect was still in the hideout.
“We forwarded the warrant of arrest to the CIID headquarters [Kampala] on January 24, 2014, to handle the case with their counterpart in Kenya in order to have the suspect arrested and this was done,” Akera said.
“Officials from CIID headquarters organised for his arrest in Kenya and before they could execute his arrest, after realising that police was tracing him, he decided to come back to Uganda on April 4, 2015,” Akera added.
However, the police detective said the case got complicated when the suspect went into hiding again. “But still, we were determined to have him arrested in all ways, and on April 7, 2015, police got information about where he was hiding.”
“As we were organising to arrest the man, he decided to surrender himself at Bududa Central Police Station and it’s when he was arrested at 11am,” Akera said. They then interrogated him about the matter and his statements.
Upon recording his statement, Wanja was eventually forwarded to the regional CIID office in Mbale for further interrogation. When investigations were done, the suspect was arraigned before Mbale Chief Magistrate Doreen Karungi Olega on April 10, 2015.
The magistrate’s court remanded the suspect to Malukhu Prison until May 21, 2015 and committed him to the High Court because the case was capital in nature.
Two months later, on June 16, 2015, upon execution of a plea bargaining agreement, the accused was convicted and sentenced to 15 years by Judge Henry Isabirye Kaweesa.
“Taking into account the circumstances, I find that he will have to serve 15 years imprisonment,” Justice Kawesa ruled.
According to the information obtained by Sunday Monitor at Bududa Central Police Station, the couple had been married for seven years and they had two children before they developed a conflict in their marriage.
This conflict eventually led to their separation on July 4, 2014, after family members and local council officials failed to reconcile them in several meetings.
“The man had been accusing the wife of cheating on him likewise the woman was also accusing the husband of infidelity,” said police.
The police officer decried the increasing cases of domestic violence in the district.
“We have a serious problem of domestic violence in the district. We record about seven to 10 related domestic violence cases,” Akera said.
He attributed the situation to polygamous families, ownership of family property and lack of trust, adding that in Bugisu, men tend to dominate family property.
Domestic violence at 51 percent
At least 315 people are killed in domestic violence cases in Uganda, 159 of whom are female adults, according to the 2013 police crime report.
The report indicates property ownership is one of the causes of the killings.
Grace Akullo, the director of Criminal Investigations and Intelligence, says most aggravated domestic violence cases can be reduced if police intensify intelligence at village levels.
“The motives behind such killings are often land wrangles, dissatisfaction with delayed or omission of justice, family misunderstandings and business rivalry.
These can be detected if our intelligence is picking information and work on it before it turns into a crime,” Akullo says.
In the Lwengo incident, if the police had worked well with the local council members, the situation would have been different. Most of these cases are registered in hard-to-reach areas where the police and local councils still have minimum manpower.
“Police should step up community policing and awareness. Other stakeholders such as community development officers should provide programmes and projects that can strengthen family values at the lowest levels,” Akullo says.
However, it is not only females who are killed in domestic violence cases, men too fall victim.
In the crime report, at least, 147 were male adults, 36 were male juveniles and 18 were female juveniles.