Television cameramen were recording every minute of the court proceedings that day. Newspaper photographers were secretly jostling for the best vantage spots. Writers were nervously gripping their pens and notebooks. Clearly, the press was interested in this case. Brian Bagyenda, the son of Col Kaka Bagyenda, the Director General of Internal Security Organisation (ISO) was standing in the dock. This was judgment day.
The case had potential for drama. The young Bagyenda, had expressly confessed to killing his girlfriend Enid Twijukye even before the court case started. The video confession had been broadcast on some TV stations and shared widely on social media.
Speculation was rife as to what the judgment would be. Because he had confessed to the killing, there was the possibility that he would be given a tough sentence. However, many believed that because he was connected to authorities in the government, he would likely escape with a light sentence.
In his pleadings, Bagyenda had asked the judge to acquit him and instead commit him to safe custody as a criminal lunatic to await a ministerial directive because at the time he is alleged to have committed this offence, he was not mentally upright.
Some thought that the judgment might lean towards that pleading. Nothing of the sort happened.
32-year-sentence for a 32-year-old
The young man was sentenced and led off to Luzira Prison.
Bagyenda had exhibited an aura of remorse throughout the entire court process over the past three years. It was a pitiable image of powerlessness.
A disarmed man trapped by his own wrong decision. Bagyenda had also not wasted the court’s time with lies. All this could have played a part in the final judgment. So it was a 32-year sentence for a 32-year-old.
Before any of this happened, Bagyenda was hardly known by the general public. He was just any other ordinary man. And when the murder occurred, he was thought to be an ill-advised young man with high connections who thought he could afford to take a life and face no consequences.
However, the people who knew him (at least according to their comments on Facebook) were shocked that this was the same Bagyenda they knew.
One wrote, “My God I am so disappointed with my brother, colleague, former classmate and my former boss as the assistant head prefect of St. Henry’s College Kitovu 2005-2006, when I was serving as the academic minister of the College. Mr. Bagyenda Brian, what he did to his girlfriend as it’s narrated in Daily Monitor today front page remains unbelievable to me.”
He went on, “A genius young pharmacist who has demonstrated his ability to change this country to murder his girlfriend because of just a pic in her phone…”
Another Facebook user that stood out was Raymond Reuel Yesuafuga Sseguya.
He had written, “I used to know Brian Bagyenda. He is a brilliant person. I was with him when I was selected among the 2014 Nile Breweries Kickstart Top 20 Ugandan entrepreneurs. Also, when the United Nations organised an innovation summit at Sheraton. The best prize was won by Brian Bagyenda and he was given a lot of money.”
Sseguya had been incredulous as he continued, “How did Brian Bagyenda settle for murdering a young girl yet he could just move on with his life and do other things? How can one small cheating girlfriend destroy the career and potential of a brilliant young fellow like Brian Bagyenda?” He closed off the comment with crying emojis.
Daily Monitor later contacted him for more details and he said that Bagyenda was never a violent man.
“In my personal interactions with Brian Bagyenda in school, and in 2014 and 2015 when I was pursuing similar interests with him [Kickstart], I did not find him to be a self-important person, nor a violent man,” Sseguya said.
Bagyenda the A-student
According to Seguya, Bagyenda had always been an “A” type student.
“He scored 4 in 4 in PLE, 8 in 8 in O-Level, 25 out of 25 points at A-Level, and a First Class degree in Pharmacy at MUK. Ask any of his OBs in Bright Grammar, St Henry’s College Kitovu and Makerere University. So we all do not understand why one small girl could take him in the wrong direction,” he says before adding, “There may be more to the story.”
A very focused young man is what a former Nile Breweries middle manager (names withheld on request) calls Bagyenda. She had interacted with him over an extended period of time in 2014 when the company ran a youth entrepreneurship programme called Kickstart.
The applicants were all between 18 – 35. Twenty applications were chosen out of 300. Bagyenda’s was one of the applications that were outstanding.
“His idea was to reduce the spread of HIV/ Aids by what he called ‘Speed Condom Delivery’. His concept was to reduce the level of infections by offering a service where people about to engage in sex without protection could get a condom delivered to them in about 8 to 15 minutes. Though he didn’t win, he was one of the best,” she said.
One of the participants in that project we contacted said, “He was a very calm guy, very smart guy, from his presentations. He only seemed to be a very strong-willed young man.”
Clearly, Bagyenda impressed those he studied and worked with. None of these people could recall any time he had acted out of the ordinary or been violent. Even the the experts on mental health agreed (during the court process) that Bagyenda did not display homicidal tendencies during their repeated interactions with him.
So what happened then? Any mental health problems?
During the trial, Bagyenda’s lawyers would strongly argue that he was burdened by depression at the time he committed the murder. They would reason that he was therefore, not in a proper state of mind to be criminally liable under the law.
A Butabika Mental Hospital psychiatrist doctor, Brian Mutamba, appeared in court and confirmed that in October 2016, about three months to the murder, he had treated Bagyenda for depression.
Dr Mutamba who was the first defence witness, testified that Bagyenda also developed suicidal thoughts at the time of treatment.
This defence of Bagyenda’s history of mental illness was, however, rejected by the High Court. The judge, in his reasoning for convicting Bagyenda, cited the evidence of the medical experts, Dr Ojara and Dr Jane Frances Nantamu, that depression is not a permanent state of mental instability, but rather, “mood swings.”
How neighbours perceived Bagyenda
On the day of the murder, the neighbours were surprised to see a heavy police presence at the house at Plot 2, Njobe road in Luzira. Though they were aware that the house belonged to a highly placed government official (the house it is claimed, belongs to Bagyenda’s father), such police presence was out of the ordinary.
“When we heard that someone had been killed at the Kaka house, the last person we suspected to have committed the act was Brian,” says a male neighbour.
“There were two beautiful girls living at the house with Brian during that time. They were notorious for always bringing men in the house. I personally thought a fight had broken over that kind of thing. But as the story unfolded, we were shocked to hear that Brian had killed his girlfriend. I was shocked.”
Asked why he was shocked, the neighbour says, “Brian was not a violent man. He was barely ever in a temper. He was a humble man, albeit not the friendly type. He was an indoor kind of guy. He would come home, pay me to wash his car, enter the house and stay there. I had never seen him drunk or drinking alcohol.”
At this point however, a female neighbour joins the conversation. She has no kind words for Bagyenda. “He was not humble at all,” she says. “That quiet demeanour is because he was mean and cold. He was unkind and very controlling, and treated his workers harshly,” she pauses.
She alleges that there was a time Bagyenda’s dog jumped over their fence and bit a child. They complained to him but could not get him to budge to give them some money to take the child for treatment. Only when they grabbed his car keys from him did he eventually give them Shs100,000 to take the child to hospital, she says.
According to the neighbours who run the corner shops down the street from the house where Bagyenda lived, he was always in the company of incredibly beautiful women.
“His girlfriends were always very beautiful. I think he set himself up for too much jealousy,” one commented.
During the trial, the deceased’ elder sister said she didn’t know Twijukye was in love with Bagyenda. According to her, Twijukye’s only boyfriend was out of the country studying in New York.
Could Bagyenda have found this out while snooping through her phone that fateful night? Could he have realised that the woman he so loved was committed to another man? Did he just want to punish her for using him so? Could it be that jealousy, that age-old green-eyed monster grabbed hold of his mental faculties during the altercation? We might never know.
But on that fateful evening, he would telephone his shamba boys (Innocent Bainomugisha and Vincent Rwahwire) who stayed a short distance from his home to come over at once. They would help in killing Twijukye and later dump her body. For Shs200,000 each.
Verdict after the verdict
Bagyenda was a young professional with a bright future ahead of him. For a person who had come out on top of every stage of his education, he was a man with an above-average intellect. His temperament was generally thought and known to be calm.
His general behaviour was not out of the ordinary. The case holds all the hallmarks of a crime of passion.
If one were to say that crimes of passion happen to the best of us, Bagyenda would fit that description. He was, from the looks of things, a sympathetic character in this drama that seem to have been written by fate itself.