The late Joshua Ruhegyera Nteireho met yet-to-be identified people at a fast-food restaurant at a fuel station on Entebbe Road and offered a ride to two of them on the September 5 trip that ended in a gunman shooting him and Merina Tumukunde dead.
The duo was killed between 10:30pm and 11pm near Nambigirwa Bridge on Entebbe expressway, according to residents near the scene and police.
Our investigations, based on interviews last week with residents and workers of hotels the deceased last visited, show that the individuals that Nteireho held a meeting with at the fuel station in Kajjansi, had driven in a Toyota Harrier.
That vehicle took the lead and Nteireho, behind the steering in a black Land Cruiser, followed suit, according to witnesses.
A resident told this newspaper that the powerful lighting at the toll gate on Entebbe expressway, roughly 200 metres from the scene where the duo was shot, was curiously off that fateful night.
The illumination there radiates so powerfully that people living in the village say some of them use the brightness half-a-kilometre away to lay bricks or do other activities at night.
The witness, whose name we are withholding for safety reasons, said the killers escaped in a get-away vehicle whose headlights were switched off.
A witness, in accounts corroborated by another resident, said police were near the scene where Nteireho and Merina were gunned because they could see the red-blue siren light flashing on a police patrol pick-up.
“We were burning bricks when we heard three guns shots. There was a police patrol that was on the opposite side of the road. Police drove round and came back and stopped where the incident happened. When they reached the scene, they also fired bullets,” a resident of Bukandekande Village in Mpala Katabi Town Council, said.
The vehicle appeared afterwards to give a chase, but it remained unclear if the police failed to catch up with the killers.
Identities of the passengers picked up from the Entebbe road-side fuel remain unknown.
Our investigations also revealed that Nteireho, for reasons that staff at Innophine Hotel behind the Mayor’s Garden in Entebbe could not immediately understand, called on the phone and booked two rooms.
He, however, arrived at the hotel with Merina. Both reportedly instead checked in the same room.
It is here that detectives later recovered Merina’s handbag and mobile phone handset, sources close to the investigations told Daily Monitor.
The duo later that evening then headed out to Hidden Treasure Hotel, next to the UN base in Entebbe, to pick police constable Davis Taremwa, with whom they proceeded to Millennium Hotel in Zzana on Entebbe Road.
An employee of Innophine Hotel, who asked not to be named, confirmed that Nteireho and Merina were their guests that fateful night but declined to divulge details, saying police had instructed them not to speak to the media.
It is not clear why police issued the gag order that staff at Hidden Treasure and Millennium hotels cited to explain their reservation to speak about the duo’s last moments.
Investigators visited Innophine Hotel, one employee said, and picked things they deemed of evidential value and questioned staff who were on duty as well as managers.
Nteireho was a regular customer, according to one staff member, and they presumed he had a lot of cash.
There are varying accounts of Nteireho’s livelihood, although he reportedly had worked with Aviation Security at Entebbe International Airport. The reason for and circumstances under which he left the job remain unclear.
He was said to be a money lender and moonlighted in gold business, although he is understood to have made the ill-fated trip to meet a car dealer.
While Merina, a wife of Mr Mark Rugyenza, ran businesses in Bugolobi in Kampala and Mbarara Town jointly with her husband.
Mr Rugyenza told The New Vision in an interview following Merina’s death that he had left his wife in Mbarara when he returned to Kampala that week, and was surprised to hear that she had been gunned on Entebbe expressway.
The brutal killings have tested the investigative skills of Uganda’s security personnel and gained political currency because late Nteireho was a nephew to President Museveni, making the homicide a high profile case.
On the day he was shot, Nteireho made three trips to Millennium Hotel. The purpose of the journeys was not clear.
Police Constable Taremwa, who was taken into custody shortly after the killings, said he elected to accompany and provide guard services for Nteireho because he was informed that they were to pick substantial amount of cash from Millennium Hotel.
The stash of cash was either never found in the vehicle or declared, leaving multiple clues open for inquiries.
We could not independently verify claims that Nteireho, known publicly for flashing bundles of Uganda currency notes in self-recorded videos and selfie pictures, owed money to many people.
Detectives are also investigating reports that an unnamed individual telephoned one of Nteireho’s sisters to warn that a potential harm on him was imminent.
In various interviews with this newspaper last week, Bukandekande Village residents questioned how the killers could have escaped undetected or not been responded to when armed policemen are deployed at the toll gate.
“You see that road toll, it has its own policemen. If you jump over [the chain link used to fence off the expressway], policemen will within a few minutes arrest you,” a resident said.
The witness added: “There are patrol vehicles [police use on the road at night], but its surprises us that a murder was committed and those people were not arrested.”
Another witness added that the expressway, and particularly areas close to the toll gate, are “well-guarded places for someone one to kill someone and run away.”
At Millennium Hotel, staff our reporter spoke to, said the place is busy and they took no notice of police constable Taremwa as he reportedly entered the facility to look up a car dealer Nteireho was to meet.
Police say their officer, who abandoned his duty station in Entebbe without authority, left his gun, a porch containing ammunition and cap in Nteireho’s vehicle.
It is a breach of security standard operating procedures for personal to leave weapons with unauthorised third parties.
Witnesses said Nteireho and Merina were each shot with a bullet to the head, with the body of the former found outstretched on the bitumen surface and an Ak-47 rifles alongside it. The woman’s body was found on the backseat of the Land Cruiser.
Police said the gun, registration UGPOL 563100699022697, loaded with 27 bullets, belonged to the Force.
Investigators are waiting for findings of a ballistic expert to establish whether the weapons used to kill Nteireho and Merina was the Ak-47 rifle or another gun.
A manager of the fuel station in Kajjansi, where the deceased reportedly held their last public meeting, said he never knew about the victims’ meeting and has received no request from police for Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera footage.
“Above all, our camera are meant to monitor fuel sales, not criminals,” the manager said.