Flashback. The High Court in Kampala sentenced to death Tom Nkurunjira also known as Tonku in August 2011 for murdering his ex-girl friend Brenda Karamuzi. The ruling by Justice Rugadya Atwooki indicated that the evidence was enough to prove that Nkurunjira murdered his ex-girl friend. The Sunday Monitor digs back into how the events leading to the arrest and sentencing of Tonku unfolded.
On January 30, 2010, police were called to a house in Kijwa zone, Bukasa Parish in Makindye Division, where a body of a female adult had been discovered in a septic tank.
The call to police came in at about 11am from Samuel Wamono, the area chairperson, reporting that Juma Abdu Hamid, a landlord, had informed him of a dead body.
Hamid had two tenants - Abdu Aziz Kakooza and Tom Nkurungira - in the same compound.
It was Kakooza who had called Charles Wamono, a fumigator, to disinfect his house because of the many cockroaches. While going about his duty, Wamono removed the slab to spray inside the septic tank when he discovered a body of a female, prompting them to call police.
The body was in a black blouse.
The police brought a fire brigade team who retrieved the decomposing body from the septic tank. Thereafter, the Shamba boy - Fred Sempijja - was arrested.
As police were inspecting the scene, Tom Nkurungira [Tonku]’s friend Christopher Bagaruka drove into the compound which had been declared a scene of crime. Bagaruka was arrested and asked where Nkurungira was. He said he did not know and that he too was looking for him and that was why he had come to his house.
The Shamba boy and Bagaruka were locked up at Kabalagala Police Station. The two suspects were put in separate cells.
The body had an open wound to the right side of the forehead and stab wounds around the neck.
The detectives at the scene asked to speak to the landlord because there was strong suspicion that the tenant could have killed the victim.
Police asked the landlord to open the house; he brought someone who broke the padlock.
Inside the house, police found blood stains on the walls and even on the cushions.
In the corridor leading to the bedroom, there were signs of an attempt to climb the wall in order to access the ceiling.
The scenes of crime officer then ascended into the ceiling and recovered three ladies’ bags, ladies clothes and a black wallet, an NSSF card No. 8402700401482 in the names of Brenda Karamuzi.
There was also a Barclays bank ATM card and business cards in the same names, prompting the police to conclude that this must be the victim.
Police started making calls to each of the owners of the business cards and after six calls, they came across Karamuzi’s friend who gave police her mother’s number.
Police called Karamuzi’s mother - Joy Karamuzi - who confirmed that Karamuzi was her daughter and had been trying to find her whereabouts for one week.
Karamuzi’s mother was asked to go to the city mortuary and find out whether it the body discovered was of her daughter.
Meanwhile, police found a hoe in an outside bathroom. It had blood splashes on the handle and police preserved the scene for another day since it was coming to 6pm. Police then locked the house and deployed officers.
Mother identifies daughter
After identifying her daughter’s body, the mother demanded to know what happened and was called to Kabalagala Police Station. The mother identified her daughter’s bags and recorded a statement at police together with other relatives.
The following day, on January 31, 2010, police conducted a post mortem at the city mortuary and it was found out that Karamuzi had died of brain injury following a blunt force trauma.
Police picked pieces of the bone from the skull. After the post mortem, a team from the Government Analytical Laboratory – GAL - went to the scene and advised the police on how to go about the investigations.
At the scene, police wanted to know who had entered the ceiling.
However, when police ran a print out of Karamuzi’s phone details, they discovered that the Shamba boy had used it to send himself airtime worth Shs600. Police were also able to establish the probable date of death, which could have been January 22, 2010.
Earlier, police had obtained information showing that Karamuzi had left home on January 21, 2010, saying she was going back to Bukasa, a city suburb. On the same day, she had talked to a friend at Workers’ House and told her she was going back to Bukasa.
The GAL team asked to speak to the suspects who were still held at Kabalagala police station which they did.
There was pressure to release Bagaruka, but he was later released by the Director of Public Prosecutions, who later found no charge to prefer against him long after police had done their work.
Later Bagaruka apologised to police for intruding on the scene of crime.
However, before he was released, police asked Bagaruka to call his friend - Nkurungira - feigning that he had been arrested for drink-driving and wanted him to come to Kabalagala Police Station to bail him out. This prompted Nkurungira to drive to the police station. On realising that he was in a trap, he tried to drive away but his vehicle was blocked.
So Bagaruka helped police to arrest Nkurungira who had gone into hiding after the murder.
The GAL team tried to talk to him but failed because he was extremely violent.
Meanwhile, all along, the Shamba boy had denied knowledge of the girl.
Police then tricked the Shamba boy by telling him that Nkurungira was implicating him in the killing.
It was then that the Shmba boy opened up and told the police how he had been sent to go and buy food (chips and goat meat) but on returning, he found the entire house closed.
He said before driving away, Nkurungira allegedly told him to eat the food if he had not eaten.
Sempijja then told police how he had been directed by his boss – Nkurungira - to wash blood-stained clothes, among them a cushion cover. Nkurungira had insisted that he washes the cushion cover first and hang it to dry before washing other clothes.
On February 1, 2010, police took Sempijja back to the scene where he identified the cushion he had washed. When the orange cushion cover was removed police found the cushion itself was stained with blood. Police picked blood stains whose DNA tests later matched that of Karamuzi.
After washing the cushion, Nkurungira had allegedly taken the house keys from the Shamba boy. Prior to this the Shmba boy told a lot of lies to police for one month in a bid to protect his boss.
On February 5, 2010, Nkurungira was charged with the murder of Brenda Karamuzi and was remanded to Upper Luzira prison.
Later that day, Bagaruka was also released while the Shamba boy was taken in by police as a potential witness.
On February 9, 2010, police emptied the septic tank to try and find Brenda Karamuzi’s phones but failed.
Police continued with inquiries and while talking to neighbours, they found a watchman in the names of Hosea Mugula. He was a watchman at Cornerstone Primary School in Bukasa.
Mugula told police that Sempijja – the Shamba boy - with whom they hailed from the same village in Bukomansimbii, had a girl friend called Joan Nakirya. On the day Sempijja was arrested, Nakirya had spent a night at Mugula’s place before going back to the village.
Mugula led police to Bukomansimbi and using the cover of darkness police went to the home Nakirya’s grandmother where she was found.
Nakirya told police that after her boyfriend was arrested, Alex Ssali approached her, saying Sempijja had sold him a Sony Erikson phone and was yet to pay him.
Ssali gave Nakirya Shs45,000 as payment and they made an agreement. It was this money that she used to travel to Masaka and she directed police where to get Ssali and when he was got police recovered the phone.
On comparing the serial numbers, it matched that of Karamuzi’s phone. The phone was recovered and exhibited.
Police re-interviewed the Shamba boy and on learning police had recovered the phone, he said he had not killed but assisted in carrying the body.
After one month, Sempijja was taken back to the scene and he surrendered the deceased’s sim-cards - a Warid and an MTN line.
The Shamba boy said he had been called by Nkurungira in the night and found Karamuzi’s body lying on the seat with blood oozing from a big wound on the forehead.
He said there were broken bottles of beer and the body was covered with pink bed sheets. According to the Shamba boy, Nkurungira said he had had a scuffle with Brenda and ended up killing her.
There was also a hoe in the sitting room which he (Sempijja) suspected could have been used.
Tonku asked him to assist carry the body to the car.
They both carried the body and when they reached the compound, Nkurungira removed the slabs and pushed Karamuzi’s body into the septic tank. He cautioned him about telling anybody before giving him Shs200,000 and promising him a Shs1 million bonus on top of his salary arrears.
Thereafter, Sempijja went and cleaned the sitting room.
Nkurungira, however, insisted he was innocent even when he was taken back to the scene of crime.
On March 22, 2010 the Shamba boy was joined to Nkurungira and charged as accused number two in the murder of Karamuzi.
Later, Justice Rugadya Atwooki advised that he is charged with conspiracy to murder because he did not report to police and had found the deceased already dead.
Though police had used forensics to solve the Karamuzi case, they failed to find a direct link to Nkurungira. He was instead charged circumstantially because this was his home.
Tonku now in Luzira for the murder of Karamuzi, has a rich family background though both his parents are dead.
Daughter to Henry and Joy Karamuzi of Kakyeera Rakai District, Brenda Karamuzi was born on August 21, 1984.
She was the fourth born of five children.
Karamuzi attended Shimoni Demonstration School for her primary education, Katikamu SDA, St. Lawrence Creamland and Lakeside College Luzira for her secondary school.
She studied Mass Communication at Mukono University starting off her career in the profession as a receptionist at NTV-Uganda.
She later became the public relations officer of AYA Group of Companies.
Her last job was with the Uganda Securities Exchange
When she died Karamuzi’s facebook page was swarmed with condolence messages to her and her family with many calling her “God’s Own Angel.” The same was echoed by the sister Amelia who sobbing during her short speech referred to her sister as an angel whose short stay on earth was interrupted by God because He wanted to use her for other things.
In July 2011, the defence lawyer representing Thomas Nkulungira alias Tonku asked the High Court to acquit his client of charges of murdering his girlfriend, arguing that the prosecution had failed to place him at the scene of crime.
Lawyer Johnny Patrick Barenzi said only Nkulungira’s then shamba boy, Mr Fred Ssempijja, who was jointly charged with his former boss, should stand trial over the murder of Brenda Karamuzi.
Delivering his final submission before Justice Albert Rugadya-Atwooki at the High Court in Kampala, Mr Barenzi said: “We pray that this court be inclined to find that A1 (Mr Nkulungira) has placed himself away from the scene of crime in terms of time of the alleged murder as A1 has placed an unshaken defence and prosecution has failed by standard of proof to bring any reliable evidence to convict him.”
He added: “A2 (Ssempijja) clearly places himself at the scene of crime and again foolishly tries to distance himself from participation in the crime.”