Did police attempt to cover up Karuhanga murder probe?

Monday March 9 2020

Grief. Ms Phoebe Karazarwe (right), the wife of

Grief. Ms Phoebe Karazarwe (right), the wife of former Ntungamo District chairperson John Wycliffe Karazarwe, speaks at the burial of Daniel Karuhanga (in set) in Rushere, Kiruhura District, in 2013. FILE PHOTO 

By Emmanuel Mutaizibwa

The homestead of Daniel Karuhanga remained under the spell of dark clouds that gathered overhead in a fit of rage, hours before he was killed. On the night he was killed, Karuhanga had a premonition. He told one of his daughters in a phone conversation that he wanted to share sensitive information with her but did not feel safe to communicate on his phone.

Karuhanga was killed alongside five others at about 1am in Kacumbiro Village, Kiruhura District, on August 17, 2013. Who could have wanted this man described as affable dead? What was the motive of the killers?

It was not until morning that the survivors reported the killings to Rushere Police Station at 6.30am.

So why did the survivors of the attack, including Karuhanga’s second wife, Joyce Kabashaho, not make an alarm after the killers sped off in Karuhanga’s vehicle? Were they perhaps too scared to speak?

Why did the killers spare the life of Karuhanga’s second wife and her niece Bonita Kyohairwe? Was it a trick to implicate Kabashaho in the murder? Kabashaho was previously married to Katsigaire and her past record should have been examined as she left her previous marriage acrimoniously and was currently locked in a court battle with him over property.

Daily Monitor pieced together evidence from the crime scene, interviews and what was recorded in witness statements and some of the submissions and the cross-examination during trial. Some of the evidence shows glaring contradictions that should have been interrogated by police.

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One of the key theories that should have been placed under the microscope was why did most of the victims not have defensive injuries?

One of the survivors, whose identity we cannot disclose, revealed that two meals were prepared during the night Karuhanga was killed and the men shared their own meal.

Is it possible that the food was laced with sedatives to give the killers a much easier task?
According to the evidence tendered in court, it came to light that most of those killed were found lying on their beds. Was it strange that none of them stood up to fight the killers before they struck?

In respect to one of the rooms, Principal Witness 14; Noreen Akello, a police officer, testified that they were two bodies on a bed; one was facing up with a wound on the throat.
Rwizi region crimes officer Sulaiman Nabaasa also documented the injuries through photography.
Two bodies had multiple cuts at the neck and another body was cut at the neck cone. Mr Nabaasa also observed that two other bodies were found in their beds.

Karuhanga’s body was specifically cut on the face and neck. Then Kiruhura District Police Commander Norman Musinga indicated in his statement that Karuhanga’s body was found on his bed.
Dr Peter Kalubi’s postmortem report provided a detailed account.

It revealed that Karuhanga had cut wounds in the face; Kenneth Timuzigu had deep cut wounds on the neck; Bernard Ntwirenabo had head injuries; Naboth Turyahabwe had deep neck wounds and Alex Turyamureeba had deep cut wounds through the cheek extending to the neck and dissection of finger vessels and cut through the jaw bone.

It was observed that all the victims had deep cuts at the neck and were attacked on their beds apparently in their sleep, apart from Eldard Tumwine who was killed outside the house while fighting the killers.

Hours before they were killed, Tumwine prepared his own meal and refused to eat what was prepared as he had grown suspicious.

The head of forensic medicine at Mulago teaching hospital, Dr Sylvester Onzivua, told Daily Monitor that “the injuries inflicted were on the head and neck. The doctor [who carried out the post mortem] did not document any defence injuries. Common sense says that six men cannot be slaughtered like chicken and they don’t defend themselves. This is absurd and there is something grossly wrong.”

According to the witness statement of Kabashaho, the second wife of Karuhanga, the latter was the first to be killed after he reportedly fought with the assailants who hit him with a hammer on the head.

But her statement contradicted that of another survivor. One of the survivors, whose identity we cannot disclose for safety reasons, said Tumwine was killed first.

“I heard Eldard [Tumwine] fighting with the murderer until they went outside where they fought for so long,” revealed the survivor. The assailants then proceeded to bang on the door of Karuhanga who they killed.”

So why did police not further interrogate this theory?
One of those police should have picked interest in is Bonita Kyohairwe, the niece of Kabashaho, who was in one of the rooms when the attackers raided the home of Karuhanga.

In her first statement to police, she revealed that after Karuhanga was killed, “Kabashaho started making an alarm and calling Eldard [Tumwine] for assistance and Eldard was making an alarm from his room and the killer said Eldard was to be killed.”

Kyohairwe’s statement read: “The occupants of the room next to me where Mzee Karuhanga slept switched off the security light. All of a sudden I heard the voice of Aunt Joyce [Kabashaho] shouting, ‘don’t kill my kid.’ I then heard a lot of struggles and I heard the voice of my aunt lamenting that Mzee has died.”

Kyohairwe revealed that the killers had “stood on my door. I saw light outside and the killer passed the muzzle of the gun through the door [where I was sleeping] and later remained outside.”

In her second statement to police, she said she heard the assailants asking about who the occupants might be in the room where she was sleeping.

Kyohairwe’s police statement quotes one of the assailants saying: “The way they are breathing, that is a place for children.” This, she said, prompted the assailants not to access her room.

This is a contradiction of what she earlier on stated that the killer had passed a muzzle of the gun through the door where they slept.

According to Kabashaho, the killers locked the bolt of the house before they fled and they had to rely on a child of four years who was shoved through a narrow space in the burglar proof to go outside and unlock the bolt.

But is it plausible that a child of four years could go through these iron bars and open the bolt of the door?

Kyohairwe was the first to report the incident to Rushere Police Station at 6:30am after her aunt, under the weight of shock, reportedly failed to walk. Efforts to speak to Kabashaho, who lives in Gomba District, were futile as her known cellphone was switched off.

According to some of the witnesses who reached the scene of crime in the morning, the mattresses where most of the victims were killed and were soaked in blood were later burnt. Was this meant to destroy a vital piece of forensic evidence?

On learning about the death of their father, some of Karuhanga’s children, including Mr Grace Nuwamanya Karuhanga, left Kampala for Kiruhura. As Mr Nuwamanya set off for Mbarara alongside his siblings, he found his mother and others detained at Rushere Police Station.
Was this perhaps a red herring? Upon reaching police, Grace and his four siblings were arrested.

At Karuhanga’s burial, Mr Musinga told mourners that “some of the suspects confessed that they had been hired to kill the old man and gave the police details; who the financiers were and how it was carried out.”

Mr Nuwamanya, who is a lawyer by profession, says they were shocked by the arrest.

Deceased’s children arrested
“We [siblings] are well-employed, even to be suspected of such a heinous crime. As a law abiding citizen without any criminal record, I had been a lawyer for five years, it was compounding to deny us a chance to bury and mourn our father,” he adds.

Mr Nuwamanya recalls that they were remanded in Luzira on October 22, 2013. He adds that barely after their detention, one of the highest-ranking officers in police then came to Luzira prison and picked one of the convicts, James Asiimwe from the quadrangle.

Mr Nuwamanya says the convict was offered Shs500,000 and promised more favours if he would falsely testify that the former was present at the scene of crime.

Asiimwe, who is among the three men convicted over the murder, had in his third charge and caution statement claimed that Mr Nuwamanya had taken part in the killings and directed the assailants to his father’s bedroom.

But Asiimwe’s first charge and caution statement, which was tendered in court as part of evidence, did not implicate Grace Karuhanga or any of his siblings.

Mr Nuwamanya says he was baffled why police were not investigating other leads. “As a lawyer involved in criminal practice, police need to have a number of theories; their investigations need to be aligned to a number of theories. For instance, there were no defensive injuries, there was also a likelihood of sedation before the murder. Why was this not probed?”

Ms Jolly Akandwanaho, who is a sister of Mr Grace Karuhanga and was freed after seven months in detention, also says the police acted suspiciously.

“We tried to ask police to probe why this man had taken Mzee’s [Karuhanga] car a day before his death. The police officer had arrested him six months before for a murder in Nyakasharara [a sub-county in Kiruhura],” Ms Akandwanaho says.

Joviah Komuhiire (right) is consoled by
Joviah Komuhiire (right) is consoled by relatives after she was cleared of murder charges by Mbarara High Court in 2015. FILE PHOTO

When Ms Akandanwaho was released, she conducted a probe to free her siblings and mother from the shackles of bondage.

“When I came out, I met the DPP [Mike] Chibita. I told him I want to understand where he saw my role in the case. He told me, ‘I have read your file and I don’t see you with a case.’ So I said, ‘where is the problem? Is it the State?’ he said ‘No.’ I told him to expand the scope of the investigation, if he wants to serve justice,” she says.

Justice Chibita has since left the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Ms Akandanwaho also implored him to grant her mother a certificate of no objection in her application for bail as she was old and ailing.

“The DPP gave us a certificate of no objection, thanks to him but he said the grant of bail is the discretion of the judge. I came out so expectant and hopeful and we presented certificate of no objection but my mother was denied bail.”

There were a number of strange occurrences. Their case file went missing for three months. There was a delay when Judge Flavia Anglin Ssenoga pulled out of the case citing reasons beyond her control.

“I implored the State Attorney of Mbarara to call the deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and ask him where our file was. When he called, the State Attorney told him they had never received that file. The director called another person who said the file was in Mbarara,” Ms Akandwanaho reveals.

After impassioned pleas, the file later resurfaced as the session was rescheduled for April 2015.

“I thank God that Chibita is a born-again Christian; he prayed for me and it changed the entire system. I wanted my people tried because that would be the only way they would come out of prison. As the accused, nobody had ever spoken for our side,” she revealed.

“There was a lot of forgery; people misidentified us. I was called Alice Nayebare [my sister], some people could not identify my brother, and you should have seen the circus. People were given facilitation to give false testimonies. I am sure that the judge was so patient.”

Ms Nayebare, a sister of Akandwanaho, who had been in Luzira prison for two years and one month, was acquitted of the murder at the commencement of the trial presided over by Justice Lameck Mukasa.

Coached witness
Ms Akandwanaho says during the trial, Hussein Binoga, a habitual criminal was brought to Mbarara Prisons so that he could identify Grace Karuhanga. She says Binoga was also coached to lie that he drove Mr Karuhanga to the crime scene and later took the deceased’s car to the DRC where he sold it.

On the day Binoga is purported to have driven Mr Karuhanga to the crime scene, Ms Akandwanaho says another case file indicated that on that very day he had been arrested for defrauding a Bushenyi-based businessman.

However, police spokesperson Fred Enanga denies claims that some of their officers acted unprofessionally in the case. He says the police dedicated its best team and funds to investigate the scene of crime until the case was dismissed on a technicality.

“The office of the DPP carefully evaluated the evidence and the facts were sufficient to prosecute the case.”

Mr Enanga, nevertheless, acknowledges that the judge found the evidence against Karuhanga’s children and first wife Jovia uncorroborated. “You can’t blame the police 100 per cent, police and the DPP all play an important role in criminal cases and the case took three years to be tried. This presented challenges to many actors, including witnesses and the forensic evidence.”

However, the case was not dismissed on what Enanga claims was a technicality but a glaring absence of incriminating evidence.

The prosecution arraigned 33 state witnesses and after carefully evaluating the evidence, Judge Lameck Mukasa on December 2, 2015 found James Asiimwe guilty of rape, murder and aggravated robbery. He also found Mathew Mugoha and Amon Twabagye guilty of aggravated robbery and murder after they were placed on the scene of crime from phone record printouts.

The prosecution team’s case against Grace Karuhanga collapsed when one of the key police detectives in the case Simon Mapeera, in stark contrast, gave a spectacular defence of his alibi.

“I met Grace at Kireka in police custody. He had been before Justice Margaret Oguli in Masaka High Court for a hearing so I went to Masaka and interacted with the judge. I confirmed that he slept in Hotel Zebra. I confirmed that he left and went for the burial of his uncle in Kashari.
I had an interaction with the people in Kashari where he went for burial. We had phone printouts, which showed he came to Kampala, I confirm that his defence of alibi was true, correct and accurate.”

Karuhanga revealed that he became emotional at that moment. “For two years and four months [in prison], I couldn’t believe, I cried.”

The prosecution side lodged an appeal and four years later, the appeal was fixed and heard in December 2019.

“We as a family and our lawyers were not served and we were given a state brief lawyer. I disowned the lawyer [on state brief] as he would not offer the much-desired representation,” Ms Barbara Masinde, a State Attorney from the office of the DPP, told court.

However, when she perused the record of proceedings, she found it incomplete, a fact that she allegedly brought to the attention of the registrar of the court. Ms Masinde informed court that she would be unable to proceed in the circumstances. She prayed that she be availed with the complete and certified record in order to properly proceed.

She further prayed that the matter be returned to Mbarara High Court where it originated
Mr Nuwamanya, who opted to represent himself, raised a point of objection. He argued that the DPP’s office had shown no interest in prosecuting the present appeal and was keen on making an inordinate delay in the delivery of justice.

Three Court of Appeal justices Elizabeth Musoke, Ezekiel Muhanguzi, Remmy Kasule sitting in Masaka ruled that the DPP did not show interest in the matter as he only filed a Notice of Appeal and did not go ahead to request for the record of proceedings or file a Memorandum of Appeal “for almost four years now.”

Six years and three months after he was killed, many theories remain abound about the death of Karuhanga, the motive, the cover-ups and those who wanted him dead.

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