How police dogs were used in the Kiruhura murders

Saturday May 23 2020

 

By Dr Sylvester Onzivua

Two police dogs were introduced, apparently independent of each other, on Saturday August 17, 2013 at the scene, where six people were killed in Kiruhura District.

The homestead belonged to a prominent cattle keeper who was murdered along with five of his workers. A car in the homestead was also stolen on the night of the murders.

The first dog, an experienced German Shepherd named Bush, was introduced to the scene by its handler, who had worked with the dog for two years. This scent detecting dog was stationed at Mbarara Police Station and had had a previous success rate of about 70 per cent.

In order to successfully identify criminals, it is vital that a scene of crime is secured and cordoned off before a dog is introduced to track persons who may have been involved in the commission of the crime.

Bush was introduced to the scene where the bodies of two of the farm workers were. These bodies were in the temporary shelter they used to sleep in.
The dog was put at the entrance of the shelter and commanded to sniff the scent.

The dog then moved to another body which was lying within the compound but inside the area that had been cordoned off. There were footprints near this body. The dog then moved into the house and moved to all the rooms where there were dead bodies.

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The dog came out and followed a trial that led directly to the veranda of the main house in the next homestead. This home belonged to the first wife of the deceased cattle keeper.

The house was locked. The dog went around to the bathing shelter and then to the kitchen. Inside the kitchen was a pair of gumboots. This pair of gumboots was to prove controversial forensic significance.

The dog then came out and followed the same trail back to the scene of crime. The dog, however, did not enter the area that was cordoned off but instead went and sat in an open area, about 10 metres from the scene of crime.

To the dog handler, it was at that point that the dog lost the scent and the open space had grass that suggested a vehicle had been parked at that place.
The officer in charge of the canine unit at Kazo Police Station was called at about 7:30 am on August 17, 2013 to the scene.

He told court that he arrived at the scene at about 10am that day and came with another sniffer dog, a German Shepherd called Max. It was described as a tracking and a sniffing dog. The officer had been with the dog for three years.

The officer was, however, commanded to wait for the Canine Unit from Mbarara District. The canine team arrived shortly after and the sniffer dog from Mbarara was introduced to the scene.

Max was introduced to the scene at the same spot that the first dog was. The dog took a similar route to that taken by the first dog and went to the house of the first wife of the deceased cattle keeper.
According to the police officer, the assailant must have stepped in that compound.

The dog proceeded to a bathing shelter behind the house, which implied that the assailants bathed or washed hands in the shelter.
Further, at the bathing shelter, the dog urinated and to the handler, this indicated that the assailants must have entered the shelter.

The dog entered into one of the rooms in the boys’ quarters and sniffed on a white chair which was stained with what looked like blood.
The dog then entered the kitchen and sniffed on a spear, a panga and a hammer that were also apparently blood-stained.

The dog returned to the crime scene and entered one of the rooms that had a lot of blood. The dog sniffed at a gumboot that was in a pool of blood.

The dog came out and sniffed at the body in the compound and entered the rooms where the other bodies were.
After these movements, the dog came out and sniffed at a woman who was seated on a white chair outside the area that had been cordoned off.

The woman was the first wife of the deceased cattle keeper and her home was where the two dogs had led their handlers.

One of the handlers told court that the woman could have participated in the crime. The woman, Jovia Karuhanga, was arrested shortly after and later charged and tried for the murder of her husband and five of his workers.

She was arrested with some of her children.
The dog then proceeded to track up to the main road and to the dog handler, this must have been the point where the assailants boarded from.

The dog handler from Kazo told court that in his opinion, the killing of six people that night could not have been carried out by one person. But to him the dog selected one scent and followed it.

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