On July 28, 2007, Reverend Father Anthony Kiiza, 55, the parish priest of Kamwenge, went missing under mysterious circumstances. He was last seen alive at the home of a one Peter Beyunga, then a district councillor for Kasende Sub-county, Kyenjonjo District. The diocese of Fort Portal announced a reward of Shs1 million to anybody who could help establish the whereabouts of the priest.
The priest left Kamwenge on a Thursday and told his colleagues that he was heading to Kampala but without giving any reason for his trip. Later that night, he was apparently seen at Rweteera Trading Centre, some 13 miles from Fort Portal.
Father Kiiza, who was also the chairperson of Kamwenge District Service Commission, arrived at Beyunga’s home in Rwetera late in the night. The priest was offered a lift by a motorcyclist who found him walking to his intended destination. According to the cyclist the priest looked tired and disturbed.
The priest told his host that he had come from Fort Portal that night and had travelled by public means. The Beyungas are reported to have accommodated the priest that night but when someone went to call him for breakfast the following morning, he was not in the room and his mobile phone was switched off. Earlier that morning, Beyunga is reported to have left for Fort Portal Town, where he had urgent business to attend to.
Twelve years down the road, the priest has never been found and his body has not been recovered. His fate, therefore, remains unknown.
When a person is reported as missing, investigators should evaluate the information received to establish the urgency of the case. Not every case reported is a true case of a missing person. Investigators usually decide on the urgency of the case on a case by case basis. In the case of a missing person investigators should first and most access the circumstances of the case to decide on the next course of action. The best policy is, however, “rather be safe than sorry”.
A detailed physical appearance of a missing person and a photograph, when possible, should be provided to investigators. The descriptions should include the missing person’s height, weight and age, as well as any identifying markers such as a tattoo or birthmark. Any details that may have contributed to the person’s disappearance or the circumstances of the disappearance should be narrated to the investigators.
Domestic relations or issues are one of the reasons why an adult may not come home right away. Investigators should, therefore, dig into these. However, when a person usually comes home at a certain particular time or leaves essentials such as keys, cell phones or wallets and are suddenly missing, these should be considered danger signs. And once a subject is confirmed missing and in eminent danger, then investigations must be carried out in earnest as the first 72 hours of a missing person are the most critical.
The first hours
One of the first steps in the investigation of a missing person is to prevent the loss of evidence. During the first 48 hours, investigators have the best chance of following up leads, before people’s memories start to fade. This is the time the information that investigators receive will be more accurate and when acted upon promptly, then chances of getting the missing person are higher.
Information should not only be obtained from the missing person’s family but also from the public. There are chances that someone going about their business may have witnessed a crucial moment in the subject’s disappearance. People usually see something, so the period of time is absolutely vital in order to find the missing person right away. The public should be alert and aware when a message of a missing person is sent out, but too many messages or false alarms may cause people to ignore it.
It is important for investigators to generate as much awareness and as many leads as possible within the first 72 hours to get help from the public. These first few days are especially crucial in the event that the missing person is being transported or is in danger. Some missing persons are sometimes killed quickly, sometimes within the first three hours but usually within the first two days.
In the investigation of a missing person, there is usually a point in the investigation when the objective switches from attempting to find a live person to trying to locate a body and bring closure to the family.