What you need to know:
When Esther fell in love with a handsome man, she did not think he could harm her in any way. However, their first date ended in tears when the man stole her phone and money.
In April last year, I met a handsome man at Acacia Mall in Kampala. He got my attention when he offered to pay for my Uber back home. He introduced himself as a Ugandan businessman who exports pork to South Sudan.
Three days after our initial meeting, Evans sent me a message, enquiring whether I was okay. As we continued chatting, he told me about his business; how he would soon travel to South Sudan to sign for a consignment from Uganda. He promised to get in touch when he returned.
I remember him asking what type of phone I had and I told him that I had an IPhone 11 pro max. When I asked why he wanted to know, he said he was just thinking of a suitable gift for me as he returned to Uganda.
For about four days, he was offline and I really thought he had travelled. He then contacted me to say he was back in Kampala.
By now, I was smitten by this man and had high hopes of starting a romantic relationship with him. But I had to wait for him to ask me on a date.
A day later, he asked where I lived and I told him I lived in Kisaasi, Kampala. He immediately said he had a business meeting in Kisaasi the following day and asked if we could meet.
On the day of our meeting, he kept changing the time and location, making me think he was having a busy day. In a way, I felt special because even with such a busy schedule, he wanted to spend some time with me.
A few minutes after midday, he sent a Whatsapp message saying we would meet at Giraffe Park Hotel in Kisaasi where he was reportedly having one of his meetings. A few minutes to the agreed time, I walked to the hotel and found him waiting. After pleasantries, he became impatient but I kept calm, thinking he was just nervous.
He then excused himself and went outside to answer a phone call. When he came back, he asked me to go up to a room he had booked at the hotel to freshen up.
Angry, I asked why. He said because it was hot and stuffy, he felt I would love to freshen up. I smelt a rat and declined the offer. Although I remained calm, he was impatient and started dragging me from my seat, which made me uncomfortable.
I started getting up to leave but he held my hand and apologised for his uncouth behaviour. I told him I wanted to use the restroom and because he had been to this hotel several times, he assured me the public restrooms were so dirty and asked that I use the one in his room.
I agreed and I trusted him with my bag which had Shs300,000, a small Techno phone, my phone and its charger.
I smelt something fishy when I entered his room and noticed it was pristine. I used the restroom and immediately ran back to the table and found he had disappeared with my bag. I sat for a few minutes thinking he would return but he did not.
Someone told me he had answered a call and within just minutes, a motorcycle had arrived to pick him up.
I filed a case at Kisaasi Police Station and my only hope was that I would recognise him one day and call the police. Days later, I read a Tweet about another young woman who was going through a similar ordeal and this gave me the courage to contact my friends to share my story.
One of the social media users asked me to share a picture. I remembered I had sent one to my friend and this is what was posted. Several other women came forward to say they had been duped by the same man with others claiming he was part of a larger group of conmen in Kampala who also drugged women and robbed them.
With his telephone numbers that where provided by his victims and former colleagues at school, police tracked him and he was apprehended on June 11, 2022. He pleaded guilty and accepted to pay back my money and replace my phone.
Records from Uganda Police in 2020 and 2021 indicate that on average, at least 4,000 cases of theft of mobile phones was annually registered.
According to the Annual Crime and Traffic Safety Report 2020, theft remains the leading offence in Uganda with 41,950 cases contributing 21.4 per cent of all crimes registered in the previous year, with thugs mostly targeting women.