Court Convicts Appollo Nyangasi

What you need to know:

  • The Union, under his leadership, had effectively mobilised health workers in a nationwide industrial action that paralysed all but emergency medical services.

Nyangasi Apollo Dalton was no ordinary person; he was a qualified medical personnel with many years of experience and had risen to become the chairperson of the Medical Workers Union.

The Union, under his leadership, had effectively mobilised health workers in a nationwide industrial action that paralysed all but emergency medical services.

When he was, therefore, charged with the murder of his wife, the nation held its breath.

The court was, however, determined to decide the case on its own merits. And one of the issues that court had to decide on was whether Nyangasi had intentionally caused the death of his wife Christine.

Crime scene

An eyewitness told court that she saw Nyangasi strangle his wife in the toilet; that his hands were on Christine’s neck and that Christine was struggling to free her neck of her assailant’s hand.

When Nyangasi saw the eyewitness, he rushed away leaving Christine struggling for breath. The security guard in the homestead testified that when he rushed to the toilet following the commotion, he saw Christine on the floor of the latrine and she had soiled herself and had wounds on her head.

She was heaving at long intervals with noises in her chest and that she could not talk. The guard further told court that he helped to put her in the vehicle and went with her to Bugolobi Nursing Home from where the doctor referred them to Mulago Hospital where Christine was pronounced dead on arrival. Several witnesses testified that Christine was apparently normal prior to her death. 

Injuries

The pathologist who carried out the postmortem examination was of the opinion that the Christine died because her heart failed when pressure was applied to her neck although there were no fresh injuries on in the neck.

The pathologist explained to court that cardiac failure can occur when abnormal activity of the nervous system leads to the slowing or sudden stopping of the heart and this can be triggered by pressure on the neck. The evidence of a failing heart was the fluid accumulation that was in both lungs.

The pathologist had termed the accumulation of fluid in the lungs as pneumonia. He, however, explained in court that although pneumonia can kill, when it does so the patient is very ill, in hospital, having difficulty in breathing and probably spiking a very high fever. The facts of the case do not show that Christine was in such a condition. She also had a number of fresh injuries on the head and left arm suggestive of the scuffle she must have been engaged in.

Court was not in doubt that the neck is a very vulnerable part of the body and the hands when applied with force to the neck can became lethal weapons. An important legal principle is that for court to infer that an accused person killed with malice aforethought, it must consider if death was a natural consequence of the act that caused the death and if the accused foresaw or knew that death would be a natural consequence of that act. To court Nyangasi undoubtedly know the scientific consequences of squeezing a person’s neck.

Threats

Prosecution also pointed out other evidence implicating Nyangasi. He was overheard saying that “nobody messes with me and gets away with it” shortly after the scuffle with his wife in the toilet. This, to court, was not the conduct of an innocent man. Christine’s relatives also narrated to court what she had told them; that her husband wanted to kill her over property and that for fear that he might strangle her at night, she moved to a different house.

And on the day Christine died Nyangasi told her that she would be dead by midday and this was after he had made prior threats. Court relied on a case in which the apprehension of danger by the deceased and fall out with the accused person was a relevant factor in strengthening the conclusion that the accused person had a hand in killing the deceased.

Apollo Nyangasi made an unsworn statement denying that he caused the death of his wife. He told court that he was in the drug shop on the outer side of the courtyard trying to catch an early customer and was not, therefore, at the scene of crime.

Court, however, found the evidence against Nyangasi overwhelming; it not only placed him at the scene of crime but also negated his defence of the alibi which he raised when he found himself corned and tried to pull himself out of the quagmire as an afterthought.

Truthful

Court was, therefore, of the view that the evidence adduced by the witnesses who testified against Nyangasi was strong and reliable and reflected a high degree of probability that he, with malice aforethought, caused the death of his wife.

The witnesses appeared truthful in what they said. In addition most of the witnesses knew Nyangasi as an in-law. They saw him at close range in the early morning when there was daylight. For these reasons court was satisfied that the witnesses could not have been mistaken in identifying Nyangasi as the person who strangled and killed Christine on the day in question.

There were some contradictions in the evidence. Court was of the opinion that the contradictions were minor and did not affect the substance of the evidence against Nyangasi. Court had no choice but to conclude that the State had succeeded in proving beyond reasonable that Nyangasi caused the death of his wife Christine. 

The assessors in their joint opinion advised court that the State had proved all the ingredients of the offence except malice aforethought.  And for that reason they advised court to convict Nyangasi of manslaughter and not murder. The judge, with due respect, did not agree with the assessors and believed their advice may have been due to the complex concept of malice aforethought. 

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