Investigations of Kiyingi murder

What you need to know:

  • The gun that was used in the murder was recovered near the scene. Its butt had been cut off and its serial number erased. The gun and spent cartridges that were recovered were taken to Nairobi for forensic examinations.

Two police officers were at the centre of the investigations in the murder of a prominent Ugandan lawyer, Robinah Kiyingi, who was shot in cold blood in her car at the gate of her home on the night of July 11, 2005 in Kampala.

Recovered gun

The gun that was used in the murder was recovered near the scene. Its butt had been cut off and its serial number erased. The gun and spent cartridges that were recovered were taken to Nairobi for forensic examinations.

The ballistic expert from CID headquarters Nairobi, with great skill, managed to restore the serial number of the gun which the assailants had erased. The expert identified the gun as a Morinco Type 56 Assault rifle, a Chinese copy of the Soviet Kalashnikov AK 47 assault rifle.

He also confirmed that the spent cartridges which had been recovered from the scene had indeed been fired from the gun. The gun was also tested and found to be functional.

Evidence

The two police officers also gave first hand evidence as to how they came to arrest the suspects. To the court their evidence was very important in this case as investigating and arresting officers; their evidence formed the necessary chain between direct and circumstantial evidence. The police officers testified that after the murder of Robinah Kiyingi they received information that it was Private John Atwine who fired the bullets that ended the life of the lawyer. When the police arrested Atwine, he told the police that he had been lured by Charles Berwanaho to desert the army to come to Kampala and assist in the murder of the deceased who was said to be disturbing her husband Dr Aggrey Kiyingi.

Witness account 

Atwine was promised a lot of money for the mission and was to be relocated to Australia. Atwine further gave information to police that Bob Mugisha had earlier been given the assignment but failed to accomplish the mission to the alleged chagrin of Dr Kiyingi after being paid. He also told police that Mugisha subsequently offered to provide the killer gun which he, Atwine, allegedly received from him from the office of Berwanaho at Agip House, in Kampala. It was at that office that Berwanaho reportedly introduced him to Mugisha. After getting the gun, Atwine told the police he took it to Kireka where he erased its serial number and removed the butt. According to the police Atwine clearly described Mugisha as a police officer who was attached to Old Kampala Police Station and later on identified him in an impromptu identification parade.

Prosecution

Prosecution also relied on the evidence of a man who testified that he housed Atwine for a week or so preceding the murder. The witness told court that Atwine had confided in him that he was in Kampala to kill the wife of a doctor. The police recovered from the scene of crime a map and a jacket that was identified as that belonging to a lady who lent it to Atwine. On the map were directions to and geography of the house of the deceased. 

The map also had fingerprints of Atwine. At the same scene the police recovered a piece of plywood with fake number plates. A witness identified these plates as the ones that Atwine had prepared in her presence and had informed her that they were for the purpose of disguising the actual number plates of the vehicle used in the murder.

Telephone prints

Telephone printouts of from the then mobile telephone service providers, MTN, Celtel and Mango of the accused persons were provided to the police to help in the investigations. There was evidence that towards the planned time of the murder the parties to the murder acquired new mobile telephone numbers which were for strict use for the mission to allow them act in a discreet manner in case of any problem. Bob Mugisha was found with a new mobile telephone in addition to his usual known numbers.

In total Prosecution produced 23 witnesses to prove its case. The defense lawyers, however, protested the evidence of some of the witnesses and asked court to disregard these for being hearsay evidence. This was particularly of the witnesses who relied on what Private John Atwine told them. Atwine was not in court to attest to the truth of these statements.

Court defines hearsay evidence as statements, written or otherwise, made or submitted by a third party in court and attributed to a person not before court. It is second hand evidence which cannot be subjected to cross-examination and therefore liable to fabrications. Courts rely on oral evidence if it is direct and refers to a fact that was heard and given in court by the witness who says they heard it. Court, however, this time accepted evidence of two of the witnesses who testified on what they heard directly from the late Atwine and these two witnesses were both subjected to rigorous cross-examinations on their assertions. To court although their evidence was admissible, it did not at that stage attach any probative value to the evidence. 

In many jurisdictions hearsay evidence is inadmissible. In some jurisdictions there are now reforms in the hearsay rule allowing the admissibility of such evidence on principle basis, the governing principles being the reliability of the evidence and its necessity. In these jurisdictions necessity has been interpreted to mean “reasonably necessary” and reliability assessed having regard to the characteristics inherent in the evidence as well as the safely of relying on it given other evidence in the case.

The death of Atwine, the person who is alleged to have pulled the trigger of the gun that killed the lawyer, under mysterious circumstances while on remand was to prove pivotal in the case.   

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