The High Court in Kampala on Monday afternoon sentenced businessman Muhammed Ssebuwufu, the proprietor of Pine Car Bond in Kampala to 40 years imprisonment after finding him guilty of torturing to death, businesswoman Betty Donah Katusabe for failure to clear an outstanding debt of nine million shillings.
The judge also sentenced Godfrey Kayiza, Philip Mirambe, Paul Tasingika, Yoweri Kitayimba, Damaseni Ssentongo and Shaban Odutu to 40 years imprisonment for murder and 20 more years for aggravated robber and kidnap with intent to murder.
According to evidence brought before court, on the fateful day on October 21, 2015, Katushabe was kidnapped from Entebbe and driven to Pine Car Bond on Lumumba Avenue in a bid to force her clear the nine million shillings debt but on refusal, she was severely beaten and late succumbed to the torture injuries.
Evidence also indicated that following the torture, Katushabe reached out to her lawyers of Tumwebaza, Atugonza and Kobusingye Company Advocates to come to her rescue, prompting one Peter Tumusiime to rush to the scene and he found her weak following the torture.
In her sentence, Justice Flavia Ssenoga said the manner in which the deceased was treated after the kidnap and torture leading to her death was despicable that warranted a heavy punishment to the culprits.
“The offence was not accidental but rather premeditated and each of the convicts played a role. The convicts had sufficient time since the abduction from her home in the morning to reflect on their actions but they didn’t find it in their hearts to repent and settle the matter amicably and in a civilized manner,”Ssenoga said.
According to the judge, evidence pinned the convicts on repeatedly torturing by assault Katushabe allover her body including the head, arms, stomach and back and this resulted into injuries that later led to her death.
“The abduction was as a result of fraud and death was not accidental but deliberately occasioned in furtherance of an unlawful purpose and as evidence indicated, each convict took part in the commission of the offences.”
“A request by the deceased to be allowed to pay the money at an agreed time fell on deaf ears.
She explained that there was no need for Ssebuwuufu and his group to torture Katushabe as a way of forcing her pay the nine million shillings debt yet they could do it amicably and the matter is settled.
The judge said there are many other ways of solving such matters amicably other than using underhand methods like the one used that led to death.
The judge said offence negatively impacted on family and public at large adding that it was wrong for the convicts to take the law into their hands.
“She was tortured, robbed and killed yet the matter over a debt yet the matter could have been settled amicably.”
By handing a 40 year sentence, the judge said the court wanted to send a strong message to the public that disputes cannot be settled violently by people taking the law into their hands.
“The matter over which she was abducted, tortured and later succumbed to death would have been settled through a civil suit in court,” she said.
The judge explained that despite being of either advanced or young age, the convicts could not be saved from a custodial sentence considering the manner under which the deceased was treated leading to her death.
“Justice requires that they should be punished for offences committed otherwise they will not learn from their mistakes.”
According to the judge, the eight convicts ought to have observed humanity by not torturing their fellow human being.
“Humanity was created to carry forward an ever advancing civilization and to behave like the beasts of this earth like the convicts did cannot be accepted and condoned.”
What they said
Alex Michael Ojok, state prosecutor: “This is one of the rare of the rarest cases as she was subjected to inhumane treatment .The degree of injuries caused to the victim show it was well planned. They wasted court’s time by undergoing a full trial. The deceased was humiliated at the car bond, tortured and her clothes including the undergarment torn. Court being a custodian of the law should give the maximum sentence.”
Evans Ochieng, defence lawyer: “To offer the convict an opportunity to reform, death is not justifiable under the circumstances. He is a first offender and court should therefore not hand him the maximum sentence. He is a young man married with children.”
Muhammad Ssebuwufu, convict: “All my life I have never committed any offence yet I am a sole bread winner of over 60 children I picked from the streets and other places that I am look after. I am also married with six children.”