On Monday, the High Court in Kampala sentenced three people, including a UPDF captain to 50 years imprisonment over the kidnap, robbery and murder of an Eritrean businessman.
The sentence was the climax of a five year process of the arrest and subsequent trial of the trio that masterminded the mission with an aim of robbing shs8 billion from the businessman’s accounts.
The Nile Post looks at how the mission was planned and pulled off.
On October 27, 2016, Daniel Weldo, 32, an Eritrean businessman who had relocated to Uganda from South Sudan received a call from unknown people and he told his brother who was with him in office that he was heading to the German Embassy at Kololo.
After 30 minutes, he called his brother to inform him that he was proceeding home with two men to help him process a visa.
However, the brother got concerned after he was told Weldo was returning shortly only for his phones to go off.
The brother later called the businessman’s home in Muyenga only to be told that he had driven into the compound, but did not come out of the vehicle.
Instead, an unidentified man came out of the vehicle, moved around the compound and returned to the car which drove away .
The businessman later called his other brother and instructed him to go to his house and pick a cheque of Stanbic Bank and take it to him at Housing Finance Bank in Kololo.
“At Kololo, Isaac found the deceased in his vehicle with two unidentified men, one of whom was wearing a military uniform. After delivering the cheque leaf, the deceased told his brother to go, promising to call him in case of anything else,” indictment from the office of the DPP indicated.
The businessman later sent a message using a number unknown to the family members saying he should be traced using the same number if he disappeared.
Simcard leads to arrest
After the disappearance, the family members reported the matter to Jinja road police station that kicked off investigations.
During investigations, police got information of the unknown number the businessman had used to send a message to his relatives.
It was discovered that the unknown number had earlier been used to call the businessman, prompting to track it and the process led security to a Nokia phone in which the simcard was inserted.
Security also found out that another simcard had earlier been inserted in the same Nokia phone, leads that were followed and led police to one Isaac Tekle who was at the time out of the country but relatives were asked to tell him to return home.
On return, Tekle told police that earlier, after returning from Dubai, his MTN line had been deactivated and when he went to an MTN shop in the city centre, he was informed his line has been swapped.
“The police then investigated who had swapped Tekle’s line and a one Sylvia Ayebare a sales executive at Simba telecom, Kikuubo branch was arrested. She disclosed that on September, 26, 2016, she received a filled swap form from a one Joy Batenga for the said line but also had an alternative line in the names of Benon Lumu with a photocopy of the ID of Tekle and she swapped the line,” the documents read.
According to the indictment, Batenga led detectives to Tom Gita, another member of the Simba telecom direct sales team who said a friend, Sam Kutesa had approached him that he had a friend who had sent his identity card and details of his number that he wanted swapped.
It is then that Kutesa led detectives to arrest Lumu Benon who was found at Village Mall in Bugoloobi.
Upon arrest, Lumu admitted being part of the plan to kidnap the businessman and a search at his home led security to discovery of the deceased’s passport photograph and the said Nokia phone.
He later led police to the home of Bumali Mangeni, a UPDF Captain who was also arrested over the same matter.
Lady luck strikes
However, after the arrest of the two prime suspects, they were detained at the Special Investigations Division in Kireka as investigations into the matter continued with an aim of arresting more people who were part of the mission.
As luck would have it, Andrew Kisitu, a friend to the two suspects went to Kireka to visit them.
When Kisitu was asked to identify himself, he presented an identity card with names of a person(Kisitu Andrew) that detectives were looking for, having participated in the mission to kidnap and kill the Eritrean businessman.
He was arrested and a search at his home led detectives to a forex bureau receipt.
“He confessed to having participated in the pre-planning meetings, kidnap and sharing of the $1800 got from the deceased upon kidnap. He also confessed to sedating the deceased as they drove along Jinja road.”
According to the indictment the group had earlier got information that the businessman wanted a visa to Germany.
This was their only chance to lure him into their tracks and later pounce on him like a cobra does to its prey.
On the fateful day, the group called and promised him of helping him secure the visa that he badly needed and the unsuspecting businessman saw this as a “gift” from God.
“On October 27,2016, he arrived at Kololo in his motor vehicle when he was asked to sit behind the vehicle so he could be driven to the German embassy but was instead driven via Rohana Academy . A1(Mangeni) later pulled out a pistol and pointed it to the deceased’s head and told him he was under arrest over terrorism charges.”
When the businessman denied the charges, the captors threatened to deport him and started driving towards Jinja road police station.
“Along the way, Capt. Mangeni removed a syringe containing liquid and sole tape and passed it over to A3, ( Kisitu) to inject the deceased. A3 injected the deceased on the neck and tied both his hands. A3 also sealed the deceased’s mouth with sole tape and ordered him to kneel down,” prosecution documents say.
The group later handed the deceased’s cheques to a colleague who was to withdraw the money as the rest of the team continued with unconscious businessman to Busia.
This plan which would see them withdraw over shs8 billion from two bank accounts never came to pass, as family members alerted the banks to caveat the money as soon as Weldo disappeared.
They drove several kilometres inside Kenya and branched off in a maize plantation where they killed the businessman.
The body was later burnt by the group before they drove back to Kampala.
The Kenyan police recovered a burnt human body at the scene and later led the Uganda police investigators to Busia Country referral hospital mortuary where the body had been kept.
“They later led police to the scene in Kenya where they claimed to have left the deceased. The Uganda Police with the help of Kenya Police proceeded to the scene where two spent catridges, two bullet heads, shell of matchbox, burnt pieces of suspected human flesh were discovered.”
At the Busia County Referral Hospital mortuary where the body had been preserved, it was identified by the relatives.
“The body was found in a mutilated state with the lower trunk(stomach) extensively burnt with the legs detached. Part of the head was intact,” the indictment reads in part.
A verification made by detectives at Busia border and witnesses interviewed said they had seen Capt.Bumali who presented himself as a military officer crossing back into Uganda on the night of October,27,2016 driving a Prado registration number CE 178AL.
The vehicle belonged to the deceased businessman and was later driven and sold off in Arua.
Another verification was done at the Vedit Hotel and it was confirmed that Bumali and Lumu at slept at the hotel on the night of October 27,2016 before returning to Kampala.
The three suspects were later arraigned before court and charges related to kidnap with intent to murder, aggravated robbery; and murder were preferred against them.
During the trial, the prosecution led by Jonathan Muwaganya used 21 witnesses who among others included the deceased’s family members, police officers and 47 exhibits to pin the three people.
Muwangaya put up a spirited case saying that the trio willingly admitted to killing the businessman for their personal gains and were also captured on video.
“We submit that all the essential ingredients required to be proved for each of the offences charged have been satisfactorily proved to the required standard and we pray that the each of the accused persons be found guilty of each of the offences and convicted accordingly,”Muwaganya told court presided over by Justice Flavia Anglin Ssenoga.
After listening to the argument of both sides, the High Court convicted the three people of murder, aggravated robbery and kidnap.
The trial judge said the trio deserved a deterrent punishment to serve as a lesson to many other would be offenders.
“The commission of the offences was meticulously premeditated and executed . All the convicts acted in furtherance of an unlawful purpose and each one played a part in the commission of the offences as they failed to dissociate themselves from the heinous acts, “Justice Ssenoga said.
“The deceased was kidnapped, threatened to be charged with made up offences, sedated into unconsciousness, robbed and was eventually murdered for the sole purpose of stealing money that he had on his accounts. The kidnap was as a result of fraud and his death was not accidental but deliberately occasioned in furtherance of unlawful purpose.The body of the deceased was set ablaze with an apparent intention of causing disguise about the cause of death and to hide the identity of the deceased.”
The judge said that the trio planned well their mission and thus pulled it off meticulously and despite pleas by the deceased to be spared, they never cared.
“The offence negatively impacted on the victim’s family, relatives and friends and the public at large. Such offences cause a lot of concern for security and safety of people in society. Because of commission of such offences people are not free to enjoys fruits of the honest labours. The sentences are meant to send out a strong message to the public and other would be offenders that crime doesn’t pay and will not be tolerated by anyone,” she said.
They three men were subsequently sentenced to 50 years imprisonment each as well as paying shs200 million as compensation to the deceased’s family.