Witch doctor appeals against 45-year jail term; court instead increases it to life imprisonment

A witch doctor was on Wednesday left stunned after the Court of Appeal where he had run to challenge his 45 year jail term instead increased his sentence to life imprisonment.

Stephen Wasswa was in 2017 sentenced to 45 years imprisonment by Masaka High Court judge, John Eudes Keitirima in Masaka after finding him guilty of kidnapping a two year toddler in 2008 .

In an incident that happened at Namiyaga Village in Rakai district, the witch doctor  kidnapped the two year old girl in a bid to murder her after developing misunderstandings with her parents whom he accused of poisoning his chicken.

He would later threaten to visit on the victim’s parents a calamity they would never forget.

On July, 19, 2008, the two-year-old girl who had gone with siblings to fetch firewood never returned home and efforts to find her proved futile.

Shortly after the young girl went missing, Wasswa who also operated a shrine , disappeared from the village.

Fast forward, a year and a half later, on  December, 13, 2009, a ogood Samaritan',

Agnes Nankya and an unknown herdsman heard a child making squeaky noises in the bush and on checking they found the victim with half a tongue could hardly speak and had 14 cuts on her stomach.

Nankya took her to hospital and while under her care, an unknown man visited  and inquired about the child and in one of the conversations, he harassed the caretaker whom he blamed for rescuing the young girl.

The witch doctor also wanted to cut off the girl’s hair and nails which Nankya refused but later with the help of police made radio announcements and the young girl’s mother found and reunited with her child.

Meanwhile, the caretaker narrated and described to the mother and police of a man who wanted to cut off the victim’s hair and nails and it was realized that Wasswa was behind this scheme leading to his arrest.

Court

In court, the witch doctor was convicted of kidnap with Intent to murder contrary to sections 240 and 243 of the Penal Code Act and consequently sentenced to 45 years imprisonment.

He however appealed against the sentence he said was too harsh.

On Wednesday, a panel of three justices of the Court of Appeal led  by the deputy Chief Justice, Richard Buteera, Catherine Bamugemereire and Eve Luswata said there was no error in sentencing the witch doctor to 45 years imprisonment.

“We were able to see via video link, the current condition of the child. She cannot move and cannot talk. She has a visibly contorted frame. It is hard to imagine that this was a normal two- year-old child living a normal life, before this incident. From the evidence, this court found that the victim's tongue was severed, her teeth were yanked out, there were several cuts in the stomach. Her fingers and feet were also maimed. Her skull had become as soft as that of a new borne. Her labia minora had been mutilated. There was spasticity in all limbs. She had suffered contortion of the torso and has become a paraplegic who can neither walk, nor? talk, or sit or even move. She has lost the ability to chew or feed herself and can neither roll nor turn. Having found that the proper procedure for enhancement of sentence was followed in this case, we are of the view that given the peculiar circumstances of this case prior to being kidnapped the victim was a normal two-year-old infant who could even fetch firewood with older siblings far from home,” the three justices said.

They said it is appalling that after the kidnap, she was maimed for life courtesy of the gruesome acts by the  witch doctor.

The justices of the Court of Appeal therefore ruled that the case calls for enhancement of the 45-year jail term by invoking court’s powers under section 11 of the Judicature Act and section 132 of the Trial on Indictments Act.

They sentenced the appellant to life imprisonment.

“Consequently, the appellant shall serve a sentence of life imprisonment. The appeal against sentence therefore fails.”

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