How the state cornered Maria Nagirinya killers

Editor's Choice
How the state cornered Maria Nagirinya killers
Copriyamu Kasolo , the mastermind of the deal was jailed for life.

On the night of August, 28, 2019, a project manager at Community Integrated Development Initiative (CIDI), a Kampala-based non-governmental organization, Maria Nagirinya, 26 was kidnapped together with a boda boda rider, Ronald Kitayimbwa as they approached her home in Lungujja, a Kampala suburb.

The lifeless bodies of the duo were a day later recovered covered with grass and dumped in a swamp along the Mukono-Kayunga Road, 45 kilometres away from where they had been kidnapped.

Fast forward, four years later on October, 19, 2023, two men were jailed for life and three others jailed 30 years each for masterminding the kidnap and subsequent murder of the duo.

The kidnap

When Nagirinya was kidnapped, it was reported that she was with a boda boda rider but later, it emerged that Kitayimbwa would occasionally chauffer her and get paid for driver services.

The kidnap sent shockwaves to members of the family and the public at large, with the former seeking help from President Museveni to help arrest the killers.

In reaction, the president directed the dismissal of the CCTV camera operators at Nateete Police station for sleeping on the job by only waiting to retrieve pictures from the memory of the cameras instead of monitoring the cameras full time.

“You are supposed to watch live and tell patrol vehicles to act promptly. All these(camera operators) have been arrested . I have directed that they must be tried, sentenced, punished and dismissed from police,” a furious Museveni said.

Consequently, eight police officers including three Assistant Superintendents of Police – ASPs Muhammad Byansi – Officer in Charge of Natete Police Station, Andrew Nizeyimana – Natete OC CID and Allan Okello- Natete Patrol Commander were arraigned before the police disciplinary court at Naguru and charged with negligence and discreditable conduct contrary to Section 44(1) of the Police Act.

Other officers include Detective Assistant Inspector of Police Sande Baguma, Corporal Samuel Owona, Detective Corporal Reuben Kibikwamu, Police Constable Joshua Basaliza and Police Constable Deo Kitutu.

The arrest

Following the kidnap, Nagirinya’s dad sought assistance from President Museveni to help arrest the suspects behind the kidnap.

To this, Museveni directed Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), the intelligence wing of the Ugandan army(UPDF) to participate in the hunt for the kidnappers.

Testifying in court, Frank Nyakairu, an investigating officer with CMI said on the same night Nagirinya was kidnapped, he was informed by his boss of the incident and gave him telephone number 0704970863 that belonged to Nagirinya as the clue to kick off investigations.

However, the number was off.

“I contacted the directorate of technical intelligence under CMI to get the Local Positioning System (LPS) of the number at the time but it was switched off,” Nyakairu told court.

Copriyamu Kasolo(L) in the dock together with his fellow convicts.

LPS is technology used to pinpoint indoor position, similar to the Global Positioning System (GPS) used to locate outdoor position and it triangulates signals from cell controllers to proprietary long-range, long-life, low-cost radio frequency electronic tags.

Unable to get any useful information, the CMI investigator visited the scene of kidnap in Lungujja where he sought to get cluster information .

Cluster information is when a person(investigator) goes to the scene and makes calls using (mostly) MTN and Airtel simcards to be able to pick his or her own coordinates for the two major networks.

Having got the cluster information, the investigator returned to CMI headquarters in Mbuya to get an intelligence led call data record which would help him get data about all phones whether active or not that were in Lungujja where Nagirinya was kidnapped from.

The call data record indicated that Nagirinya’s phone was active at 11:54pm in Lungujja , and thereafter switched off.

The investigator says that Nagirinya had earlier at 9:04pm called 0755848732 which was registered under the name Ronald Kitayimbwa and it was captured by the MTN mast in Kakungulu Zone along Entebbe Expressway.

When a person makes or receives a call, their phone is captured by the nearest network mast in the area.

The data indicated that Kitayimbwa had received the call either from Kajjansi, Nalumunye, Mutundwe or Kirinyabigo which fell under the mast in Kakungulu

The call data record also indicated that Nagirinya had again called Kitayimbwa at 10:25pm in the same location whereas Nagirinya had also called 0706430472 at 10:46 which was in the name of Benadette Nakidde.

Nagirinya had also called 0751975008 in the name of Grace Nakalumba.

The three numbers that Nagirinya called prior to her kidnap presented yet another puzzle for the investigators.

It was then established that two of the numbers belonged to Nagirinya’s sisters whom she had called to open for her the gate at home in Lungujja as she returned from Mutundwe where she had gone to visit a sick colleague.

However, Kitayimbwa’s contact remained mystery with investigators scratching their heads on how he was connected to Nagirinya.

Whereas Nagirinya’s sister had seen unknown assailants taking her away as she opened the gate for her, she didn’t see Kitayimbwa.

However, the puzzle was later cracked when police was told that Kitayimbwa had been called by Nagirinya to drive her home.

Meanwhile, the following morning, Nagirinya’s simcard had been removed from her phone and inserted into another handset, a Tecno.

The CMI investigator later made use of the call detail record which provides the phone printout, mobile money and all information on particular simcard which established that Nagirinya and Kitayimbwa had money on their phones and at 11pm, shs32000 was sent to Kitayimbwa’s simcard.

At around 5:55am, Nagirinya’s simcard had seen shs260,000 withdrawn from it at an unknown location at Nalukolongo.

Meanwhile, Kitayimbwa’s simcard had seen shs24000 withdrawn from it at 6:25pm on August, 31 at a location in Kosovo, Lungujja.

Breakthrough

As the investigator tried to crack the puzzle leading to the kidnapers and subsequent murderers of the duo, chance presented itself.

As he  continued analyzing phone call data records, he found out that Kitayimba’s simcard had been removed and insterted in another handset by an unknown person and in three minutes it was inserted back after the money had been withdrawn.

The investigator established through the serial number that the new handset was an Itel phone and on further scrutiny, it was found out that the handset had three ports for simcards.

The analysis also indicated that one slot had simcard with number 0788662014 placed, another had 0752723848 placed and the third had 0704373340 placed.

This was a big breakthrough as the investigator now had leads to one of the people with information about the kidnap and murder.

The lead was that the person who had placed Kitayimbwa’s simcard in the Itel handset, withdrew money and later removed it to put in the original simcard knew very well what they were doing and the whereabouts of the deceased.

Use of GPS

Meanwhile, the CMI investigator gathered a team of colleagues and they used the Global Positioning System (GPS) to identify the movements of the owner of the Itel handset which had been used to withdraw money from Kitayimbwa’s simcard.

It was the established that the owner always made movements between Nateete, Busega, Kyengera, Nabbingo and Kitemu. This was another good lead for the investigating team in their bid to crack the puzzle.

The team then planned how to arrest him and to this, they carefully identified one of the numbers in the phone which seemed to be in the same vicinity with the suspect that security was looking for and a trap was laid in Nabbingo where a lady was lured and arrested.

She would later lead the CMI team to her own house where her boyfriend was the suspect that security was looking for .

On arrest, the suspect who would later be identified as Lubega John Bosco admitted to taking part in the kidnap and subsequent murder of Nagirinya and her driver Kitayimbwa.

After his arrest, Lubega was used to lure Kasolo Coporiyamu into arrest and the rest of the suspects.

The call data analysis was a key ingredient in the case of the prosecution as it indicated that the accused made communication before, during and after the crime was committed.

Confession

Following their arrest, the group recorded statements in which they confessed to have participated in the kidnap and subsequent murder.

For example, Kasolo told police officers in his statement that he got the deal to kidnap Nagirinya in 2018 while at Luzira where he had been remanded.

“While there(Luzira), I met two men whom I came to know as Doleyawo Teo  and Kabango who told me they had a deal they wanted me to participate in and that this would happen as soon as we are discharged from prison," Kasolo said in his statement.

He said he was told the deal involved a lady who drove a white Spacio vehicle identified by the first UBA letters.

“I was told that the lady(Nagirinya) moves with money which is between shs40 million and shs50 million on a daily basis. This deal was told to me in 2018.”

Meanwhile, Kasolo and his co-accused also narrated to police how they had pulled off the kidnap and subsequent murder.

In videos recorded during the scene reconstruction, each of them detailed the roles they played during the heinous act.

Kasolo broke down as the video in which he confessed to having participated in the kidnap was played in court.

These pieces of confession were used by the state during the trial to pin the group.

However, Kasolo and Johnson Lubega challenged the confession saying they had been tortured to confess.

When the matter was put to test in a trial within a trial, Justice Isaac Muwata dismissed their claims saying there was no evidence to prove they had been tortured.

Role of CCTV cameras

Following the kidnap, a police CCTV camera in Kinawataka captured Kasolo donning a red jacket while driving Nagirinya’s Toyota Spacio .

The vehicle had at 00:52:26 been captured by an automatic number plate recognition camera  at Kinawataka being driven by Kasolo towards Kireka.

This became a crucial piece of evidence that the state used to corner, especially Kasolo as the mastermind of the kidnap and subsequent murder.

Also, used as evidence was footage captured by the police’s intelligence reading surveillance camera, in which Nagirinya’s vehicle was captured at 11:47:45 pm as it flashed its right hind indicator to show it was branching off to the gate.

A few minutes later the vehicle finally branched off to the gate where it came to a halt.

Meanwhile, at 11:51:51, two motorcycles were captured  coming from the opposite direction and also stop at the exact spot(gate) where the Toyota Spacio had made a stop.

However, since it was at night and the nearby CCTV camera was only 200 metres away, the exact events of the kidnap were not captured.

The vehicle was later at 11:53:45pm captured being driven away from the gate , headed towards the junction where it has passed earlier and proceeded in a similar route it had come from and went to an unknown destination.

At 11:54:39 and 11:54:42, the two motorcycles are captured following closely behind the vehicle at it made its way to the unknown destination.

These scenes captured by the CCTV cameras at the scene of the kidnap and the photo of Kasolo driving the deceased’s vehicle for a crucial part of circumstantial evidence putting the accused at the scenes of crime.

They could not escape with such evidence tendered in court.

Ssenabulya confession

During the trial, one of the accused, Isaac Ssenabulya admitted to participating in the commission of the crime together with the rest of the team.

Ssenabulya was jailed 40 years but also testified against his colleagues.

He told court that on the fateful day, they travelled on two boda bodas following Nairinya’s vehicle.

He said they jumped of the motorbikes and Kasolo showed a toy pistole to the driver before asking him to open the car door.

Ssenabulya said on entering the vehicle, two unidentified persons , a male and female had been forced in the back seats of the vehicle and as Kasolo sat in the driver’s seat, Manomano(Lubega) sat behind with the captives.

He said in the vehicle were now five people including the two captives.

“I found a lady and a man but I didn’t know them. The two had been put in the behind seats with Kasolo driving and Manomano behind guarding the two.They were forced to lie down on the car seats  and we sat on them. Myself and Manomano sat on them,” Ssenabulya testified.

“They were asking what crime they had committed. They asked if we wanted money or anything. Kasolo asked the lady if she didn’t know why they had been captured. She responded that she didn’t know and Kasolo didn’t reply.”

Hit on head with car jerk

According to Ssenabulya, in Mukono, they stopped at  a place he didn’t know and Kasolo stopped the vehicle on the roadside.

“Kasolo then opened his door and came opened the others. He got out the man and then locked the doors again. He asked Manomano to join him as I stayed guarding Nagirinya I later saw Manomano get a big log that he gave Kasolo that he hit the man before the body was lifted and placed in a nearby valley,”Ssenabulya said.

The witness told court that in a short while, Kasolo returned, opened the door and asked the lady to get out.

“He opened the car boot and got out a jerk. I was also asked to go out. I was asked to step on her waist so that she could not move. Kasolo started hitting her head with the car jerk continuously. After sometime when the lady could not move, the two carried her body and placed is near where the man’s.”

Ssenabulya told court that they drove back to Nateete and Manomano was tasked to withdraw the money from their victims’ phones whose pin codes they had forced them to reveal while still in the vehicle.

In Nateete, the group abandoned the vehicle at Kigagga zone.

This piece of evidence was crucial for the state to corner the accused persons relying on confession of one of their “partners in crime.”

Whereas Kasolo and Lubega challenged the evidence accusing Ssenabulya of being a policeman who tortured them at Katwe police, they didn’t have proof to this.

Armed with this information and other pieces of technical and circumstantial evidence, the state ensured the five accused persons had been cornered.

Consequently, the High Court jailed the two masterminds of the kidnap and subsequent murder, Kasolo and Johnson Lubega for life whereas three boda boda riders including Sharif Mpanga, Nassif Kalyango alias Muwonge and Hassan Kisekka alias Masadda were each jailed 30 years.

 

Reader's Comments

RELATED ARTICLES

LATEST STORIES

Makerere opens Muteesa II Museum
featured By Salmah Namwanje
4 hours ago
Makerere opens Muteesa II Museum
How govt will control what you feed your animals
agriculture By Shamim Nabakooza
5 hours ago
How govt will control what you feed your animals
Where are oil prices headed?
global-watch By Hakim Kanyere
7 hours ago
Where are oil prices headed?
Inflation surges as BoU keeps rate unchanged
business By Hakim Wampamba
7 hours ago
Inflation surges as BoU keeps rate unchanged