- These series, ‘Todays Police that isn’t’ are opinionated pieces based on my experience with Uganda Police Force investigations, especially in the murders I personally followed and religiously covered to their logical conclusions.
- The series, if positively considered, are aimed at helping the police administration and the many current innocently placed young, inexperienced detectives pick a leaf from some of the past well-investigated and resolved murders and how to curb the influx of the rampant homicides in the country lately.
On the morning of March 16th 2008, I walked into the newsroom at Namanve-premised Red Pepper Publications. Hardly had I taken my seat than I was summoned by James Mujuni, one of the Directors. “Who killed Rutamirika?” It was my first time to hear of the name. Confused, I simply gazed at him. “Go find out who killed him. I want the story,” he ordered.
Back in the newsroom, I was briefed by Bernard Byarabaha aka BenB (now the editor) who Winkle WA Karitundu aka Rutamirika was. His was a household name in Western Uganda, thanks to his comic art. He was a bigtime comedian/artist and a fine playwright who, together with his wife Christine Karitundu, also owned Texas Club at Nsambya. “He was killed last night at his home [of Kevina Zone] in Nsambya” offered BenB.
‘I’m just a crime news reporter. How could James expect me to know who killed the man I didn’t know,’ I mumbled. But this was a test I wasn’t expected to fail. I boarded back to town and straight, to OC CID Katwe Division, Cissy Kirya, I went. “Who killed Rutamirika,” I transported the question. He calmly and reluctantly smiled, skidded a bit in his wooden chair and confidently replied, “of course we shall find out. We are from the scene and I have left some detectives on the ground.”
He promised to help and I moved to the requiem service at All Saints Cathedral Nakasero. My acquaintance with senior detectives had taught me to first concentrate on the immediate family members for suspects in such murder cases. In this case, I elected to concentrate on the widow in whose company, the deceased was on the fateful morning.
Sandwiched by her two toddlers, all dressed in black, Christine had sunglasses on. She could from time to time slightly adjust them upwards to wipe what was supposed to be tears… but my naked eyes would meet and confirm hers as very dry. I took tens of her pictures in all angles until the end of service. Back at Kirya’s, I informed him of how the lady didn’t look any inch remorseful. “You have a point. We are also looking in the same direction but please, don’t write anything for now.”
The following day, I asked a friend (RIEP) who was travelling to Mitooma for the burial. “Ndugu, I beg of you, don’t set your eyes off the widow especially at the time of burial when they are dropping soil in the grave. He didn’t disappoint. Christine got the flowers and instead dropped them on the sides, not in the grave. Culturally, when someone kills another, they are not supposed to bury them, for it’s traditionally believed, the ghosts would return in vengeance.
That very evening, I went down to work. With Kirya’s ‘we are also looking in that direction’ lead… Kaboom! I penned the story thus; “Police are Investigating Rutamirika’s wife over Husband’s murder: WHY DIDN’T YOU POUR SOIL IN HIS GRAVE?” shouted the headline. The rest is history. Christine Karitundu and her Congolese boyfriend Christiano Bulira were respectively handed 25 and 50 years’ jail terms by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire. Read on…
The distinguished investigations by the indefatigable Detectives
Led by senior Kirya with junior Detective AIP Daniel Mwendo in tow, the investigations commenced smoothly, one clue leading to another. Murder cases MUST be proven beyond reasonable doubt and securing a conviction basing on circumstantial evidence is one thing any proven detective will concur, is hard to achieve. Securing it demands for a cool-headed experienced detective in the lead.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire interpreted it thus; “Circumstantial evidence is evidence of surrounding circumstances. It is the reliance on a set of existing circumstances which when put together irresistibly lead to no other inference but the guilt of the accused.” She concluded; “I have cautioned myself that in examining the evidence adduced before me, no inference of guilt should be drawn unless it meets the standard of proof stated above.”
How detectives dutifully laboured to qualify their evidence
Whereas Winkle WA Karitundu alias Rutamirika and his wife Christine were joint proprietors of Texas Pub and Health Club at Nsambya, Kampala City who lived in a rented property half a mile from their work place, Christiano Bulira was a Congolese national who was a big spender regular customer at the Club and had over time grown into a close friend of the couple due to the substantial income derived from his enormous expenditures.
He was a businessman who owned a mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, trading in minerals in Uganda. Police gathered that on March 15th 2008 at 1.00a.m, Rutamirika and Christine left the Club and drove home with Christine steering. At home, she remained in the car and asked the husband to go through the small gate at the rear of the house and open for her. He was attacked as he walked towards the entry.
Detectives unraveled that during the attack, he suffered two deep cut wounds on the head. Christine did not raise any alarm but called the supervisor of Texas, Elli Ayebazibwe for help. They carried Rutamirika into the car, still alive. Disturbingly, as Rutamirika cried in pain, she feigned shock and drove in a different direction from the stone’s-throw Nsambya hospital. It took her 30 minutes to reach the hospital from where Rutamirika was declared dead a few minutes after.
In the course of investigations, Kirya would facilitate detectives to go and rove around Texas for any clues. They gathered that Bulira had become so romantically involved with Christine that they desperately needed to get Rutamirika out of the way so they could progress the relationship to the next level. They therefore, supposedly hatched a plan to eliminate him.
It was also unearthed that in furtherance of their plan, they employed the support of a one Eric who is to this day still at large. During the burial arrangements, Bulira had been seen actively involved in the arrangements and financed everything. Nevertheless, he was the first to be arrested shortly after Christine left town for the burial in Mitooma, Western Uganda.
On the other hand, Christine was arrested three weeks after the burial on suspicion of collusion in the murder. This only came after the Detectives had gathered enough circumstantial evidence to pin her, with ten witnesses in tow to support their case. The first witness was Willy Kamugisha, a casual labourer who had done odd jobs at the club for three years.
On interrogation, Kamugisha revealed that on March 14th 2008, Eric, a young Congolese national who was in Bulira and Christine’s company borrowed a panga from the Club. Upon receiving the same, Eric requested Kamugisha to provide him with a piece of wood from the stock of timber used for heating the Club’s sauna. He provided it.
Again, Eric asked him to help shape and mould the wood. He supervised as Kamugisha did the needful to his satisfaction. Eric then instructed Kamugisha to put the moulded wood in Bulira’s car, a Honda CRV after which, he went back to the bar and joined Bulira and Christine. At about 4Pm, Bulira and Christine drove the same car in the guise of picking some stock. Detectives believed this is the time when the killer wood was positioned at the imminent scene of crime.
Detectives identify the killer wood
During interviews, Kamugisha narrated how he was called by the Club Askari at about 1am, informing him of how their boss had been injured. “I immediately ran there and found him lying in a pool of blood. I saw brains spilled out of his head.” Kamugisha further narrated how he had seen at the scene of crime, the stick he had sharpened earlier in the morning. “I told the Askari about what I had observed,” he said.
Upon Kamugisha’s statement, Detectives Kirya and Mwendo paraded before him the moulded piece of blood-stained wood they had recovered from the scene and he positively recognised it. With the use of sniffer dogs, they discovered a panga which lay in the compound a few metres from the crime scene. The detectives then proceeded back to the Club with Kamugisha where, he led them to another piece of wood from which the murder weapon had been cut.
In addition to Kamugisha were other nine witnesses namely; D/AIP Daniel Mwendo, Andrew Kizimula Mubiru a Forensic Scientist and Government Analyst, AIGP Julius Shalita, an uncle to the victim, Ayebazibwe Elli, the Club Supervisor, Tom Murangi, the phone tracker, Rtd. Captain Ivan Tumwebaze, D/IP Edmond Ssendi, the sketch plan designer and Prof. Abwoli Yabezi Banana, the Professor of Wood Science and Technology at Makerere University.
With the above witnesses, they were good to go. They arrested Christine, preferred murder charges against her and Bulira before they presented them to Court. “The circumstantial evidence in this case leads to one conclusion. That Bulira and Christine acted jointly to plan the death of the deceased,” read the judgement.
Bamugemereire further cemented her ruling thus; “Having considered the totality of the evidence assembled, it fits the proverbial jig saw puzzle analogy. The pieces of wood curved at the Texas club, the instruction to keep the sharpened timber in A1[Bulira]’s Honda CRV car, A2 [Christine]’s two calls to Bulira just before leaving Texas Club, the match between the piece of wood left at the scene of crime and the one found at the Club, the romance between Bulira and Christine, the unreciprocated love that the deceased had for Christine, the numerous attempts Christine made to leave the matrimonial home and the financial prospects that the new relationship between Bulira and Christine presented to her, the prospect of taking over ownership of the club business which Bulira greatly cherished as shown by the amount of time he spent at the club, all pointed to the involvement of the two in the plan to cause Wakaritundu’s death. The two were partners in this crime. Bulira had the intention to murder Winkle in order to take over his business and his wife. Christine was a willing accomplice. I therefore find each of them guilty of the murder of Winkle WA Karitundu Rutamirika.”
Somewhere in our CIP Record, an ardent follower and reader of the Investigator, Daniel, had this to say; “Investigations of serious crimes is a science that is learnt over time. Young officers work closely with very experienced investigators before they can take over such cases themselves. We are taking so much risk handing over cases to recent graduates because they have degrees! If you ever watched Inspector Derick or any CIS documentaries, you will agree that experienced officers play a critical role in guiding the young officers. Let us not retire senior crime investigators because that is a skill built over time as it is with judges,” he nailed it.
Looking at the detailed proceedings of the case under review, the convicted could have easily walked scot-free, hadn’t senior Detective Kirya-led team toiled to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. Today, the detectives that handled the well concluded case are misplaced. Whereas Kirya was thrown out of the city to the less crime infiltrated Mbale, Mwendo is languishing at Kibuli CID headquarters in the Lands Department whereas others are untraceable…
Sharing with a highly placed senior police officer (names withheld for obvious reasons), on what could be the remedy to redeem today’s police, this is what he had to say; “Ndugu, It is a sad situation we are working in. We serve to finish our turn but the Force will need 40 years to get back to what it used to be. Indeed, we shall be long gone…its sad.”