The Director of Public Prosecution, Jane Frances Abodo, has withdrawn kidnap and murder charges against Patrick Agaba, also known as Kasaija, the prime suspect in the murder of 28-year-old Susan Magara, a cashier at Bwendeiro Diary. The charges were withdrawn before the Kampala High Court Criminal Division Registrar Didas Muhumuza when the matter in which initially ten people were being accused of the kidnap and subsequent murder of Magara came up for hearing on Monday.
The other suspects are Abas Buvumbo, Yusuf Lubega, Hussein Wasswa, Muzamiru Ssali, Hassan Kato Miiro, Hajara Nakandi, Abubaker Kyewolwa, Mahad Kasalita, and Ismail Bukenya. It is alleged that the accused persons kidnapped Magara on February 7, 2018, with the intent to procure a ransom. But on February 27, 2018, in Kigo, Wakiso district, they brutally murdered their victim.
However, on Monday all the accused persons, save for Kasaija alias Pato, were in court, and the Senior State Attorney Irene Nakimbugwe tendered before the Court a withdrawal letter signed by the DPP Abodo, saying she had lost interest in all the charges against him. Article 120 of the Constitution gives the DPP powers to institute criminal charges against any person in this Country in any court except the court martial and also to withdraw the same without giving reasons.
However, despite being implicated in this murder, Pato had never been arraigned in court and charged formally for this specific crime. Instead, he was on May 15th, 2019, extradited from South Africa following Magara’s murder but then charged before Buganda Road Magistrates Court with Kidnapping with the intent to procure a ransom. The prosecution alleged that Pato and others still at large on May 1st, 2013, at Muyenga A Kironde Road in Kampala kidnapped Joan Alupo Cora with the intent to procure a ransom or benefit for her liberation from the danger of being murdered.
He was granted bail by the High Court on this particular case which saw him go to Luzira Prison for some good months on remand. Magara’s case had previously stalled due to a shortage of funds by the judiciary, an issue that the court has heard that has since been ironed out. However, on Monday, the Registrar Didas Muhumuza was left with no option but to endorse the withdrawal of the charges and discharge him. The case garnered significant attention as it sheds light on an alleged kidnap-for-ransom scheme devised by the suspects, some of whom are still at large.
The evidence before the Court indicates that the accused persons who would have stood trial with Pato planned to target wealthy individuals and their family members, and Magara, tragically, was the first victim of this scheme. Prosecution evidence suggests that Magara was abducted in Lungujja while on her way home, and she was subsequently held captive for three weeks as the kidnappers negotiated a US$1 million ransom with her family.
After receiving US$200,000 of the ransom money (then 700 million Uganda shillings), the prosecution alleges that the kidnappers murdered Magara and disposed of her body in Kitiko. Various exhibits, such as land titles and motor vehicles, which were purchased using ransom money, have been recovered by the police. The investigation into this case has allegedly revealed that Magara overheard conversations between Hajara Nakandi’s visitors while being held captive.
The suspects became aware of this and held a meeting at Usafi Mosque to decide Magara’s fate. They feared that her release would lead to the identification and arrest of Nakandi and potentially expose the entire group. The group first chopped off some of Magara’s fingers and a video clip of the chopping was put on a memory card with her fingers in a parcel delivered near a certain fuel station for her relatives to watch prior to her death. Consequently, they allegedly decided to suffocate Magara with a polythene bag to prevent her from revealing their identities.
The case has now been adjourned to October 23, 2023, for the hearing to commence.