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Katanga murder: High court declines to grant widow Molly bail

Main suspect: Molly Katanga in court earlier

Main suspect: Molly Katanga in court earlier

The High court has declined to grant bail to Molly Katanga who is facing charges of murdering her husband businessman Henry Katanga last year.

Prosecution states that Katanga was shot dead by his wife Molly on November 2, 2023, at their home on Chwa II Road in Kampala.  Criminal division judge Isaac Muwata on Tuesday denied Molly bail on grounds that she has not proved exceptional circumstances as required under the law such as being of advanced age and having grave illnesses which cannot be managed inside prison.

Molly who appeared before justice Muwata via Zoom from Luzira Women's Prison through her lawyers; Peter Kabatsi, McDusman Kabega, Jet Tumwebaze, Bruce Musinguzi, and Elison Karuhanga applied for bail last month, saying she is ready to abide by all terms set by the court.

She presented her nephew, Dr Patrick Kabayo, a retired civil servant, Rtd Gen Emmanuel Burundi Nyamwanisa, a farmer in Nyabusozi in Kiruhura, her cousin businessman Geoffrey Kamuntu, and the state minister for Health Margaret Muhanga as her sureties.

Molly's lawyers then told the judge that their client was innocent of the charges preferred against her. According to Molly, before being committed to the High court and later remanded to Luzira prison, she had spent over two months at C-Care IHK hospital where she received specialized treatment and underwent five major surgeries on her scalp and hands.

She added that the injuries require a lot of specialized post-operative care for her recovery, which is currently not available in prison. She argued that she was at all times under detention while in C-Care IHK hospital where she was admitted for treatment on November 2, 2024, and couldn't be accessed by any of her relatives and friends without permission from the Uganda police force.  

According to the accused, she has a fixed place of abode at Mbuya I, Mbuya Hill village, Nakawa Division, and Kampala district within the jurisdiction of the High court. Molly also noted that investigations into the case were completed and as such, she has no capacity and shall not interfere with the investigations and witnesses once released on bail.

She added that she is of advanced age at 55 years, has always been a law-abiding citizen, and has never been charged or convicted of any criminal offence. She thus asked court to release her saying that although she is gainfully employed, a sole breadwinner of her family and the mother of a child of tender years who is dependent on her. 

However, prosecution led by Jonathan Muwaganya the chief state attorney, and Samalie Wakooli opposed the application, arguing that the sureties presented were not substantial since two of them were of advanced age. Muwaganya also said that one of the sureties, Kamuntu, is under investigation for obstructing the police from doing their lawful duty about the investigations in the case and is being investigated under SD 14/12/12/2023. 

Muwaganya said that Molly was admitted at IHK hospital under a private special arrangement protection by officers of Special Forces Command (SFC) attached to Kamuntu, and this deployment impeded and obstructed police investigations in the main case. 

Muwaganya said if such a person is capable of obstructing at the stage of investigations, the risk is even higher now that the case is set for hearing on July 2, 2024. He asked court to prioritize the hearing of the main case. The court also heard that by the time Molly was arraigned, she had been fully discharged from the hospital and had previously shown that she was incapable of honouring the court process, having appeared in court following a warrant of arrest by the Chief Magistrate's court.

In his ruling, justice Muwata indicated that whereas an accused person has a right to apply for bail, court can only grant bail on terms it finds reasonable. He said the court must consider the gravity of the offence and its impact in society before granting bail and then go ahead to strike a balance between the two.

He also said while considering the Bail Guidelines of 2022 which provide that while granting bail, court must consider the right to liberty of the accused person, the need to balance rights of the accused person, the interests of justice and if there is a certificate of no objection from the DPP and proof of exceptional circumstances.

Muwata noted that the Trial Indictments Act explains exceptional circumstances as grave illnesses which can't be treated in prisons which can only be proved by a report from the medical personnel in a prison facility where an accused person is. In this case, the court has heard that Molly presented medical letters from Dr Patrick Sekindi and Dr Joel Kiryabwire dated November 13, 2023 from C Care IHK assessing her medical condition and her lawyers requested further comprehensive examination of her health from Mulago hospital.

However, according to the judge, all the said letters fall short of what is required under the law. Muwata indicated that it is the prison's  medical officer who is required to prove that the inmate's condition cannot be handled inside prison. On the issue of advanced age, the judge ruled that Molly is only 55 years old and therefore, not of advanced age. 

He added that Molly is already committed for trial and there is no likelihood of delay. Although the court found Molly's sureties to be substantial, he explained that circumstances don't warrant them to be considered. He said the ends of justice must be served and went ahead to dismiss Molly's application with advice that she should prepare for the trial fixed for hearing on July 2.

While denying her bail, Muwata also borrowed precedents in the case in which businessman Francis Onebe was denied bail on charges of murdering his wife.

The prosecution further contends that Katanga's daughters; Patrica Kakwanzi and Martha Nkwazi destroyed valuable evidence that they would use to prove their father's murder while the family's shamba boy George Amanyire and a male nurse Charles Otai are charged with being accessories in the murder. The four suspects were granted bail in February 2024 at Shs 2 million by the same judge who has denied Molly bail.

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