A panel of three Court of Appeal justices has reduced the 40-year jail term handed to city businessman Muhammad Ssebuwufu and accordingly substituted it with an 18-year sentence for having murdered businesswoman Betty Donah Katusabe.
In the same way, the panel comprising justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, Catherine Bamugemereire and Christopher Izama Madrama has quashed sentences against three of the people Ssebuwufu had previously been convicted with for Katusabe's kidnap and subsequent murder.
Ssebuwufu had in 2019 been convicted together with Godfrey Kayiza alias Godi, Phillip Mirembe, Paul Tasingika, Yoweri Kitayimbwa, Damasseni Ssentongo, Shaban Odutu alias Golola and Stephen Lwanga who was sentenced to 7 years in jail for being an accessory after the offense.
The group was found guilty of kidnapping Katusabe from her home in Bwebajja along Entebbe road on October 21, 2015, and drove her to Pine car bond along Lumumba Avenue in Kampala where they used sharp objects to torture her to death.
Katusabe had reportedly failed to pay a balance of Shs 9 million for a vehicle she bought from Ssebuwufu’s bond valued at Shs 17 million. The convicts also reportedly robbed Katusabe of her sim cards and the mobile phone worth Shs 300,000.
As a result, then High court judge Flavia Anglin Ssenoga sentenced them to serve punishments ranging from 20 to 40 years that were to run concurrently on three offenses of kidnap with intent to murder, murder and aggravated robbery. Ssenoga also directed that they compensate Katusabe’s family with Shs 100 million for loss of life.
However, all the convicts appealed against the sentence except Stephen Lwanga. They argued that the judge erred in law and fact when she convicted them on three charges without proof of all the essential ingredients of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
They also faulted the trial judge for having erred in law and fact when she imposed a manifestly harsh, illegal and excessive sentence given the circumstances of the case.
But during the hearing, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions through the assistant DPP Hope Carolyn Nabaasa opposed the appeals which were filed separately on grounds that all the ingredients of the offenses against them were proved beyond reasonable doubt.
However, in their judgement, the Court of Appeal justices have quashed the convictions and subsequent sentences of Paul Tasingika, Yoweri Kitayimbwa and Damasseni Ssentongo.
According to the judges, after doing a careful re-evaluation of the evidence that was presented on court record, they have come to a conclusion that the trio was never at all mentioned by 26 witnesses of the prosecution to have participated in the murder of Katusabe.
However, for the rest of the convicts, the judges have quashed their conviction and subsequent sentences on the offense of aggravated robbery and kidnap with intent to murder saying that the evidence was also insufficient for them to be convicted over the same.
But the same judges have maintained their conviction and subsequent sentences on the offense of murder saying that there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence to the effect that Ssebuwufu, Kayiza and Odutu participated in the assault of Katusabe which led to her death.
The judges have also gone ahead to reduce their sentences saying that the previous ones were harsh and manifestly excessive given the precedents of the courts in related cases as well as the mitigating factors that the convicts were first-time offenders.
Now Ssebuwufu's sentence has been reduced to 18 years, one month and nine days imprisonment, Kayiza sentenced to 16 years and 10 months imprisonment, Mirembe to 16 years and 11 months imprisonment and Odutu 16 years and five months imprisonment.
According to the judges, these sentences will start counting effective the date of their conviction on June 24th, 2019. The judges have also maintained the compensation award of Shs 100 million.