5 arrested over theft of Arua hospital ambulance

FILE Ambulances at Arua hospital

FILE Ambulances at Arua hospital

Police in Arua has arrested five people over the disappearance of an ambulance belonging to Arua regional referral hospital.  The Toyota Land Cruiser reg. no. UG 6812 M disappeared from the hospital parking yard on Saturday, March 27, 2021.

However, the ambulance was only reported missing two days later on Monday after the Arua resident city commissioner, Martin Oroch requested for it to transport two enforcement officers attached to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) who'd been attacked by the mob from Ayivu East to Arua hospital.  

The brand-new ambulance that cost more than Shs 300 million was given to Arua hospital by the ministry of Health last year for highway emergency service response and had barely lasted for five months when it was stolen. Three security guards who were on duty on the night of Saturday and Sunday when the ambulance disappeared, were the first to be arrested and charged with neglect of duty. 

They were however released when police failed to find proper clues about the disappearance of the ambulance. Over the weekend, police arrested five other suspects whose identities have been withheld. Jude Nasucha, the commandant Arua central police station who commanded the arrest, declined to reveal the identities of the suspects arguing that it will jeopardize further investigations.    

URN has since established the identities of the suspects as Dr Dennis Ocatre, the head of the dental health department, and two other staff from his department only identified as Alex and Philliam. The other suspects are a security guard and the ambulance driver. According to Nasucha, police took time to investigate and track the suspects before zeroing on the five who have since confessed to the crime.

"We have tracked down and we have successfully arrested the people that were involved in the theft of this hospital ambulance. As of now, we have all of them, they are five in number - three of them are actually staff of the hospital who connived with some other external forces to steal this ambulance. We’re still working to recover the ambulance. The people we have arrested are directly involved in the theft of this ambulance. We have arrested the person who drove it out from the hospital, we have arrested the person who duplicated the key and coordinated the theft of the ambulance, we have arrested the askari who was in the know and opened the gate for the ambulance to go. We also arrested the middlemen in the sale of this ambulance," said Nasucha.

Francis Otim, an officer from the police professional standards unit also confirmed that the five have confessed to planning the theft of the ambulance. Some sources within security circles investigating the theft of the ambulance intimated to URN that the suspects confessed, saying that they were told that the government would change in May after the January general elections and they decided to find a quick way of making money to survive while in exile.

In February last year, an autoclave machine and assorted tool kits worth over Shs 500 million also disappeared from Arua hospital and were recovered from Nebbi. Several other types of equipment were also discovered missing and re-supplied to the hospital, which led to the arrest of eight senior staff at the hospital.

Similarly, in 2017, the assistant procurement officer and a driver at the hospital were also arrested and detained for some time in connection to the disappearance of another autoclave machine at the hospital.  In 2008, two microscopes were discovered missing from the central laboratory in addition to the regular disappearance of items like bicycles belonging to patients, caregivers, and relatives at the hospital.       
© 2016 Observer Media Ltd