The recent wave of kidnappings and subsequent killings has created a grip of public fear. Prominent among the murders is that of Maria Nagirinya with Ronald Kitayimbwa as well as that of James Kalumba.
RICHARD MUSAAZI, a security and investigation expert, offers valuable tips on the importance of the first 48 hours after learning of a kidnap. The most typical and common mistake that a police officer does is to be patient. Whereas it is reasonable for police to act with caution in minor crimes, every second counts in case of kidnap and murder.
As was reported in the case of Nagirinya and Kitayimbwa, the family got in touch with police just minutes after the kidnap but it took the police the following morning to respond yet there were some clues on the police CCTV network.
That’s why of late, some people [I understand some members of the late Susan Magara’s family] are now seeking services of independent investigators because they handle things right away and reliably update the family for clues.
In any criminal case, murder or kidnap – any investigator should understand that they must take a step back and look at the whole picture and exhaust all investigative avenues to present the best case facts and evidence.
If you look at the trail of murders, many are committed in the heat of the moment with no thought to erasing fingerprints or witnesses. Most criminals slip up by contacting the family or they will run across a previous associate now cooperating with the authorities and will tell them what name they are living under.
Criminals slip up when they believe what they see in movies. The recent kidnappers of American tourist Kimberley Sue Endicott, and her tour guide Jean-Paul Mirenge were under the belief that to trace a phone call, police had to be on the line for a period of time but when you dial the last digit, the phone call is traced.
I am not sure whether the police has a clue of how many criminal groups are operating in this country because it seems like criminals have actually become more aware of police weaknesses and procedures.
In the case of Nagirinya and Kitayimbwa, I believe these were true criminals who I consider to be repeat offenders. To dump the Nagirinya’s car just metres away from Nateete police station is a sign they had a good idea of what they need to do to throw the police off.
Today, we have what is called a person of interest. There are different situations that need to be considered. In most murders and kidnap, the obvious suspect is strongly investigated. Good detectives will pursue the main suspect, but will keep an open mind to the fact that the suspect may not have committed the crime or acted alone.
A suspect who has been identified and is wanted by the police will be pursued to the fullest extent. However, again, a good detective will keep in mind that the suspect may not have committed the crime. I have had cases in which a suspect has been identified and actually confessed to the crime, but later turned out not to have committed the crime.
Some suspects think they can outsmart investigators
Investigators always need to know every possible thing they can about the people they are about to talk to. Suspects also like to know what the investigator know to see how far they can go.
Why stop the game before each of you share a little info with each other?
Investigators have a tendency to hold a little bit of information back to see what a suspect is going to say next. Suspects like to tell the story as if they heard it from someone else, but they were not really close enough to see what happened.
It usually plays out to be somewhat interesting. There are some people who actually feel that they can outsmart a good investigator and will talk freely. This type of interrogation may cause the investigator to use different techniques, such as witness statements or some type of deception.
The first 48 hours
A lot of people say that after 48 hours, the kidnap or murder goes cold. In my view, this is not really true. The first few days are certainly very important. The obvious leads are investigated. A good investigator will continue to pursue these leads, but will also start to investigate the many not-so-obvious leads.
It all starts with gathering as much evidence as possible because even the most sophisticated of criminals leave traces. It is reported that Nagirinya struggled with her attackers at the gate of her house and traces of blood were found on her abandoned car. So, there is a possibility they left their DNA on the scene.
Closed-circuit television may be quite expensive for many Ugandans but in this age, it is worthy spending Shs 1m on a basic CCTV than buying the latest smartphone. CCTV may not save you from being abducted but it will offer valuable evidence and clues to security forces and investigators who may be able to rescue the victim.
In the extreme, one can even invest in GPS chips that can be placed in gadegts, clothes or even in the body. Last year, it is reported a GPS-enabled chip helped Tanzanian security close in on kidnappers of billionaire Mohammed Dewji, who abandoned him after realizing they were cornered.
Get in touch with whoever knows the missing person
Kidnaps don’t happen randomly unless it is for rape. Even in ritual sacrifice, the criminal takes time to understand the victim. So, it is possible that people who kidnap for murder are known to the victim.
Alerting whoever may know the victim is important because it may offer clues from the tone, response or even availability of those people.
The author is a private investigator and founder of Richards Private Investigations.