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Supreme Court upholds life sentence for ISO operative

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William Obote, a former Internal Security Organisation (ISO) operative who killed his wife Catherine Acan, is to spend the rest of his life in prison, the Supreme Court has maintained.

Obote was trying to challenge the same judgment in the Supreme Court, arguing that the Justices of Appeal erred in law and mixed facts to uphold the High Court’s decision to admit the charge and caution statement without appraising the evidence on which the findings were supposedly based. The statement in question is one in which he admitted to having shot his wife.

He also faulted the Justices of Appeal of having erred in law when they misdirected themselves to uphold the trial court’s refusals to avail the appellant the defence of provocation/self defence that appeared in evidence on record.

“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law to uphold the trial Court’s manifestly excessive sentence which was based on wrong principles and overlooked material factors,” he submitted.

Regarding the sentence, Obote submitted that the trial Judge applied the wrong principles when he sentenced him to life imprisonment. He stated that the Judges’ comments that he was still young, sharp, intelligent and could still be useful to society should not have attracted a life sentence. He wondered how he could be useful to society when he is condemned to spend the rest of his useful life in prison.

He also faulted the trial Judge for his remark that the appellant suffers from uncontrollable anger when he had no previous record of violence, was a first offender and had gone to the home of the deceased’s  mother for a peaceful resolution of his domestic issues with the deceased. In his view, the sentence was manifestly excessive and harsh in the circumstances.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling delivered by the Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe delivered Wednesday, stated in part: “Applying the above principle to the circumstances of this case, we are unable to find that the trial Court in exercising its discretion came to a wrong sentence that would warrant interference by this court.”

“The Court of Appeal was right to confirm the same.  The appellant ended the life of the mother of his children with reckless abandon for which he could have suffered a death penalty and we see no reason for interfering with the sentence,” the five judges added.


Obote and the deceased, Catherine Acan lived as husband and wife and were blessed with two children.  Their marriage was not a happy one, and by the time the deceased met her death she had run away from the appellant’s home and was living with her mother, Santo Okello.  On the 5th March 2005 the deceased made a telephone call to the appellant informing him that he had sent for his mother to come and talk to Acan’s mother to allow her to return to matrimonial home.

The meeting between the two parents was to take place on March 6, 2005 and he asked her to be present.

On the said date the deceased was at home with her mother and younger sister, Genevive Apio and were joined by the appellant’s mother, who was accompanied by a young boy at 6p.m. The hosts and their visitors were seated on the verandah in front of the house.

The deceased was peeling matooke. A few minutes after the arrival of Obote’s mother, he arrived in his motor vehicle Reg. No. 474 UCC, Toyota Corolla, white in colour.  According to Acan’s mother, he demanded for the deceased in the following words.  ‘Mum I want Grace now.’  On receiving no reply, he rushed back to his motor vehicle from where he picked a gun, cocked it, took aim at the deceased whom he shot at several times.  He then dropped the gun, picked the peeling knife and attacked her mother with whom they struggled for the knife.  In the meantime his mother picked the gun and tried to flee the scene with it.

She was intercepted by a one Okello Acup, a security guard who was on duty at a neighbouring building.  He removed the gun from her and later handed it in at Lira Police Station.  Obote reported himself at Lira Police Station where he tried to explain the circumstances under which the deceased had been shot.  A charge and caution statement was recorded from him.

After the shooting, the deceased was rushed to Lira Hospital where she died.  A post mortem examination of the body performed by Dr. henry Yine revealed that ‘externally there were three entry bullet wounds on the mons pubic, left pelvis and left thigh exiting on the right loin and left loin.  There was severe destruction of the pelvic organs, bone, right kidney, blood vessels and nerves.  The cause of death was cardiac failure caused by severe internal haemorrhage as a result of gunshot wounds through the pelvis’.

The scene of crime was visited by Sergeant Sam Obua, who observed eight bullet marks on the front wall, near where the deceased had been seated.

There were two bullet marks on the floor of the front veranda. At his trial he made a sworn statement in which he admitted having gone to the home of the deceased’s mother on her invitation.


He testified that his mother in law was responsible for the problems in their marriage with the deceased.  On arrival at her home, she verbally attacked him calling him a thief and a gambler who she never wanted to stay with her daughter.  He tried to plead with her but she attacked him with a knife with which she stabbed him on his right arm.

He tried to retreat but she followed him and stabbed him twice on the left wrist.  He reached for his gun and wanted to scare her by firing in the air but because his hand had been injured he could not cock the gun.  He tossed the gun up with his left hand but Acan’s mother who had dropped the knife grabbed the gun, and a struggle ensued.  During the scuffle he accidentally touched the trigger and there was rapid gunfire.  The deceased came running from behind the house and was hit by stray bullets.

The case was heard by a coram of Justices; Bart Katureebe, Jothan Tumwesigye, Stella Arach Amoko, Augustine Nshimye and Eldard Mwangusya.



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