High Court Kampala, the seat of justice

The High Court in Arua has sentenced a man to six years in prison over killing his wife.

High Court judge, Stephen Mubiru found a one John Mawa guilty of having killed his wife.According to the evidence brought in court, Mawa on January 2, 2014 at Ewadromati village in Arua District murdered his wife,Florence Esaburu Draleru. During the hearing, Mawa was pinned to his wife’s death by among other people Richard Ambayo, of Arua Regional Police Clinic was admitted.

He told court that by the time he conducted a postmortem on Draleru’s body at the crime scene, he found it lying on the back. The clothing was covered by soil and “there were weapons, short pieces of wood (cut logs) on the side of the deceased”.

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“The superficial appearance of the body, there were multiple injuries, and widespread external marks of violence. The head was grossly normal, the trunk had multiple abrasions and bruises, the limbs had multiple and widespread bruises with a dislocated elbow joint. The cause of death was multiple body injuries resulting from blunt force trauma.  The weapons used were pieces of wood and the injuries were consistent with violence.”

The area LC 1 and a neighbor, Marino Arile also testified against Mawa. He told court that his home was next to that of Mawa. On that day ( January  2, 2014) he was at home when Mawa fought with his wife at 3.00 am and he was surprised when the accused came to him and told him he had beaten his wife and she was down there at his home.

Mawa requested “him to go and talk to his wife to return home because she had refused to return home”. The accused insisted that he should go with him. He went with him and on arrival he showed him where the victim was. She was lying down unconscious. He decided to call the chairman by phone. The Chairman told him the CID was on their way and that he should remain at the scene. The time was 5.00 am by then. By that time Mawa had gone to the police after realising that the wife had died.

Wadrif Sabino, a police who was at the station at the time when Mawa got there also testified against him, saying that that day at around 7.30 am, he was the duty officer and he had gone to check on the men who were on duty.

As he arrived at the station he saw a man running towards the police station. He was bare chest putting on a pair of shorts. He thought someone was chasing him. When he reached near the door he branched to the place where the national flag is hoisted. He held the pole on which the flag was and knelt down. He approached the accused and asked what the problem with him was. He replied, “I have killed a person.” He repeated “I have killed my wife.” He got hold of him and took him to the counter and opened up a case against him.

Ironically, Mawa made a U-turn in his defence at the trial. He claimed that he has two wives living in different homes and always celebrated Public Holidays at the home of his first wife

As he returned to the home of his second wife, the deceased, at around 2.30 am, he claimed to have met the L.C of the place Marino Arile in his compound. Immediately the accused asked him where he was coming from at that time.

He answered that he was from nearby. Mawa then entered his home and began calling his wife. He found the door was locked from outside. He then opened the door. He entered the house and did not find his wife. He then went out searching for her only to find her body on the way to the latrine. She was already dead. His lawyer, Oyarmoi Okello argued that the only ingredient he was challenging is that of malice aforethought.

“At the scene there were several pieces of broken sticks alleged to have been used in the beating of the deceased. The evidence of the doctor showed multiple injuries but not on the vital parts like the head. Not a single broken piece was brought for the court to see the size of the sticks. Malice cannot be assumed from multiple injuries. It must be proved and cannot be assumed. The charge of murder cannot stand and it can only be manslaughter.”

Justice Mubiru agreed with him and acquitted Mawa of the offence of murder, saying prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the killing of the deceased was actuated by malice aforethought.

“The accused is acquitted of the offence of Murder c/s 188 and 189 of the Penal Code Act. According to section 87 of The Trial on Indictments Act, when a person is charged with an offence and facts are proved which reduce it to a minor cognate offence, he or she may be convicted of the minor offence although he or she was not charged with it. In the instant case, the facts establish the offence of manslaughter. In agreement with the joint opinion of the assessors, I accordingly convict the accused for the offence of Manslaughter.

“I have considered the fact that the convict is a first offender, a relatively young man at the age of 34 years when he committed the offence. I for that reason regard the period of ten (10) years’ imprisonment as justified in light of the mitigating factors.  In accordance with Article 23 (8) of the Constitution I observe that the convict was charged on 10th January 2014 and been in custody since then. I therefore sentence the convict to a term of imprisonment of six (6) years and seven (7) months, to be served starting from today.”