The High Court in Kampala has dismissed an application for bail filed by businessman Francis Onebe who is charged with the murder of his wife Immaculate Asio Mary Blessing Onebe.
The application has been dismissed by Justice Paul Gadenya Wolimbwa on grounds that Onebe failed to prove that he will not abscond from trial or interfere with state witnesses once released.
The 63-year old Onebe was arrested about four months ago together with with his employee Bonny Oriekot, a Private Security Guard attached to Pentagon Security Company for the murder of his wife Asio.
Asio went missing on January 6th, 2021 and a case of suspected kidnap was reported by her husband Onebe at Kabalagala Police Station. But upon thorough investigations, Asio’s body was found decomposing in a septic tank at their matrimonial home in Munyonyo, nine months later on September 7th 2021.
Onebe and his co-accused were later arraigned before the Makindye Magistrates Court and charged with the murder in question and subsequently sent on remand at Murchison Bay Prison where they have been to date.
But on November 19th 2021, through his lawyers led by Moses Ingura, Onebe asked to be released on bail on grounds that he is suffering from chronic prostatitis and high blood pressure as a result of old age (advanced age).
As such, Onebe told court that he needs to be given bail to seek treatment outside prison because his grave and chronic condition had been confirmed by the medical officers in prison that he was battling the disease for more than 8 years.
Onebe also told court that he is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty adding that he has a permanent place of abode and substantial sureties. According to Onebe, he is a man with responsibilities and companies such as Pentagon Security Company which employs more than 2000 and it’s survival depends on him but he cannot manage while in prison.
Onebe further had to present his sister Dr. Jennifer Rose Aduwo, the Dean of School of Distance Learning and Information Technology at Uganda Management Institute, his Managing Partner at Price and King Auditing firm Robert Mukasa, village mates Pascal Achelu and John Francis Olume Igwoko as his sureties such that he can be granted bail.
However, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions led by Jonathan Muwaganya opposed his application on grounds that he was a flight risk and that by the time he was arrested, he was found going to Nairobi allegedly for treatment but he also had a Visa to London .
According to Muwaganya, Onebe had not informed police that he was going out of the country despite having been given bond and ordered not to go out of the country without police permission. Muwaganya also argued that Onebe was most likely to interfere with the ongoing investigations that are complex given how the murder in question was executed.
However in his ruling, Justice Gadenya has noted that whereas Onebe has proved exceptional circumstances to qualify for bail and even though his sureties are all substantial, his conduct prior to his arrest showed that he is not a person you can trust and grant bail expecting him to return to Court.
According to Gadenya, Onebe is presumed to be a respectful citizen who knew that he had been given bond by police on certain terms but again he failed to inform them when he was going out of the country to seek treatment.
The Judge who reasoned that there is no doubt that Onebe is suffering from grave illnesses further ruled that he is most likely to interfere with the state witnesses and the ongoing investigations given the fact that the scene of crime is his home and most of the witnesses are likely to be his relatives.
The Court has also heard that when considering bail for an accused person, there is need to balance the Public interests . As such, Gadenya has ruled that the public interest in this matter given the circumstances how the body of the wife was found decomposing in a septic tank after nine months of a search, if Onebe is given bail it will take away the confidence the people have in the justice system.
The Judge has also noted that the investigations into Asio’s murder are complex as said by the Prosecutor since one of the investigators in it Obadia Hakiri died following unclear circumstances after gathering evidence to use in the case. The ruling by Gadenya has been read in open court by the Criminal Division Registrar Didas Muhumuza in the presence of Onebe together with his lawyer Ingura.
Speaking to Media after the ruling, Ingura said that they are going back to the drawing board to see what they can do next because his client is seriously sick and needs urgent medication.