The Police in Kampala, Uganda, have arrested a 24-year-old woman, Suzan Kaitesi, accused of locking up her boyfriend and her cousin in her apartment bedroom before setting it ablaze.
The cousin, Patricia Arinda and the boyfriend identified simply as Kajumba, died in what the police are describing as a love triangle.
The suspect is said to have run away from the inferno while telling anyone within the vicinity that a gas explosion had taken place.
The neighbours and police rescue team, however, found the bedroom locked. When they broke into the bedchamber, they discovered two corpses. The gas cooker was intact and bedroom keys missing.
The incident happened on January 12, 2023, at Jinja Karoli Kawempe Zone ‘A’ Ward in Nabweru Kawempe Division Kampala District.
Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, the Kampala Metropolitan police deputy spokesperson, on Sunday, January 15, 2023, confirmed the incident.
He also revealed that a female suspect has since been arrested and police preferred a holding charge of murder as investigations continue.
Police preliminary investigations indicate that fire shattered the apartment belonging to Ms Grace Sanyu, a businesswoman and resident of Kawempe Division.
“The room, a double unit, was being rented and occupied by Suzan Kaitesi (the suspect) 24 years,” Mr Owoyesigyire said.
“It is reported that Kaitesi received two visitors identified as Patricia Arinda, 24, her cousin, and Kajumba, 27, her friend, she told the police that the visitors came to her place in the morning and the fire broke out later that evening while they were still in the house.”
Mr Owoyesigyire added that the Kampala Metropolitan North Regional Fire brigade responded to the distress call, but by the time the fire was put out two people had passed on.
“We recorded statements from witnesses. Our officers later visited Kaitesi Susan in the clinic where she had been rushed for first aid and she was later referred to Kawempe Hospital for further management and later discharged and taken to police for questioning,” he said.
The crime scene was visited and documented by officials from National Building Review Board, Umeme, and a police forensic team to ascertain the exact cause of the fire.
Police detectives close to the investigation told the Monitor that the suspect initially described the two people that died in the inferno as just her visitors. She would later describe Kajumba as her boyfriend when probed further.
A detective, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told this publication that the suspect went for Christmas holidays upcountry and she left her cousin sister Patricia in the house.
It is alleged that the suspect started plotting her revenge when she was informed by her neighbours that her cousin was secretly dating her boyfriend.
Mr Michael Ndyamuhaki, the defence secretary at Njuki boda boda stage, told the Daily Monitor on Sunday, that Kajumba came to the apartment on Thursday morning at 10am.
At around midday, Patricia also came to the apartment and they kept inside.
The suspect is said to have arrived at 1pm and stayed put in the house for more than two hours. When people saw a plume of smoke emerge from the apartment, they sprung to the rescue of its occupants.
Mr Vicente Kintu, a boda boda rider at Njuki stage, participated in the rescue. He said the bedroom was locked and they failed to break it because of the fire.
“I broke into the store looking for what could have caused the fire. I found the store was intact and a gas cooker in a store and it remained intact as well.” Kintu said.
The police had, however, captured DNA samples from the woman who identified and claimed Patricia as her daughter.
“We are still waiting for results such that we hand over the body to her for burial in Kabale District,” Mr Owoyesigyire said.
One Daniel Baguma, an immediate neighbour, said he was sitting outside a compound when he heard an explosion.
“I was sitting outside the compound facing the opposite direction. This was between 2pm and 3pm on Thursday afternoon when I heard a huge explosion from the house,” he explained.
“I thought it was an electric short circuit and I rushed to switch off my main switch. I was quite puzzled. I saw the owner of the house shouting that her sister was in the house. A friend of mine came up with the idea of gathering sand around in basins and started pouring it into the house to extinguish the fire as we called the Police brigade, which arrived 15 minutes later.
Another neighbour, Edith Akiiki, said; “I heard that the girl who died in the inferno together with her boyfriend had just returned that Thursday from the village together with the owner of the house where they had gone for Christmas holidays. I am told she works in Saudi Arabia where she had just returned from,”
“When they reached the house, they started taking photographs of themselves before entering the house. While inside the house, the girl from Saudi Arabia was heard shouting at someone on top of her voice telling the person to explain where the money she used to send from Saudi Arabia went.
“Apparently, at around 4pm the girl who died felt tired because they had travelled from the village that day and she asked the owner of the house to let her and the boyfriend sleep on her bed. After a short while, that is when the explosion was heard,”
“People suspect that it is the money which sparked off this whole thing because if the fire started from the bedroom and she was in the sitting room why didn’t she open the bedroom door so that the two could escape?
“Children who were playing behind the house say that shortly before the explosion, they saw a man standing below the window of the bedroom where the fire started and they saw the couple signalling to him for assistance but he just ran away and yet the owner of the house was inside and they suspect that they were communicating to each other. Even when she came out of the house there were very few bruises to show that she tried to fight for the lives of the deceased,”
Luke Oweyisigirye, Deputy Police Spokesperson Kampala Metropolitan
“There is suspicion that she is involved. There is a likelihood that this is a case of arson. It is the investigators to decide because the fire is limited to one place and she has very slight bruises and a small burn. The kitchen which has gas, which could have been the cause, is intact,”
Another neighbour said: “As the fire was overburning, Ms Susan jumped out of the apartment shouting: “Gas, gas, gas!” She was allegedly in the sitting room. She was gasping and told us that fire started from the bedroom.”