Somewhere in Stella Zone in Najjanankumbi, Kampala, it is 9pm and people are planning to go to bed. A young, energetic man hides in a banana plantation and waits his chance to pounce on his prey, perhaps no one in particular. A woman in her late 30s rushes home.
The young man, Charles Lutaaya, summons all his energies, grabs the woman from the back and in one throw lands her on the ground.
Before the woman could recover from the crash as her body touched the ground, the young man tears her fabric and has sex with her.
When the damage is done, the woman gathers her belongings and proceeds home.
Though she had recognised the man as the porter who does casual work around the village, the woman kept mum in fear of the shame that would come with revealing that the porter had raped her, she later narrated.
Breaking the silence
She did not say anything to her husband, a butcher, when he returned home that night after the incident. Four days later, rumors start circulating in Stella Zone that the woman had been raped by the porter.
Fearing that her husband and other people would find out by other means, to her detriment, she decided to report a case at Kibuye Police Station. To prove her claim, she presents her knickers that had been ripped up in the middle as an exhibit.
The police give her an examination form to go and see the police surgeon at his Bombo Road clinic.
When she was examined by a doctor assigned by the police, there was no evidence of forceful penetration.
However, the doctor noted the scratches the woman had sustained around the neck.
On getting the report, the police proceeded to arrest Lutaaya and locked him up at Kibuye Police Station as investigations continued, which involved detectives taking him for a medical examination.
At that moment, they found no evidence to incriminate Lutaaya in the alleged rape; no unusual tears or scratches on his body.
“We did not take him for DNA examination,” a detective who worked on the case says.
According to him, DNA is a new thing. Though there had been forensic science, it was not something everyone embraced.
In his statement to the police, Lutaaya maintained that he had not raped the complainant, claiming that he had had a love affair with her.
On hearing Lutaaya’s claims, the complainant realised that she could actually lose her marriage.
She then knelt down in the police station and begged her husband to forgive her for what happened.
“We did not expect that; but we later understood her point,” says the detective, adding: “She felt she was going to be accused of infidelity; she denied having an affair with Lutaaya.”
“When she apologised that seems to have cooled down the man and saved her marriage,” the detective says.
She would later tell her husband that she had been raped contrary to what Lutaaya was asserting that they were in a relationship.
“My only problem was failure to report in time. I only decided to report the case after realising that some people had got to know I had been raped,” she told the father of her two children before the police.
After Nangendo’s confession to her husband, the husband always escorted her to the police station while the police conducted the investigations. “It was a difficult case,” says the detective, adding that at least they needed to satisfy the family that something had been done.
The detective says the woman was the only eye witness, no one else could corroborate this information.
“It was her word against his. We decided to charge him in court and let the judge decide at an appropriate time,” the detective says.
The police surgeon had also failed to prove that there was rape apart from the scratches the complainant had on both sides of the neck.
Though there was not much evidence pinning Lutaaya to the alleged crime except the torn pair of knickers, the police decided to have him charged in court. Lutaaya was arraigned before the magistrate’s court in Makindye and he was remanded to Luzira prison for rape.
The case always came up for mention until Lutaaya’s remand period was finished and he was committed to the High Hourt for trial.
In the High Court, Lutaaya maintained his plea of innocence but the case still went to full trial.
“We were relieved when the case was allocated to a lady judge because we knew we had a weak case but at least we were sure a female judge would hear it so that she either acquits or convicts the accused before a court of law,” says the detective.
The State had only three witnesses – the victim, the investigating officer and the police surgeon.
The investigating officer testified first, showing court how he had been allocated a file that he investigated and had gone ahead to arrest the suspect Lutaaya who he positively identified in court. When the complainant’s turn came, she testified how on the fateful day while returning home she had been grabbed by Lutaaya from behind, wrestled down, got her knickers torn and raped.
According to her, she had always left her place of work in Kiyembe, Central Business District, after 8.30pm and used the same path without any suspicions that there was any danger.
She told court that she had not reported the case at first but when rumours about her alleged rape started spreading on the village she was forced to report to the police at Kibuye. She presented her torn pair of knickers before court. Then it was the defence lawyer’s turn to cross-examine the complainant/victim.
“The lawyer tore down even the little evidence we had assembled,” recalls the detective.
The lawyer called the complainant’s name to get her to pay attention. He then told her: “You have told court that Lutaaya threw you down and raped you.” The complainant answered in the affirmative. The lawyer then asked about her children and family life.
When she seemed to be answering all the questions correctly and seemed more relaxed, the lawyer asked her whether when she was raped she had enjoyed the sex.
Here is what the complainant answered: “Yes”.
“All of us who were in court burst out and laughed,” recalls the detective. The lawyer then put it to the complainant that since she had enjoyed the act of being raped, that is why she had not told her husband. The complainant still answered “yes”.
“When I heard that I knew we had no case; we had lost the case,” the detective says.
“After those brief questions the suspect’s lawyer told the Judge he had no further questions to ask,” recalls the detective.
Reading from his examination report, the police surgeon told court that he had examined the complainant and failed to prove she had been raped. He also said he had examined Lutaaya but found no cuts to suggest he had been involved in a rape. “We failed to prove rape in that case. All the ingredients of rape in that case were lacking, the lady reported late [and] she had taken a bath,” the detective says.
According to the detective, the case had been shot down by the lawyer but he thinks the judge just wanted to help the victim when she ruled that Lutaaya had to defend himself.
When Lutaaya took to the stand, he denied having raped the complainant but claimed that he had had a running affair with her.
According to him, the few times he had had sex with the complainant, it had been with her consent.
When the case later came up for ruling, the Judge said the State had failed to prove all the ingredients of rape but took exception to the fact that the lady was risking her reputation in public as the reason for her late reporting.
Lutaaya was acquitted.