Saadi Kiggundu a 50-year old Taxi driver had parked opposite Standard Chartered Ban on William Street when two young men hired his taxi to Entebbe where they would pick goods and bring them back to Kampala.
As he left the stage that afternoon, he promised Tonny Semyalo, the owner of the vehicle, an Ipsum registration number UAV 294A used for the journey that the trip would take a few hours.
Unknown to him; that would be the last time Semyalo saw his friend Kiggundu.
His body was found lying in a bush in Jinja three days later.
Since there was no missing person report with descriptions to match his clothes and the fact that no one ever claimed his body, Kiggundu was buried at the Jinja Municipal cemetery in Kirinya.
The recovery of this one vehicle destined for Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in May 2015 gave police a lead to the criminal gang alleged to have stolen over 170 vehicles in a period of four years.
21 suspects were later apprehended.
Following a five day interrogation process, six of the arrested suspects made confessions, revealing tactics that they used to steal the vehicles.
In a confession statement by one of the suspects alleged to have been the assailant of the gang, three methods of stealing were used.
The statement shows that the plan was hatched in March 2011 when three young men sat in a gym in Kisenyi, a Kampala suburb and devised means of making quick money.
They decided to steal a car which they would later cut into spare parts and sell to different dealers in Kisekka and Katwe.
The Mini Bus which marked the beginning of a four year adventure had been parked outside a house and a master key was used to open it and drive it off to a garage in Kisenyi where it was demolished.
The success of this first theft encouraged others to join the group and expand their operations.
The 17 member group used master keys for the first one year to drive vehicles out of parking spaces.
With time however, drivers became cautious of where they parked their cars and could no longer get cars using this method.
It was at this point that a new method was adopted.
A suspect only identified as Daudi explains that two of them would hire a mini bus or even a special hire vehicle from any stage and ask to be taken to Nakasero Market to pick goods.
At Nakasero market, the driver would be asked by the most smartly dressed of the two to go with the other and pick the goods as he remained in the car.
After about two minutes, the one in the car would call the one who has gone with the driver and ask that the driver come back on claims that another car wanted to pass where they were parked or something else.
At this point, the thug who was moving with the driver would run away and the car would have already been driven away.
Sometimes when the movement of the car to its storage or marketing area would be estimated to take hours, the drivers would be kidnapped tied up in room owned by one of their members and later taken and left at an isolated point.
“While the intention had initially been to steal the vehicles and let the drivers go free, after two years in the theft operation, expertise demanded that we get rid of some of the drivers,” the suspect told URN.
It was the insistence by the driver to move with his conductors especially for mini buses that led to the group’s first murder and when no evidence seemed to point to them, they killed the next and the next.
Another reason for murder was if the car stolen had no ready market.
In fear of the car being reported stolen and police searching for it, the drivers would be killed and dumped deep in the villages where it could take a week or so to find the bodies.
The theft was not only limited to mini buses and special hire vehicles but also to private expensive vehicle like Prado TXs, Pajero and Premio.
The suspects would use the same vehicle to transport the victims’ bodies to their disposal area, tied it in a black construction plastic bag.
Of the 170 vehicles, police has so far recovered only 18 from the districts of Jinja, Mbarara, Mayuge and Mukono.
The recovered vehicles included among others 10 taxis and 2 Toyota Noah.
The suspects said they had dumped some of the bodies of their victims at Lwanyiri River in Mukono district.
Marine Police were able to recover three bodies from the river in a search and retrieve operation conducted early this week.
Herbert Muhangi, the Flying squad Deputy Commandant says the 170 figure was arrived at following confessions by the suspects.