A Rwandese national who was in November 2018 sentenced to life in jail after being found guilty of killing her love rival is now a free woman.
Antoinette Uwineza, alias Micheline Uwababyyi, was on November 1, 2018 imprisoned for life by High Court Judge Jessie Lesiit after the court ruled that Uwineza had killed her compatriot, Winnie Uwambaye, over a boyfriend of European descent.
The Court of Appeal on Friday, September 25, reversed the lower court’s ruling, saying Uwineza’s sentencing was arrived at without the prosecution proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the convict killed Uwambaye.
Uwambaye’s lifeless body was on February 16, 2013 found at Saharan Lodge on Duruma Road in Nairobi. The 42-year-old had been strangled with a polythene bag, and her body wrapped in bed sheet.
At the time, the deceased was cohabiting with her boyfriend, Simon James Smith, a British national, at Smith’s Rhapta Road apartments residence in Westlands, Nairobi.
Uwambaye had earlier February 14, 2013 told her boyfriend that she would join him later that evening for dinner.
In his testimony in court, Smith said he later that day (February 14, 2013) received a phone call that Uwambaye had left for Nakuru with her friends.
Two days later, her body was discovered in a city lodging.
Investigations indicated that Uwineza was involved in the death of Uwambaye after the suspect was arrested in Kayole, Nairobi while using the deceased’s phone. Also arrested, was a youthful man who Uwineza was with.
Uwineza’s male friend was, however, acquitted over lack of evidence implicating him in Uwambaye’s death.
Justice Lesiit stated in her ruling that Uwineza was the last person who communicated with Uwambaye before she died.
Three Appellate court judges, Martha Koome, Hannah Okwengu and Fatuma Sichale, however, overturned the lower court’s ruling, saying sufficient evidence implicating Uwineza was not produced in court.
The three judges said police failed to collect concrete evidence that would have exposed Uwambaye’s “real killers”.
The Bench observed that police only relied on information from Smith to link Uwineza to Uwambaye’s killing. According to the judges, Smith’s revelations “were not enough to implicate the convict”.
“Police appear to have done nothing to trace Winnie or her killers upon receiving crucial leads,” said judges Koome, Okwengu and Sichale.
The trio also established that Uwineza never met Uwambaye on February 16, 2013, the day Uwambaye’s body was discovered in a Nairobi lodging facility.
The Appellate court judges said the convict’s appeal had merit, saying it wasn’t proved that she met the deceased shortly before her death.
“We find that the evidence produced against Antoinette fell short of proving that she inflicted injuries on Winnie either by herself or in concert with others,” the three-judge bench ruled.
The judges added that there was no inference of malice aforethought attributed to the convict.
They said: “The circumstantial evidence relied upon to convict Antoinette did not meet the required standards as it neither led irresistibly to her guilt nor was it compatible with her innocence.”
The judges went on to rule: “We allow this appeal, quash the conviction and set aside the sentence of life imprisonment. We set her free, unless she is otherwise lawfully held.”
The judges said in their ruling that what the prosecution only managed to prove was that Winnie had been killed.
Uwineza, who was represented by lawyer John Swaka, was on Friday, September 25 released from Lang’ata Women’s Prison, where she was serving life in jail.