What you need to know:
- Five Kenyans – William Onyango Nganyi alias Dadii, Patrick Muthee Mrithi alias Musevu, Gabriel Kungu Kariuki, Jimmy Maina Njoroge alias ordinary and Simon Ndungu Kianuthi alias Kenen - and Tanzania Jumanne Kilongola alias Askofu were among dozens of suspects arrested over the robbery.
- At the end of a marathon trial, the six men were found guilty of armed robbery and were each sentenced to 32 years in jail.
Dar es Salaam,
It was just before 3pm om May 21, 2004.
Employees of the National Bank of Commerce (NBC), Moshi branch, Tanzania, were busy attending customers at the final rush hour of operations.
Suddenly, a group of men who had queued for service and disguised themselves as ordinary customers revealed their true colours.
Sub-machine guns, pistols and knives hidden in their clothes were drawn and pointed at employees of the bank and customers, who were held captive and ordered to lie down.
The attackers moved their captives into the bank’s hall and thoroughly searched them, taking away all their belongings.
Having assured themselves of their security in and outside the bank, the bandits moved on to collect cash, both local and foreign currency, from the tellers’ compartments as well as the strong room, and stuffed it into polythene bags.
As the well coordinated robbery went on, a Toyota Land Cruiser moved close to the rear door of the bank. At this point, Sh252 million stolen from the bank was stuffed into the car which then sped away.
Five Kenyans – William Onyango Nganyi alias Dadii, Patrick Muthee Mrithi alias Musevu, Gabriel Kungu Kariuki, Jimmy Maina Njoroge alias ordinary and Simon Ndungu Kianuthi alias Kenen - and Tanzania Jumanne Kilongola alias Askofu were among dozens of suspects who were arrested and charged at the Moshi Resident Magistrate’s Court with the offence.
At the end of a marathon trial, the six men were found guilty of armed robbery and were each sentenced to 32 years in jail.
Their first appeal in the High Court was an empt success. Their conviction on the first count of conspiracy was quashed but the conviction on the second count of armed robbery, which earned them the 32-year jail termm was upheld in December, 2015.
Still undaunted, they moved to the Court of Appeal to challenge both the conviction and the sentence.
This time, the sentence against three of them - Mr Onyango, Mr Muthee and Mr Ndungu - was quashed.
Cited were irregularities of identification, poor visual identification evidence and discrepancies, contradictions and inconsistencies in testimonies of prosecution witnesses.
In a recent decision delivered via video conference from Ukonga Central Prison in the presence of the appellants, a panel of three judges said Mr Muthee’s conviction, which was based on the evidence of visual identification from Gadiel Sifael, was unsafe because Mr Sifael was never called to testify.
“The statement of a person who never appeared in court to testify, so as to be cross-examined by the accused, and his demeanour assessed by the trial court; could not, without corroboration, ground conviction,” said judges Sivangilwa Mwangesi, Gerald Ndika and Bethuel Mmilla.
Regarding the first accused person, Mr Onyango, whose jailing was based on a parade at which he was identified by prosecution witnesses Emmanuel Katuma and Paul Sadinaki, the judges also found faults.
Mr Katuma claimed to have identified Mr Onyango after seeing him at the scene of the crime while Mr Sadinaki said he had transported him and his colleagues in a shuttle from Arusha to Nairobi.
The judges said the identification by Mr Katuma could not be acted upon because he had already seen Mr Onyango in Nairobi before the parade was held.
The court also found that there was no linkage between the identification of Simon Kiambuthi and the robbery at the bank.