Olavi Hafiz Matovu drowned while swimming on April 27. Two weeks after his burial, we revisit the circumstances surrounding his death.
By Charles Etukuri
Body tissues belonging to Olavi Hafiz Matovu, a prominent businessman’s son who died on Lake Victoria two weeks ago, have been submitted to the Government analytical laboratory for further analysis amid growing suspicion over the circumstances surrounding his death.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga told Sunday Vision that investigations were being carried out by the Police homicide unit in Kabalagala. This is a special unit that handles murder investigations. The laboratory will carry out histology tests on the tissues to determine whether there was any foul play.
Histology involves treating the samples with certain chemicals and then examining them under a microscope to establish the nature and extent of injury. For example it can help determine if an injury occurred before or after death.
“We really needed to be sure on what caused his death. This is why we went for the histology test, where we examine all the tissues in detail to see whether there was anything foreign,” Enanga said.
The investigation follows a number of unanswered questions regarding the circumstances surrounding Olavi’s death. Enanga said the histology tests would help the Police make better conclusions about the cause of Olavi’s death.
Fishermen searching for Olavi’s body on Lake Victoria
According to Enanga, the preliminary post-mortem report, based on a physical examination, was not conclusive though it did not indicate any foul play.
Olavi was wearing a tight jumper, a red vest and a watch but no shoes. This dressing, according to Enanga, is possibly an indication that he prepared to jump into water but it is not conclusive. He added that the body had physical injuries which also did not show evidence of foul play.
“Once the tissues and organs are further analysed, it can help to indicate if there were any traces that could have caused his death, such as poison. Otherwise from the external injuries there is nothing that indicates foul play,” he said.
Enanga said it would not be necessary to take the samples abroad as the Government analytical laboratory is able to handle the tests.
On Wednesday, April 30, at around 12:49pm, the body of Olavi was retrieved, more than 32 hours after he had drowned. A 30-year-old fisherman, Ali Kinalwa, who was part of the search team, recovered the body trapped in the mud at a depth of about 27 metres.
According to eye witnesses and the Police, the body had deep cuts on the head, raising questions about what could have caused them. However, Enanga said the postmortem report did not show any evidence of inflammation.
“If he had been hit by a blunt object, then the flesh around the area would have been inflamed, but so far the post-mortem results submitted to us do not show that,” Enanga said.
Close family members, in an interview with Sunday Vision, said they were not yet satisfi ed with the explanations about the cause of Olavi’s death.
Sources also said the family had decided to get the services of a private investigator to help them unravel any mystery. Among the things that the investigator will set out to determine is what exactly transpired at the island where they had gone and in the boat.
- Did he drown while swimming or did the boat capsize as initially reported by the Police?
- What caused the wound on Olavi’s head?
- Did he hit a rock as he plunged into the water, or did he get the injuries outside the water?
- Why were the Police quick to state that they had rescued the other occupants in the boat after it capsized, yet the survivors say it did not capsize and that they drove themselves to Munyonyo Marina to seek help?
- Did he lose consciousness before falling into the water?
A marine expert with the Uganda National Police who spoke to Sunday Vision said it was unlikely for someone to get a deep cut under water while drowning because the water reduces the gravitational force with which a person falls.
Kinalwa (in black T-shirt) recovered Olavi’s body
One of the fishermen who participated in the recovery also said while combing the area for the body, they did not see any sharp rocks. In an interview with Sunday Vision, a relative to the deceased, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the issue was dividing the family.
“We have been severely reprimanded against talking to the media, and that all official communication about Olavi is now being handled by Hotel Africana proprietor Hajji BM Kibirige, who helped coordinate the search of the body and is also a family friend,” the relative said.
“Olavi was the favourite son of Matovu and his father trusted him so much that he handed all his official business engagements to him,” a family member says.
On Sunday April 27, Olavi left Speke Resort Munyonyo on his father’s boat alongside his fiancée’s relatives and friends.
According to Ismail Balinda, one of the people who were on the boat, they set off from Munyonyo to Lagoon Resort in Mukono with Olavi as the captain. Their two friends, Isma and Taha, were riding the two jet skis.
Brig Henry tumukunde (left), Olavi’s father Yusuf Matovu and BMK Kibirige at the burial
“It was me, Olavi, my son called Imran Nkurinzinza, Horsham Taha and Ismail, who is my friend, my three sisters Shamim Uwasi, Walder Mbabazi and Feruz Mundere together with two other girls, Sylvia and Patricia,” Balinda says.
The group had fun at the island and then set off back for the mainland at around 6:00pm on the same day.
Sunday Vision has learnt that Olavi had gone to inspect the construction of a beach which he was undertaking at the island.
“On our way back, Uwasi was riding one of the jet skis, while Isma was on the other. The Jet Ski that Isma was riding developed mechanical problems and it was moving slowly. When we had a short distance to reach Munyonyo, Olavi decided to stop the boat so that he could wait for the others who were behind,” Balinda says.
It is then that he decided to swim and plunged into the water. Balinda says shortly after Olavi dived into the water, they noticed him struggling.
“Taha dived into the water with a life jacket to try and save him. However, he could not get hold of him because of the strong waves,” he says.
Balinda then took charge of the boat and decided to ride it to the marina to seek help. By the time they got help it was late and dark. Taha, meanwhile, failed to rescue Olavi and nearly lost his own life in the process.
Strong waves swept him towards the shore, where a fisherman rescued him.
The late Olavi was engaged to Shalit Mutetsi (left), and Olavi riding the boat on the fateful day (right)
According to Taha’s statement to the Police, by the time he reached the spot where Olavi had last been seen, he had disappeared under water. The next day, the Police marine unit, assisted by the local fishermen and a crew from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, mounted a search.
By this time, the hopes of getting him alive had been lost and the family was now thinking of retrieving the body.
When Sunday Vision met Kinalwa, the fisherman who discovered Olavi’s body, he refused to talk, saying the Police and family members had stopped him from talking to “unauthorised persons.”
The family is now waiting for the pathology tests that will help shed more light on what exactly caused Olavi’s death.
How safe are the boats on Ugandan waters?
While the homicide unit tries to establish the cause of Olavi’s death, there are also concerns about the safety of boat operations on the lake.
The commandant of the Police Marine Unit, James Opora, admitted that several boats and vessels on Lake Victoria do not meet the safety requirements and have not been licensed.
Most of them are also being run by unqualified people. With boat rides becoming popular, the lives of many people could be at risk.
Under the marine unit guidelines, all the boats are supposed to be driven by certified boat personnel and the Police is mandated to periodically carry out inspections.
But even with the recent acquisition of Police boats, the Police do not seem to be ready for the task.
(Adapted from Sunday Vision of May 11, 2014)