The wealthy family of a privately educated Ugandan refugee who was found dead in a flat in Glasgow beside her malnourished baby have told MailOnline of their shock at her death.
Mercy Baguma, 34, whose father was a Ugandan politician, was found by police in Govan on Saturday after friends raised the alarm. Her hungry baby boy was crying beside her body.
According to schoolfriends in Uganda, she had struggled with alcohol addiction and depression over many years, affecting her health. She suffered from liver problems and a kidney condition.
In a eulogy, her sister, Hajirah Nakendo, wrote: ‘Often we forget that those who are the happiest in life also hide their pain the best. As happy as she seemed, she was no exception.’
And her brother, Eric, told MailOnline of his astonishment at claims that his sister had become destitute. ‘We have money,’ he said. ‘We are not poor. If she needed something, all she had to do was ask.’
After growing up in privilege, Ms Baguma decided to make the move to Britain to find ‘greener pastures’ after she found it difficult to find a good job, her brother said. She had been in Scotland for 14 years.
Details of her life emerged as Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon blamed Ms Baguma’s death on Britain’s asylum system, calling it ‘broken’ and ‘deeply inhumane’. The Ugandan had lost her job in Scotland after her leave to remain expired, and was no longer allowed to work.
Ms Baguma, also known as Masitula Nakendo, wrote a tragic final Facebook post making a birthday appeal for donations to the Prevention of Young Suicide charity, which runs HopelineUK.
In June, a charity called African Challenge Scotland released a video of Ms Baguma thanking its volunteers for delivering Ugandan food to her door.
A lawyer who is an old school friend of Ms Baguma told MailOnline: ‘Mercy, very sadly, had been struggling with an addiction to alcohol over the years.’
In her eulogy, the asylum seeker’s sister, also a lawyer, wrote: ‘I remind myself that she no longer has to endure the pain of this world. We all must find peace knowing that she is still a light in our hearts.’
She added: ‘What if she would have come back home to Uganda…… the land of freedom, maybe things would be different.’
Speaking at the family home in Ntinda, an upmarket suburb of Kampala popular with the country’s elite, Ms Baguma’s brother, Eric Muhangi, said that the asylum seeker was in poor health.
‘She had underlying conditions and we were worried about her,’ he told MailOnline. ‘But she was determined to go to Britain. In Uganda, she went through all the levels of education and she was devastated when she couldn’t get a good job.
‘She didn’t want to stay in Uganda, earning peanuts. She wanted to earn pounds, which actually mean something. She went to Britain seeking greener pastures.’
Ms Baguma was one of 14 siblings. Another brother, Kizire Nakendo, is currently running for office at the Ugandan parliament.
Her father, former MP Abdu Balingilira Nakendo, who suffers from high blood pressure, was rushed to hospital after collapsing when he received news of the death of his daughter. Her mother, Rehema Omularo, died 30 years ago.
The family, which owns several properties in the Ugandan capital Kampala, lives adjacent to an enclave known as ‘Ministers’ Village’, due to its popularity with Ugandan politicians, army chiefs and business leaders.
An upmarket shopping mall called Capital Shoppers City, protected by armed guards, is nearby.
‘None of us can believe that she died in such circumstances,’ Ms Baguma’s brother Eric said. ‘We have money. We are not poor. If she needed something, all she had to do was ask. It is wrong for British politicians and media to say she was penniless.
‘She went to a good school that not all Ugandans can afford. She had everything she needed. We are shocked. Why did she not ask us for help?’
Ms Baguma, also known as Ruby, attended exclusive, fee-paying private schools that are popular with Uganda’s upper classes.
Her father was elected to the Ugandan parliament in 2006 as an independent MP. But he was thrown out two years later when it emerged that he had forged his academic grades to qualify for election.
The father of her baby, understood by MailOnline to be a Nigerian asylum seeker, is looking after their child. According to Mr Muhangi, the couple had been separated for ‘a long time’.
‘The family had never met him,’ he said. ‘Mercy had been in Scotland for 14 years.’
Her family is returning to their ancestral village in eastern Uganda to hold a vigil for Ms Baguma tomorrow.
The asylum seeker lost her job after her limited leave to remain expired and she was no longer allowed to work. She was reportedly relying on food from friends and charitable organisations.
Her body was discovered by police on August 22. She was last heard from four days earlier, when she spoke to friends.
A week earlier, on August 11, she got in touch with charity Positive Action for Housing, to seek help and would have been deemed high priority for support.
No cause of death has yet been established.
In her eulogy, Ms Baguma’s sister wrote: ‘Words cannot describe how much she will be missed. I feel like we still had so much left to teach one another, and so many more inside jokes to create.
‘I had always thought I’d be able to had always thought I’d be able to see her grow into the beautiful woman that she was meant to be. I know there is something that she found to love in every one of us.
‘We must remind ourselves that when we look for her, we can look to the stars at night and we can look into the eyes and hearts of everyone here and find a little piece of her. In that sense she will live on forever.’
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said:
‘I would appeal to the UK Government to look into their hearts as a result of this case and finally make the changes that are needed to housing.
‘People who come to Scotland because they need a place of safety should have our support, and that is even more true right now at this time of crisis.’
She added: ‘We knew this before this tragedy, but it is underlined by this tragedy – the UK asylum system is not just broken, it is deeply inhumane and it must be changed.’
Ms Sturgeon said that the Scottish government had raised concerns about the asylum system with Westminster in the past.
‘We need wholesale reform of our asylum system and we need to start from the principle of dignity, of empathy and of support for our fellow human beings who come to this country, seeking support at desperate and dismal times of their lives,’ she said.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘This is a tragic situation and our condolences go to Ms Baguma’s family.
‘The Home Office takes the wellbeing of all those in the asylum system extremely seriously, and we will be conducting a full investigation into Ms Baguma’s case.’