After analysing the police records the judges said the only evidence left was that of Wanja.
“Did she know the appellant as Patrick Njiru or just Njiru?” the judges queried.
“If it was as “Patrick Njiru” there is no evidence to support that. And if it was only “Njiru” then this required corroboration. This is because the name Njiru is a very common in this region and one has to be specific,” they held. Though Wanja said she attended an identification parade at the police station there was no evidence to support that.
“It’s also tricky to wholly rely on her evidence of identification because she has mentioned that there was a case where the appellant had stabbed the deceased and disappeared. Could it be vendetta?” the judges posed.
They said the court required some independent evidence to support her claims adding that Wanja may have been truthful yet she may have been mistaken.
“This is a case where a person lost his life. There was no proper investigation carried out,” the court noted. The two police officers involved had simply relied on what Wanja told them and went to arrest Njiru.
“She did not even mention Patrick Njiru. She talked of Njiru only. An identification parade ought to have been conducted to confirm her identification. This callous manner of dealing with such a sensitive matter where a man lost his life is detestable and we lack the words with which to condemn it,” the judges concluded.
With that, they found it was unsafe for the magistrate to have relied on Wanja’s evidence only to convict Njiru. They allowed the appeal, quashed the conviction and set aside the sentence of death.
On July 27, this year after eight years in jail, Njiru was set free.
The writer is a court reporter with the Standard Group.