NAIROBI: On December 18 last year, Janet Karamana was sentenced to hang for the murder of her husband, turning the spotlight on cases of men and women hiring hitmen to eliminate their spouses.
Tears flowed down her cheeks after the Court of Appeal decided she had to pay the ultimate price for the killing of the father of her children.
The 56-year-old businesswoman had initially been convicted by the High Court to serve 30 years imprisonment for hiring hitmen to “work” on her husband.
Police investigations revealed that she paid the executioners a paltry Sh30,000 for the brutal murder of her spouse Moses Gituma, a former senior officer at the Central Bank of Kenya.
Gituma was bludgeoned by the hitmen — three were sentenced to hang alongside Karamana — before sinking into a vegetative state until he died on March 2, 2010.
The motive for the murder was unclear, but it tells of a strain in marriage that slowly boiled down to hate and murder.
Monday, June 17, 2013, would have been tragic for a macadamia businessman, John Muthee, had the evil plans of his wife, Faith Wairimu, materialised.
For Sh200,000, Wairimu — who ran a kiosk in Nairobi’s Zimmerman at the time — had hired hitmen to finish her husband of 15 years, a father of two, alleging infidelity.
A Sh40,000 down payment was made, the balance was to be paid after proof of the accomplished mission — her husband’s bloodstained clothes.
The murderous plot fell apart after one of the hitmen turned out to be a police informer.
Following her arrest, the woman initially pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to kill but later changed her plea to not guilty and was due to be prosecuted when her husband reported to court that he had forgiven her.
She walked to freedom in September 2013 after her husband said they had reconciled.
And on February 27, 2014, a woman, her sister, her son and two employees were convicted of the murder in 2004 of the head of the home, David Macharia, after a property row.
Annah Waithera’s son-in-law testified that he lent her Sh5,000 on June 14 though she had wanted Sh10,000. Macharia’s body was discovered in a forest with his throat slit.
Last month, Elena Nyambura who murdered her co-wife’s child in order to win her husband back was found guilty of murder. The killers were to be paid Sh80,000.
These are some of the cases where lovers and couples are paying killers to eliminate their spouses to settle disputes over infidelity, property, finances and other grievances.
National Police Service Spokesman George Kinoti said although such incidents are not rampant, the service had averted some that had been reported to them in time.
“When people plan, for instance murder or robbery, the players know each other. Where such incidents have been reported to the police in time they have been averted,” said Mr Kinoti.
He explained that some of the plotters had either approached police to hire their services or known thugs at a fee.
“Where they approached police to commit the offences, some were arrested and charged in court,” said Kinoti, citing the Zimmerman incident.
He encouraged anyone with such information to pass it to the police to avert the planned crimes.
But why would former lovers have so much hate for their partners to the extent of plotting murder?
Sheikh Abdullatif Abdullahi, a Muslim leader in charge of family affairs at Jamia Mosque, explained that couples go to extremes because of either unfaithfulness in marriage and in some instances money.
“A home is not about the structure but the people who are living in it. If an individual in marriage does not adhere to faithfulness, patience, love, sharing of resources and tranquility, there is a risk of the marriage breaking down,” said Sheikh Abdullatif.
The cleric explained that strains in marriage become evident when a partner hides resources from the other, is easily irritated or there is lack of communication.
He narrated two incidents which he handled that involved infidelity in marriage. “Do not compromise the trust the other person has for you. Broken hearts are very dangerous as the level of anger varies from one person to the other,” said Abdullatif.
In the first incident, a licensed gun holder had vowed to eliminate his wife for straying out of their marriage.
The second incident ended in divorce after a soldier confirmed that his wife was seeing another man while he was on a peacekeeping mission.
Abdullatif noted that differences in marriages were normal, but the issue was how to handle them. He, however, added that there are certain characteristics acquired in upbringing that stick for the duration of a person’s life and therefore, no one should be in a hurry to marry.
According to religious leaders, such cases were especially witnessed when families start to acquire wealth.
Former Law Society of Kenya CEO Apollo Mboya said such trends indicated that couples were running away from using the law to deal with family disputes.
Mr Mboya noted that such cases could be emerging due to lack of strong mediation process for families.
“Due to this laxity, couples yearning for assistance may resort to murder in desperation,” said Mboya.
He said some of the contributing factors included pressures of life and in some instances spousal abuse.
Anglican Church of Kenya Bishop George Mechumo (Bungoma Diocese) acknowledged that such cases were on the rise because of the suspicion that arises between couples when they start making money.
“A woman would start suspecting that her husband is supporting another woman on the side when he starts getting assets, leading to her hiring someone to get rid of their husband,” said Bishop Mechumo.
The head of the Holy Ghost Coptic Church of Africa, Reverend Father John Pesa, also noted that money was the root cause of disputes between spouses.
Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati and Lornah Kibet