How inmates who challenged death sentence earned it

Convicts Wilson Thirimbu Mwangi(C) and Francis Karoki Muruatetu Thirimbu(R) consult with their lawyer Fred Ngatia after they were ordered by Supreme Court that their death sentence to go back to the High Court for a fresh sentence during the judgement at the Supreme Court on Thursday 14/12/17 [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
On February 4, 2000 in Kitengela, city land dealer Lawrence Githinji Magondu was brutally murdered.

A month earlier, on January 17, Magondu had received a call from two people who said they wanted to buy his land.

They went to his office and stayed there for about 30 minutes discussing the deal and when to seal it.

Excited that he would have a better deal than another one that he had been offered by a different buyer, the dealer informed his driver about what had transpired.

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Little did he know that contact with the two would lead him to his grave and his driver left for dead.

Phone call

On the fateful day, Magondu received a call from the two land buyers, requesting that they meet to finalise the deal.

The court heard that the caller identified himself as Wilson Mwangi.

The businessman, accompanied by his driver, Harrison King’ori, drove to the appointed meeting place and they were joined by the buyers.

This group included Mwangi, his sister, Anna Ngonyo, and three men who were introduced as workers.

Mwangi told Magondu that the men were there to fence the land as soon as the deal was sealed.

They were carrying barbed wire, iron bars, two crow bars, and a new panga.

After they inspected the land, they all left in two cars and headed towards Maasai Ostrich Farm.

Magondu drove away with Mwangi and the woman while King’ori went the three men said to be workers.

Magondu and Mwangi went to a hotel, where they held brief talks and then came out a few minutes later. The group then set off to the piece of land.

King’ori later learnt that one of his three passengers had gone to the other car carrying his employer.

When he asked what was happening, the two men ordered him to take them to a butchery.

After a few minutes at the butchery, the other car zoomed past and stopped a short distance away. The man who had left the King’ori’s car came back and asked him to follow Mwangi’s car, saying it was on the instructions of Magondu.

King’ori followed the speeding car, but as they neared Portland village, he noticed that Magondu was not in the vehicle.

Upon inquiry, he was told he was sleeping on the back seat, but on close scrutiny, he realised this was not true.

When he asked more questions, the men ordered him to shut up. When they were approaching Nairobi National Park, King’ori was pulled out, attacked, and left for dead.

The killers’ plan backfired because King’ori did not die. He was rescued by a passerby and the incident was reported at Athi River Police Station.

Police arrests

King’ori told the court that the men who assaulted him discussed how they would hit him at the same place they had hit his boss, Magondu.

That evening, Magondu’s body was found at Kitengela, with the hands tied with a sisal rope. He had deep wounds on the forehead. A postmortem examination on February 8, 2000 by then government pathologist Alex Olumbe concluded that the head injuries were caused by a blunt object.

Twelve people were arraigned in court, including former Lands Commissioner Wilson Gachanja, his wife, Elizabeth Gitiri, her half-brother, Francis Muruatetu, and sister, Rose Njoki, Mwangi, Ngonyo, David Karuga, Stephen Wambua, and Stephen Njoki alias Blackie.

In March 2003, Justice Msagha Mbogholi found eight of the accused guilty and sentenced seven of them to death. He ordered that Ngonyo serve a life sentence as she was pregnant.

Gachanja and three others were acquitted. The eight appealed but only Gitiri’s conviction was quashed.

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