A prisons department vehicle ferrying Sarah Wairimu Cohen arrived at the Jewish cemetery in Nairobi shortly after 1pm yesterday for a burial that was never to be. The High Court had yesterday morning allowed her to attend the burial of her late husband Tob Cohen.
Clad in clothes similar to those she wore last week and under guard from prison officers, Ms Wairimu waited pensively by the graveside for Cohen’s body to arrive from Chiromo Mortuary.
Across the city, the staff at the mortuary were ready to hand over the body to the Rabbis for Tahara – the preparation of a corpse, which includes cleansing, ritually washing and dressing.
Cohen’s grave had been dug by the time close family and friends arrived for what would have been a private ceremony. Journalists were ejected by police deployed for the event.
After more than an hour of waiting mourners were told why the body would not be leaving the morgue after all. This was followed by a press conference by lawyers for either party explaining the same.
Two Rabbis that were expected to join the burial service from Kisumu and Mombasa had not come as had been planned.
No explanation was given for their inability to join and make up the quorum of 10 needed to conduct the service for someone of Tob’s stature in the Jewish faith he professed.
“He was a very senior person in the Jewish society so we must have the requisite number of leaders,” he said, flanked by Bernard Cohen – a brother to the deceased and Philip Murgor, who is representing Wairimu.
Bernard said he will be involved in all the burial rites and that he was the one to lay Cohen's body as his blood brother.
Soon after, the prisons vehicle carrying Wairimu left the cemetery, with Langata Women prison as the presumed destination where the widow is being held as she awaits to be charged on Thursday.
Her reprieve to attend the burial came at 9am after High Court judge Stellah Mutuku ordered that she be escorted to the Jewish Cemetery at 2pm to attend the burial. “Since both parties have recorded a consent, I will allow an application by Sarah Wairimu seeking to attend the burial,” the Judge ruled.
Wairimu had on Friday sought the court’s intervention to allow her to bury her husband.
She has sued the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and had named Gabrielle as an interested party in the application.
The court yesterday heard that defence lawyers and all parties had recorded a consent to allow Wairimu to attend the burial. “If she is not allowed to pay her last respects to her husband it will be an infringement of her constitutional rights under article 50 (2) (a) to be considered innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law,” said her lawyer.
She had earlier been allowed to attend the post-mortem which was also conducted at the Chiromo Mortuary. Bernard was the only family member of the Cohens present for the botched burial after his sister left the country on Saturday.
Lawyers acting for Gabrielle Van Straten – Cohen's sister, said her departure was normal and planned.
Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati and Faith Karanja