Wairimu calls for justice as Cohen is finally laid to rest

Sarah Wairimu, the widow of tycoon Tob Cohen. [Standard]

Sarah Wairimu, the widow of tycoon Tob Cohen, defeated an attempt by the family of her husband to block her from attending his burial yesterday.

A source involved in the planning of the burial disclosed to The Standard that Cohen’s family was uncomfortable with her attendance, hence the postponement of the ceremony on Monday.

The family had hoped the court order allowing Wairimu to attend the burial would not be extended to another day, thus ensuring she would miss the ceremony.

“Our understanding of the ruling was wrong, as her attendance was not time-bound,” said the source.

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Another source added: “They thought by postponing the burial, the court would not give her an order for the second time. Their efforts bore no fruits.”

Cohen’s sister and her husband left the country last Saturday when it became clear that Wairimu would be allowed to attend Cohen’s funeral.

Their lawyers were left struggling to sell a story that the couple had pressing engagements back home that could not allow them to bury their relative.

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Wairimu attended yesterday’s burial at the Jewish Cemetery along Wangari Maathai Road and even laid a bouquet on the grave of her husband, whose body was found in a septic tank in the compound of their Nairobi home after he had gone missing for nearly two months. 

The widow was even given a chance to address the mourners before she was hurriedly whisked away to Lang’ata Women’s Prison.

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As she was being driven away in a police vehicle, some people in the crowd outside the burial venue stoned the cars. 

Wairimu had arrived at the cemetery at 2pm where she stood tightly sandwiched between two prisons orderlies.

Behind her were at least a dozen armed prisons officers, who were watching her like hawks.

It was not until the speeches were made that she walked over to the microphone, her minders in tow, and told the mourners of her love for the man she is suspected to have killed.

Wairimu said she hoped Cohen would find justice.

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With the prison orderlies growing impatient, she was not allowed to wait for the grave to be back-filled to lay her flowers. Instead her bouquet had to be removed to allow the men to finish their work.

At least 1,000 people, who perhaps knew nothing about Cohen until his mysterious death, milled around the cemetery in what started off as a private ceremony.

And as the burial was drawing to a close, police officers were overpowered by the huge crowd keen on following events from a close distance.

Long day

Just about 50 family members and close friends were expected to attend the burial, as is common with Jewish tradition. Dutch Ambassador Frans Makken was also in attendance.

It turned out to be a long day punctuated by delays. The burial that was slated for 2pm would be moved to 4pm and concluded more than an hour later.

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Earlier, at 10.30am, 10 Jewish men and a rabbi (priest) had arrived at the Chiromo mortuary to prepare Cohen’s body, which was cleansed and draped in a white cloth.

On Monday, lawyers had said preparation of the body could not happen owing to a quorum hitch. Yesterday, they claimed that the ceremony had flopped because of poor preparations by his family.

Gabrielle Van Straten, Cohen’s sister, had been planning the event until she made her abrupt departure.

“She had been tasked with pursuing the burial with the Jewish community but she left without any word to other concerned parties. We don’t know if it was deliberate to sabotage the plans,” said an official aware of the plans.

The parties had met the chairman of the Jewish community in Kenya on Thursday and agreed to bury Cohen on Monday afternoon.

Lawyer Cliff Ombeta said Gabrielle was not scheduled to attend the funeral because Jewish rites don’t allow women to attend such a ceremony. “Only men attend such events.”

Earlier, a sombre mood had engulfed the mortuary where Cohen’s body lay fully covered in a soft cardboard box, ready for burial.

While other families came for the bodies of their kin, Cohen’s was taken by four Jewish rabbis. None of his family members was present at the mortuary.

Mr Ombeta spoke to the Press as he waited for the rabbis to arrive so he could perform rituals on Cohen’s body before dispatching it to the cemetery.

At around 3.32pm, four rabbis arrived at the mortuary. Three of them spotted long beards and were dressed in hats, black coats and black pants. The fourth rabbi was in a blue T-shirt and jeans.

They took some time in the waiting room, performing rituals and making a few recitals. They emerged with the cardboard coffin that had Cohen’s name and the Star of David inscribed on the top.

“Nobody else should touch the coffin. Please move away from it,” Ombeta could be heard instructing the Press and two mortuary attendants.

[Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati]

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The StandardTob CohenLang’ata Women’s PrisonJewish Cemetery