Missing priest’s corpse found buried in riverbed

Residents watch the exhumation of the body of murdered priest Fr Michael Kyengo, 42, from Thatha Parish in the Diocese of Machakos was buried at the bed of the seasonal River Mashamba in Mashamba area of Makima location, Embu County. [Joseph Muchiri, Standard]

After long days of liturgical work, Catholic Priest Michael Kyengo had decided to take a month-long annual leave for a well-deserved rest.

He chose to visit his home in Kaewa, Machakos County, to see his mother. It would be the last place the 42-year-old priest at Thatha Parish, Machakos Diocese, would be seen alive.

Speaking from her home, Fr Kyengo’s mother Juliana Wayua, 70, narrated his disappearance.

“He left on Tuesday last week at around 4 pm, driving his car. He was accompanied by a mason who had been fixing a fence at our home. The mason was to be dropped at Kaewa shopping centre,” she said.

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Family and friends interviewed said they lost touch with the priest after his mobile phone went off.

Disfigured body

Yesterday, crowds watched as the badly disfigured body of the priest was exhumed from a shallow grave on the bed of the seasonal Mashamba river in Makima location of Embu County.

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A suspect currently in police custody led detectives to the river. Teams of pathologists examined the body.

According to the police, the priest’s body was wrapped in a polythene bag and stashed inside a gunny bag before being buried in the sandy riverbed.

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Danson Diru, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss in Embu, who led the exhumation, said the body was in a bad state.

“The body had many scars, though nothing extreme like disembowelment has been done,” Mr Diru explained.

He said Kyengo’s relatives had seen the body and confirmed it was the priest's. He insisted that more DNA tests would be carried out to conclude on the body’s identity.

Police said the motive of the killing was yet to be established even though a “substantial amount of money” had been withdrawn from the priest’s bank account.

“The report about the missing priest was made at KBC police station in Matungulu sub-county on October 9,” Diru said.

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“We are holding one suspect who will be arraigned once investigations are done.” Yesterday, the suspect was taken to the exhumation scene, sandwiched between detectives.

Diru said he could not tell if the priest was murdered elsewhere, and then buried in the riverbed.

Wayua, who stoically bore the loss of her son, said she would not cry for him "since he belongs to Christ".

She said she had been praying for Kyengo since she got the disturbing news about his disappearance.

Devoted priest

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“My son was devoted to the priesthood and I know Jesus Christ will care for him," Wayua said.

She explained that Kyengo was the lastborn in a family of five, all of the boys. He attended Katangini Primary School before proceeding to Kinyui Boys High School. He then joined the seminary.

Neighbors and friends yesterday trooped Wayua’s home to condole with the family after the news went round that the priest’s body had been found.

Close friend

Gerald Matolo, a long-serving priest and close friend of Kyengo's described the deceased as a very outgoing and committed servant of God.

“Fr Michael was a man I knew very well after working with him for about seven years in Thatha Parish. He was very organised, prayerful and joyful,” said Fr Matolo.

“He served diligently in the church’s youth ministry and I am shocked to learn about his sudden death.”

His other colleagues were equally shocked about his death and said he had never expressed fear over his life.

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Catholic PriestMichael KyengoJuliana WayuaEmbu County