'Please forgive us', officers tell the family of lawyer Willie Kimani

The accused, Fredrik Lelliman, Stephen Morogo, Sylvia Wanjohi  and Leornard Mwangi  during the ruling of Willie Kimani's murder case on July 22, 2022. [Esther Jeruto, Standard]

Three police officers and a civilian who killed lawyer Willie Kimani and two others had a last chance to plead for mercy before the court sentences them for the heinous murder.

Fredrick Leliman, Stephen Cheburet, Sylvia Wanjohi and Peter Ngugi took the opportunity to apologise to the families of Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri.

“The officers have reflected and realised they made a mistake in killing the three. They are very remorseful, regret the incident and offer their apologies to the families of the deceased persons. They are asking that for the families to heal, they should start by forgiving them,” said lawyer Cliff Ombeta.

Ombeta, who represents Leliman and Cheburet, said the two officers have reformed over the past six years they have been in prison. The lawyer said his clients also undertook theological and reform courses while in prison to prove they have taken the right path to live as good citizens.

Leliman, 46, who was found guilty as the mastermind of the killings, pleaded that he has a family of four children who depend on him, and his children will suffer for the rest of their lives if he remains in custody.

The officer said he worked diligently as an Administration Police Officer for 20 years and never had any disciplinary issues until he was arrested in July 2016 for the murder of Kimani, Mwenda and Muiruri.

“He says sorry to the victims and regrets the incident. He comes to court with bended knees asking for forgiveness and pleading for a second chance to go back to his community who know him as a good man,” said Ombeta.

For Cheburet, 53, Ombeta submitted that he has two wives with eight children who still depend on him for survival.

“He regrets every day when he thinks of the three lives lost. He has had his share of suffering in custody and is pleading to be released so he can go and teach people that crime does not pay,” said Ombeta.

Lawyer Katwa Kigen, representing Ms Wanjohi who is in her 30s, said the officer is remorseful for her actions that led to the deaths of Kimani, Mwenda and Muiruri.

Ms Wanjohi was found guilty of being an accomplice to the murder for failing to record in the police Occurrence Book when Kimani, Mwenda and Muiruri were taken to Syokimau police post by Leliman before they were removed at night and taken to the killing field.

Kigen said that since the court had found she was not directly involved in the plan to kill the three, the court should have leniency by handing her a non-custodial sentence.

“She is sorry to the families and the victims and pleads that (if) she is given a second chance, she will do everything to avoid injuries and death to any person,” said Ombeta.

Ngugi, who was a police informer at the time of the murder and confessed to participating in the crime, also asked for leniency saying he had learnt life lessons for the six years he has been in custody.

Even as the convicts pleaded for mercy, the prosecution and the victims' families however maintained that the four should be sentenced to a maximum of death to atone for the killings of their loved ones.

The International Justice Mission (IJM), Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and the Director of Public Prosecutions said they will rely on the victim impact report which shows the families of the three deceased persons have not healed from their loss.

"The victims have waited six long years for justice to be served. This has affected them emotionally, financially and psychologically.

"The case remains a constant trigger of the traumatic events and it is their prayer that the court considers their pain while determining the sentence,” said IJM.

Lady Justice Jessie Lessit will rule on the sentences on February 3.