Nyeri Family seeks help to bring daughter's body from Saudi Arabia

Pauline Wachira’s body has been lying at a morgue in Saudi Arabia for a month. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

A family in Nyeri has been in distress since they received news that their daughter had died in Saudi Arabia.

Pauline Murugi, 25, from Kiahuria village Watuka sub-location flew to Saudi Arabia in May to work as a maid but died under unclear circumstances.

Her sister Caroline Wachira, 23, said she last communicated with her on July 28 and never indicated any sign of distress.

On August 8, she received a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Lynnette. She asked her to tell the family to pray for their daughter.

"On August 9, I received yet another call from the same woman indicating my sister had died. I was shocked by this turn of events. I couldn’t believe she was no more,” Wachira explained.

In another WhatsApp chat on August 7 and seen by The Standard a woman by the name Anne Kimani texted Wachira, telling her she needed to talk to her urgently.

“Hello, please I need to talk to you because Murugi is sick. She is my friend...we travelled together to Saudi Arabia. She is here with me and I need to speak to you before it is too late please,” Kimani's chat read.

In another communication on August 22, Kimani confided to Wachira that her sister's body had been taken to the mortuary.

She said Murugi stayed at a hostel in Riyadh although she worked in a place called Ajez.

“My sister was not sick before she left but on arrival she used to complain of headaches,” Wachira added.

A video which was sent to the family several days before her death shows Murugi in an identified location, being wrestled by an unidentified woman. Her hands and legs were tied and she was struggling to free herself.

Murugi's mother, Margaret Mwihaki, said she had told her she was travelling to Dubai.

“When she left home on May 19, she never mentioned to me she would be travelling to Saudi Arabia. I did not suspect she was lying,” Mwihaki explained.

Mwihaki said her daughter called her at around 10pm on May 20 and informed her she was at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. She sounded excited.

"After a week, I called her and asked her how she was doing and she said all was well. It came as a shocker to learn Murugi had died under unclear circumstances," said the mother of four.

She said since receiving the tragic news about her firstborn, the family and the entire Kiahuria village had been thrown into mourning.

To make matters worse, the family does not know when the body will be flown back.

Mwikahi said an agent who took her daughter to Saudi Arabia has not informed the family about her death.

She said the family has been trying to reach the agent on phone but he was unavailable.

“That’s why her father has travelled to Nairobi to follow up on the matter,” she added.

The family is in the dark about the cause of her death and wants the government to investigate the incident.

“As I speak to you, I don’t have all the information about what befell my daughter. All I know is that she is no more. We have been informed that we need to raise Sh1.2 million to bring her body home," Mwihaki said.

She said she would not rest until justice is done for her daughter.

The family is appealing to the government to help transport Murugi's body home for burial.

“We are struggling to raise money...we have been jolted by her death. She went out to look for a job to support us. What I didn’t know was that she would travel out of the country for a job in Saudi Arabia,” said Mwihaki.

Haki Africa Human Rights officer Frederick Ojilo said women are drawn by promises of good salaries but end up being mistreated and tortured by their employers.

"These employers confiscate their passports and refuse to pay them after cutting off communications with relatives back home," Ojilo said.