A not guilty plea has been entered for the Kenya Defence Forces officer accused of killing his wife and two children.
Peter Mugure is facing three charges of murdering his estranged partner Joyce Syombua and their two children Chanice Maua and Prince Michael in Nanyuki.
The bodies were discovered on November 16 buried in a shallow grave near the Laikipia Army base.
Although Major Mugure did not pronounce the words 'not guilty', Nyeri High Court judge Jairus Ngaa enterred it as so.
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There was confusion when Mugure was asked to take plea, but instead told the court his conscience would not allow him to take plea before some of his issues are addressed.
According to court proceedings, any answer that is not a plea of guilt is entered as 'not guilty'.
Ngaa ordered that the pre-trial hearing in the triple murders to start on January 23.
The prosecution said any issues Mugure has surrounding the case will be duly addressed as the case proceeds.
Earlier, defence counsel Cliff Ombeta did not show up in court, prompting Mugure to seek a quick replacement after the prosecution accused them of delay tactics.
The session had to be delayed for half an hour as Mugure sought Ombeta's replacement.
Chanice was to celebrate her 11th birthday during the visit with her father, who trained as a civil engineer at the University of Nairobi.
Those who know 34-year-old Mugure, who was raised in Nairobi and attended Mwangaza Primary and Upper Hill Secondary schools, say he had a troubled relationship with Syombua.
Syombua’s mother, Elizabeth Malombe, claimed that a few of Mugure’s relatives were opposed to the union and discouraged him from getting married to her daughter.
“After they separated, they (relatives) went to collect his bags from the house he was living in with Syombua. They allegedly told her that he had told them to collect everything that belonged to him from that house,” said Ms Malombe.
Syombua’s friend, Farrizanah Katengu, told The Standard that Mugure had not seen his children in a long time.
A colleague of Mugure who requested anonymity revealed that Mugure, who hails from Lari in Kiambu County, had built a family house in Ongata Rongai.
“They had domestic issues and it disturbed him. But he never looked distressed in public. He was acting normal,” said the source.
The source, who works with Mugure, described him as humble and claimed that he may have wanted to reconcile with his estranged partner.
“I know he had asked Syombua to get back together and she was willing because she loved him,” the source said.
Syombua, Chanice and Michael went missing on October 26, one day after visiting the soldier at his workplace in Nanyuki.
The three bodies were found tied with ropes, stuffed in gunny bags and buried in a shallow grave.