Jail term for woman who killed foster mother reduced by 18 years

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A woman who killed her foster mother had a sentence reduced by 18 years after a successful appeal.

Benedette Njoki Gachinga will now serve 12 years in jail after the Court of Appeal reviewed the sentence that had been handed to her by the High Court.

While the Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court that Njoki her adopted mother, it differed with the sentence which it described as manifestly harsh and excessive.

Three Court of Appeal judges, Lady Justice Jamila Muhhamed, Luka Kimaru and Agrrey Muchelule, sitting in Njeri, agreed with the appellant that when she learnt she was an adopted child, she was angry, restless and went into drugs which contributed to her killing her mother.

"The learned judge was alive to the fact that the maximum penalty for murder was death, but the court sentenced her to 30 years," the judges observed.

Through her lawyer Wahome Gikonyo, Njoki appealed her conviction and sentence stating the judge erred in law in relying on circumstantial evidence to convict her while it does not satisfy the legal requirements of circumstantial evidence.

She said that the judge erred in not holding that the prosecution had not proved its case beyond any reasonable doubt.

"The appellant was the adopted child of the deceased. When she learned of the adoption, she was quite angry that she had been kept in the dark by her adoptive parents. She ran away from home to go and look for her real mother," court documents stated.

Additionally, the facts do not appear to have been in dispute before the High Court judge.

Njoki was the adopted daughter of Michael Gachinga and his late wife Esther Wangare Kanore.

Michael Gachinga, in his testimony, said that he returned home with his wife on the material day and found the appellant. He later left them in the house and went to his farm.

Upon returning, his wife was not in the house. He rang her but she was not picking up the phone.

He searched all the rooms and found the deceased's body in Njoki's room in a pool of blood. It had several stab wounds. The appellant was not at home.

He told the court that they had earlier received threatening messages from Njoki and reported the matter to the police.

Njoki said she failed to return home for two days as she was in a bar where she watched the news, on television, about the death of her mother.

Njoki stated that she was not bothered and instead, continued to drink as she was stressed.

Njoki appeared before the High Court judge Abigail Mshila in Nyeri where she was charged with murder and was found to be fit to take a plea. She denied the charge.

At least six witnesses testified against Njoki.

In a judgment delivered on June 27, 2019, the appellant was found guilty of the charge and was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.

The judges of the Court of Appeal, when reducing the sentence, stated: "We are of the considered view that, given all these facts, the jail term of 30 years was manifestly harsh and excessive. We reduce it to 12 years imprisonment from the date of conviction."