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Probe into Mutula Kilonzo's death drags on five years later

COUNTIES
By Nzau Musau | April 29th 2018
The late Mutula Kilonzo in this picture taken on May 28 ,2010 during a Law school meeting in Karen, Nairobi.(File, Standard)

In a classic case of ultimate betrayal, the late Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo spent half of his life defending and reforming institutions that failed him in his final bow.

Five years after his lonesome death of unknown poison in his expansive ranch in Machakos on April 27, 2013 neither of the three arms of government that he bestrode like a colossus in his lifetime have come close to unraveling the mystery of his death.

The Parliament he dazzled with his oratory skills for a decade has raised no whimper. The courts he bewitched with arguments for 40 years are still careworn with an open-ended inquest which resumes on May 22.

And the Executive, which he dedicated his twilight years reforming has failed to hold any soul to account over his death. The wealth he accumulated over years of a lucrative law practice and business turned out vain - unable to help unravel the mystery.

Lost opportunities

And despite boasting an assortment of talent in his family of lawyers, bankers, philosophers, business people and politicians, his kin have been unable to mount a dedicated, strategic and swift quest.

The friends he left in high places dissolved like a mist in the heat of valid inquiries. Top experts in sudden deaths across the world were unable to ascertain the cause of his demise, describing it “a very unusual case” while also complaining that the toxicology samples which would have solved the mystery were tampered with.

And the inquiry on who tampered with them, it seems, has assumed the circuitous Kenyan trajectory. And even whenever it picks, it will never recompense for the lost opportunity of ascertaining the nature of the poison that killed the Senator.

“There has been no progress whatsoever. None. The courts have not made progress. The investigations on who tampered with the samples did not commence,” Mutula Kilonzo Junior, the son he is named after and who succeeded him in his Senate shoes told Sunday Standard.

In October 23, 2014, one side of the late Senator’s family lodged an official complaint on the matter of tampering with toxicology samples. Through lawyer Jeniffer Makobu, the four children by his first marriage -- Wanza Kilonzo, Mutula Kilonzo Junior, Kethi Kilonzo and Musembi Kilonzo -- wrote to the Director of Public Prosecution asking him to investigate the handling of the samples.

“In view of the passage of time, the circumstances of and stature of the deceased, our clients humbly beg from you quick and decisive action to ease their resultant trauma and their anxiety for due process and closure,” the complaint received at DPP’s office the following day at 5:10pm said.

The complaint, also lodged at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters, does not seem to have made much headway in both offices at the time headed by the late Senator’s friends -- Keriako Tobiko (DPP) and Ndegwa Muhoro (DCI).

Our inquiries on the status of the investigations bore no fruit at the time of going to press yesterday.

The toxicology samples which were allegedly interfered with and which have dominated family discussions for the last five years included his blood, urine, bile, liver, vitreous fluid, stomach, muscles, nail and hair cuttings.

Ongoing inquest

“On receipt, they had been opened and had been contaminated. This is not an observation she (Dr Sue Patterson) makes lightly, or wantonly, as this is one of the first division laboratories in Europe and are only too readily aware of such artifacts,” Ian Madison Calder, an expert of sudden deaths of 29 years standing wrote to the family.

Dr Andrew Gachii, one of the two pathologists who dissected Mutula’s body alongside Dr Emily Rogena, has owned up to handling the specimens but disputed the tampering theory advanced by the Prof Calder.

He’s among the few persons who have recorded a statement on the matter.

“I am the one who handled the specimens after the initial sealing where all of us were involved. The specimens were then sent through a reliable courier who delivered them to Imperial College where they were received in good condition,” he wrote to Calder in January 28, 2014.

Dr Gachii’s theory is that the samples could not have been interfered with during the transportation stage. The courier and Prof Candler have not testified to the police on the matter five years later.

In his evidence before the ongoing inquest into the death in November last year, Kanyi opened up further on the details of the samples storage and transportation to the UK. He however held on to his assertion that their integrity was never interfered with while in Kenya.

“The specimens were kept in a lockable cabinet at Lee Funeral Home. The following day they were collected by Nairobi Hospital. We had to ensure there was a proper chain of custody and it took us a while to get a suitable courier,” he said in his evidence obtained by Sunday Standard.

He said no member of the family was present when the specimen were picked up at Lee.

In this evidence, Gachii admits that the courier they identified - TNT- had not handled the type of consignment. He nevertheless said they took time to be sure that they could handle it.

“TNT Courier worked with Nairobi Hospital but on a different kind of specimen. We had to be sure they could handle this kind. When we collected the specimen, we were certain they were safe,” he said.

To this date, Gachii avers that the samples were not contaminated at Nairobi Hospital. He told the inquest that the courier issued a document which indicates that the specimens were received on the other side.

The document, signed by a “Menendez” had a printed status of: “Received in good condition.” Curiously, the weight of the samples in the document dated May 13, 2013 and received at 14:31 UK time sharply differs with the weight indicated on the commercial invoice raised by Nairobi Hospital.

In the invoice raised by Peter Kariuki, the chief lab technologist at Nairobi Hospital, the weight of the human tissues and smear swab samples is given as 5kgs. However, the declared weight on receipt was 1kg.

“The allegation by Calder was a big shock to me. I cannot explain. Perhaps the specimens were contaminated in their custody. This is a very serious allegation. My duty was to ensure that the specimens got to London. I would like Calder to come to this court and explain why he is making this wild allegation,” Gachii told the inquest presided over by Hon Kibellion.

Toxicology analysis was of prime importance in identifying the cause of the poison since the postmortem was unable to do so. The postmortem only concluded the cause of death was extensive bleeding from everywhere.

Chemical injection

The pathologist said only three things could have caused such extensive bleeding - natural chemicals (venom from snake or spider), history of diseases that can culminate into bleeding or chemicals injected into the body.

In subsequent discussions, most -- if not all -- these theories were discounted by the pathologists themselves. Dr Gachii himself discounted the possibility of chemical injection saying the body had no injection marks.

He raised doubts on why the vomitus did not empty the stomach. Calder also ruled out the venom bit saying a careful external examination of the body “had excluded any points of skin damage.” He speculated that the Senator may have ingested some poisonous material, possibly a fruit or vegetable or “some pecant material.”

“Without basic science applied to non-contaminated specimens, I cannot put a final signature to my report,” Calder wrote on November 26, 2013.

Five years later, the samples are still stuck in some shelf in cold London, thousands of miles away from his remains buried in beautiful Mbooni Hills. The truth, it appears, is still running her marathons.

 

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