Gitau was found guilty [Photo: Courtesy]

Strands of hair from a wig became the crucial evidence that led to a 15-year imprisonment for a casual labourer for the murder of his lover. Justice Joel Ngugi ruled that strands of Susan Wanjiru’s hair completed a chain-link that implicated her lover James Gitau in her murder.

The strands of hair from Wanjiru’s wig were recovered near her cold body in the house she shared with Gitau in Rhonda Estate, Nakuru County, on December 28, 2014. Ngugi said the hair proved that Gitau assaulted Wanjiru.

“The wig pointed to the fact that the assault happened inside the house. Only the accused person had the opportunity to cause the injuries to the deceased as they were only two in the house,” ruled Ngugi. He said the attempt by the accused to conceal evidence by washing the victim’s clothes and their house after the incident hit a dead end when the wig was recovered.

“The accused did not explain the suspicious attempts to conceal evidence by cleaning his house and washing of a red pair of trousers the victim had on when she was last seen alive,” Ngugi said. The court ruled that the multiple injuries the murder victim suffered from beatings by the accused were aggravating.

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Ngugi ruled that a custodial sentence would be merited as the only suitable way of expressing society’s condemnation of the accused person’s conduct to deter similar actions in future. He also noted that although the accused expressed remorse, he hadn’t apologised to the family of the victim. “Considering the accused is a first offender, I believe that 15 years’ jail term is the appropriate punishment. Considering he has been in detention since December 30, 2014, his sentence will start to run from then,” he ruled.

Gitau was on June 13, 2019, found guilty of murdering Wanjiru. The prosecution lined up six witnesses to prove the murder case. The two had been together for more than four years.

Ngugi ruled that the prosecution had proved the case beyond reasonable doubt. He said the testimonies of two neighbours, Joyce Nyambura and Stanley Kahoro were candid, straightforward, consistent and credible. “The witnesses had nothing to gain from lying about the events. They testified that they did not see the accused beat the deceased to death, but were categorical that they saw him beating her as he dragged her to their house,” he ruled.

Nyambura, who was the couple's neighbour, said the relationship between the two was stormy as they used to fight frequently. She testified that at 9pm on the day of the incident, she saw the accused dragging the deceased from Kahoro’s house while beating her with his hands and kicking her. “I saw the accused hit the deceased at least twice: once with his open hands, and another kicking her,” she testified.

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She said neighbours came out but did not intervene because the couple had a history of quarrelling whenever they were drunk. Kahoro corroborated Nyambura’s testimony. He said that the accused pulled the deceased out of his (Kahoro’s) house while beating her.