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Fact-check: Did Kisumu couple commit suicide over debt?

By Sigomba Ramadhan Omar | December 16th 2019

Reports on social media that a couple in Kisumu committed suicide after failing to pay their Sh7.6 million wedding debt are fake. 

Standard Group journalist Harold Odhiambo, who covers the region and is aware of  the happenings, denied that there was such a case.

“That report is fake news. Nothing of the sort happened here. I confirmed with the Kisumu police if a statement was recorded in relation to the incident but there is nothing like that on their records,” he said.

The reports on social media indicate that the two killed themselves four days after the wedding due to a heavy debt.

Who started the fake news?

The fake news was not taken seriously until K24 TV, a local station in the country, carried it during its morning talk show and further posted it on its Twitter page.

K24 captioned the post with a comment on the couple’s misfortune, with no more specific details.

The media house did not provide names of the couple or the exact location.

The couple allegedly comes from Kisumu County, an area of more than 2,000 square kilometres. It is unclear where the incident took place.

The majority of unsuspecting Twitter users expressed sympathy as others sent condolence messages.

Others further condemned the trend of expensive weddings.

Only a handful asked K24 to verify the information.

However, one Twitter user said she recalled a similar story two years ago.

Dorcas Sarkozy tweeted, “I saw this story in 2017. It keeps on finding its way on blogs. Let them give us the names and the location."

She was not the only one. Others claimed they had read the story on blogs and on Facebook. 

The Standard Fact Check desk discovered that a local blog, Kenya Today, was the first one to publish the story on December 15 under Sasha Kapur.

The fake story spread to as far as Ghana, with The Ghana Report, a blog, also publishing it.

Several blogs like Jumiadealske.com, globalnews.com, africacelebrities.com, breakingnews.com, expressiveinfo.com and alternativeafrica.com spread the fake story.

All the named platforms used a similar image of an African couple exchanging vows in church with a pastor standing between them.

The image had photoshopped lower thirds with texts “Newly married couple commits suicide in Kisumu. In a letter, they blamed those who attended the wedding without gifts.”

We conducted a reverse search which showed the picture had been posted to the internet 3,310,000,000 times, meaning it is not from the weekend as alluded.

The blogs identified the couple as Mr and Mrs Opondo. There was no mention of their full names.

It was also reported that in the suicide note left behind, the couple were stressed that they could not go for a honeymoon.

”We are embarrassed & ashamed that we could not start our new life in happiness because you people did not make us happy as we expected,” the letter reportedly says.

According to the blogs spreading the story, the wedding took place at a five-star hotel in Kisumu, but did not reveal the name of the hotel.

Seemingly, K24 picked the fake news from one of these blogs.

The Standard maintains that the story is fake.

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