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Officers deny allegation of minor's death while locked in police cells

Zipporah Mutheu, a small-scale business lady in Kambu township, Makueni whose child, a one and half-year-old baby died inside Kambu police station cells. [Stephen Nzioka, Standard]

The alleged death of a minor in a police cells in Makueni County has taken a new twist after officers denied knowledge of the incident.

Zipporah Mutheu Muteti claims her one-and-a-half-year old son succumbed to injuries last Wednesday at Kambu Police Post here she was being held over a debt dispute with one of her clients. The woman operates a shop at Kambu market.

According to Mutheu, she alongside her son were thrown in police cells, following an altercation with a customer who owed her Sh465 and had refused to pay.

She had earlier told The Standard that the customer had taken goods on credit and attempts to be paid led her arrest.

“A customer who happens to operate a mali mali shop adjacent to my shop had borrowed Sh1,000 then taken goods worth Sh465 two months ago. Efforts to have her pay the goods occasioned my arrest together with my son. Although my son Alex Mutunga was sick by the time of the arrest, we were seriously assaulted by the arresting officer,” said Muthei.

The boy allegedly succumbed to the sickness and injuries. The woman claims pleas to officers at the station allow her take the son to hospital for treatment fail on deaf ears.

But in a report dated May 30, 2024 and widely shared on social media platforms, police have dismissed Mutheu’s account of events.

“Zipporah Muteti who had earlier been arrested on 29/5/2024 at 1700 hours for the offence of offensive conduct was released on the same date at 2000hrs after complaining that she was feeling unwell to seek for medical attention,” states the report.

According to police, Mutheu returned later at the station to report the death of her child.

“At around 2300hrs, she came back to the police post and reported that her child had passed on and that she required a letter from the police for the child to be admitted into the mortuary. Police visited the scene and found that the circumstances surrounding the death of the child were unclear prompting the officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and Officer Commanding Station (OCS) Mtito-Andei to visit the scene,” the report further states.

Efforts to seek for clarification from Kibwezi Sub-County police commander Peter Maina and Makueni county police commander Alice Kimeli were futile.

“The matter has gone to higher offices…”, said Kimeli before hanging up.

Mutheu however, maintains her son died while in police custody.

“Mutunga had earlier been treated at health facility in Mtito-Andei where medics advised me to take him to Makindu sub-county hospital for keen check-ups. By the time of the arrest and even inside police cells I kept on insisting to be allowed to either leave and take the child to hospital or even hand over the child to neighbours who visited but my plea fell on deaf ears,” she claimed.

The woman said she was ignored while locked in the holding cell with her sick child for close to 10 hours with police officers on duty reminding her severally that being a suspect she had no right to go anywhere or speak to anyone until her fingerprints were taken and charged in court.

“Before the child died he vomited. Went stiff while in my hands. I observed him breath his last. I couldn’t help,” she recounted.

Contradicting the police report, Mutheu says she was chased away with the dead child, and that police were aware that the child had died.

“When they learned the baby had passed on while inside the cells they ordered me to take the body to the morgue. The hospital management refused to admit the body without a police report. I was given the note after informing the OCS Mtito-Andei,” stated Mutheu.

Abdullaziz Ali, Kambu sub-county hospital medical superintendent in his statement said the boy was brought in while already dead.

Meanwhile, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) yesterday said they had launched investigations to unravel the mysterious circumstances under which the minor died.

“IPOA officers visited the scene and have so far interviewed a number of witnesses. Upon completion of investigations and where criminal culpability is proven IPOA will recommend prosecution,” said the IPOA chair, Anne Makori, in a statement.

The death of the minor has caught attention of several leaders among them the former Nairobi governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko.

“Through my small voice, I’m humbly and kindly appealing for a quick and through investigation into the matter so that Zipporah Muteti and her late baby can get justice,” Sonko wrote in his X account.

A post-mortem is scheduled to be done today at Kambu sub-county hospital morgue.

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