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Bloody birthday: Suspect recounts encounter with girlfriend

Rift Valley

 Naftali Kinuthia (right) at the Eldoret High Court on March 3, 2023. He is the prime suspect in the murder of Moi University medical student, Ivy Wangechi. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Naftali Kinuthia, the prime suspect behind the brutal murder of Moi University medical student Ivy Wangeci has told the court that he did not intend to take the life of the medical student, who he claimed was his girlfriend.

While appearing before Justice Stephen Githinji at the High Court in Eldoret to give his defence, Kinuthia narrated details of the incident that happened outside the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Kinuthia, 32, claimed that he had lost his mind and was not aware of the happenings and that he was shocked and remorseful to later learn that Wangeci had died.

While giving his sworn testimony, he told the court that on the fateful day, he had driven from Nairobi to Eldoret to attend Ivy's birthday which was on April 10, 2019.

He recounted that at the time, they were not on talking terms with Wangeci after she blocked him. He said that he had however travelled to attend her birthday and give her some money that she needed for her birthday party.

He said that he left Nairobi for Eldoret at around 2am on April 9 and arrived in Eldoret at around 8 am.

His intention, he told the court, was to wish Wangeci, 25, a happy birthday in person and to give her Sh14,000 for her party.

"I arrived in Eldoret and went to have breakfast. At around 9.30am, I headed to the hostels where I had parked my car, just opposite Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH). I stayed in the car for some time and attempted to call Wangeci. She was still off, I guess I was still blocked, and she was not aware of my arrival," Kinuthia recounted.

Kinuthia said that after staying in the car for some time, he alighted and walked around looking for a washroom when he bumped into Wangeci.

He said that he explained himself and told her that he had tried contacting her to no avail.

"I told her I was there for her birthday and to deliver the money she needed, and also to explain to her that due to my duties at work I would not attend her birthday party. However, she told me that her new boyfriend would take care of her birthday expenses and that I was not invited. She said that I can keep the balance I had. We only talked for less than two minutes," Kinuthia testified.

Kinuthia claimed that he felt hurt by the dismissal, claiming that he felt that his lover was burning all the bridges and that they had no chance to continue with their relationship.

"I never believed that she had ignored me the first time and that she was doing it again. I felt like a loser. I felt hopeless, having tried to win her over and over again. I felt angry that the connection we had established since 1998 when we were in primary school was coming to an end," Kinuthia claimed.

Rejected, Kinuthia argued that he left and headed back to his car, vowing never to speak to her again. But before he got to the car, he told the court that he looked back and saw Wangeci with a male friend.

"I saw Ivy holding hands and hugging with a male friend, and it came to my mind that she was doing that on purpose. I did not know who the male friend was. At that point, I lost control, my thinking was greatly impaired by the incident and I cannot even explain what happened.

"I decided to pick an axe that was in the boot of my car, and I cannot remember exactly what transpired," Kinuthia testified.

Kinuthia further told the court that he later learned of Wangeci's death when he was admitted at MTRH after a mob attacked him.

"I did not intend to kill Ivy. If there was, maybe it would have happened earlier when I visited her. Once I learned of Ivy's death, I felt remorseful. This is an incident that I will live to regret forever," Kinuthia said.

He recounted that after the incident, a charged mob attacked him, pelting him with stones until a police officer came to his rescue.

"I lost control of the axe I was holding. They (the mob) threw stones at me, and I was overpowered. I suffered serious injuries on my face and head and even underwent a surgery at the MTRH," the accused told the court.

When asked about the axe that was used to hack the student to death, Kinuthia replied that he had always carried the axe for self-defence.

"The axe has always been in my boot. As soon as I bought the car, I put the axe there for my security," he told the court. He denied owning a knife that was tabled along the axe as an exhibit in court.

Kinuthia claimed that he always supported Wangeci and would send her money for her birthdays.

He told the court that he had known the deceased since they were children, as they schooled together at Joyland Academy in Gatanga, Murang'a County. He added that they were neighbours back in Gatanga before Wangeci's family moved to Thika town in 2004.

He said they kept in touch and that they got into a relationship in 2017.

However, Wangeci's friends dismissed allegations that the duo was a couple, claiming that Kinuthia often nagged their friend and would spend money trying to entice her into a relationship.

They told the court that Wangeci clearly indicated that he was not interested in pursuing an intimate relationship with Kinuthia, but the accused kept stalking her.

Kinuthia denied involvement in the murder of the student on April 9, 2019 when he was arraigned before the court three years ago.

He allegedly hacked Wangeci twice on the head with an axe in broad daylight, killing her.

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