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Family seeks justice after kin dies after arrest by police

 A relative poses with an image of Washington Booker, a taxi driver who died in unclear circumstances after he was arrested by Buruburu police. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

“Come and bail me out from this police container!” Those were the last words William Madawi heard from his father at 5:17 pm last Thursday before they found his body at Mama Lucy Hospital in Nairobi.

The killing of taxi driver Booker Washington Ojukwu has puzzled relatives and his neighbours at Buruburu Phase 4. His day started well after he took breakfast and left to drop off a client.

Trouble started at around mid-day when he took his vehicle for repair at Buruburu shopping center.

Ojukwu went to an M-Pesa agent opposite the Community Policing booth and did a transaction of Sh7,000 but the cashier delayed giving him the cash and he decided to step a few meters away to smoke.

When he went back to the cashier, she insisted that he had collected the money. Ojukwu pressed her to give him his money and that is when she called police who were in a booth about 50 meters away from the M-Pesa shop.

Police detained him in the booth before he was transported to Buruburu Police Station cells.

William says his father did not explain to him the nature of the offence he had committed because the phone conversation was brief. He could not rush to rescue the father because he was far away. 

At 8:38pm, William received a call from his father’s number but this time, the caller was a female officer from Buruburu Police Station summoning them to Mama Lucy Hospital. 

No records of patient

The taxi driver’s widow, Violet Ojukwu, who was away the whole day for worship came back and accompanied his son to the hospital.

At the hospital, they found no records of a patient by the name of Ojukwu. As they contemplated returning back to the police station, mother and son made one more inquiry that shook them. 

“I was shocked but picked up courage when I found my husband lying cold on a stretcher, covered head to toe where he lay dead,” recounted Violet.

The body had no visible injuries. Violet said her husband had no pre-existing condition.

A source at the hospital said they did not register Ojukwu as a patient since the police brought him there while already dead.

The officers allegedly pushed the hospital to register him as a patient and certify that he died on arrival.

Buruburu Police Commander Francis Kamau, however, said that Ojukwu collapsed at the police community booth when he went to report a case. Kamau denied claims that the victim died in custody.

“The person you are asking about went to the police booth to report a case but collapsed at around 7pm. Our officers rushed him to Mama Lucy Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival,” he told The Standard.

Heard a commotion

But the police commander’s version has been dismissed by witnesses of Ojukwu’s arrest.

Traders claimed that two officers dragged the taxi driver into the police booth before they heard a commotion prompting them to found out what was happening since the man was well-known at the market.

“The police officers were very angry and chased away everyone who was milling around the booth. By this time, Washington had gone quiet,” claimed a trader who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A woman who supplies the police officers with tea was not even allowed to pick the cups. The officers asked her to pick the cups the following day saying those who took the tea were not around.

The women claimed that when she peeped inside the police booth, she saw Ojukwu’s body lying on the floor.

A land rover from Buruburu Police Station reportedly arrived at about 6pm  and removed the body after traders had left the market.

The family, is now calling on the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) to investigate the circumstances that led to Ojukwu’s death.

A postmortem to ascertain the cause of death is scheduled for today.

“The Ipoa should come to the ground and investigate what happened. We cannot just lose Washington under unclear circumstances,” said a relative.

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