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When a 12-year-old boy raided his grandmother's honey pot and scooped fistfuls of jaggery, he had no idea that he had kicked off a series of events that would see the end of three generations of his family.

Four years later, the boy is dead and so is his father, while his 54-year-old grandmother has been sentenced to death. A fourth actor in the macabre family melodrama is a girl, who will forever live with the guilt of setting her own brother on fire.

Last Friday, the Court of Appeal decreed that the grandmother must be hanged for burning her grandson to death by soaking him in paraffin before setting him on fire as a punishment for his love for the forbidden 'sukari nguru'.

Margaret Licha Yogo had been found guilty of murder together with her son Polycarp Onyango, who was the father of the boy. They were accused of committing the crime at their home in East Kachieng' Sub-location, in Ndhiwa Sub-county on March 27, 2014. Onyango has since died.

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At the time of his death, Derickson Otieno was 12. He sustained 57 per cent burns, which he succumbed to 38 days after the incident. 

On a fateful day, the boy was playing football with his peers, among them a 14-year-old boy who would later relive the gruesome incident.

The court was told that the boy's father tethered him to a tree in the homestead he shared with his mother. 

The court heard that Yogo, who was in her house, emerged with a yellow jerrican and doused the young boy with kerosene. She went back in and reemerged with a matchbox, which she handed the child's father.

Onyango set his own son alight as his daughter watched in shock. Medical reports presented in court indicated that the burns made Otieno's body susceptible to infections.  The court concluded that Otieno's attackers were people he had trust in as a child. 

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The State had initially charged the child's grandmother and father of causing him grievous harm but substituted the charges with murder after Otieno succumbed to the burns. “Better a death caused by a stranger than by a parent and grandparent for the curse of generations to come loom yonder. The tethering of the deceased on a tree and the deliberate dousing of paraffin on the deceased lead us to find that the appellant deserves no leniency,” read the verdict.

A 14-year-old boy who testified in the case recounted to the court how on a fateful day they had been playing football with Otieno before he was whisked away by Onyango. “We were afraid, so we stopped playing. We stood there watching. I saw him being taken to his grandmother’s house,” said the witness.

He said Onyango while dragging the minor to his grandmother's home, claimed Otieno was a thief who deserved to die. The witness also recounted how Otieno ran after being set on fire, screaming for help.

 

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Sukari nguru Granny Court of Appeal Derickson Otieno
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