MWEA: They were adjudged to be witches in the court of public opinion. No charge sheet was required or defence needed. The only punishment which could calm the angry neighbours was death.
And in the dead of the night of November 2, 2005, the angels of death stole into the desolate compound in Mathangauta village in Mwea.
In a twinkling of an eye, Muthike Ndegwa (76), his wife, Muthoni Muthike(70) and their five children and a grandson, had been slaughtered and their bodies set ablaze by the mob.
When the killers came calling on the family at around 2am, they were determined that nobody would be allowed to escape. After all, every member of the homestead was guilty of ‘practicing witchcraft’.
The grandson had almost managed to escape. He dashed out of the bloody homestead to a neighbour where he pleaded for help. But the neighbour grabbed the traumatised boy and frog-marched him back home where he met his death.
Muthoni was heard screaming and pleading with a villager not to chop her head as she was innocent. But her pleas fell on deaf ears.
When blood curdling cries finally stopped and the last of the Muthikes breathed their last, their remains were piled together, doused with petrol and then set ablaze.
However, Muchiri Muthike, a son to the couple was not at home at the time; a development which saved his life.
“It was by the grace of God that I had transported tomatoes to Nairobi. I arrived after 3am that fateful day only to receive the heart breaking news,” Muchiri narrated later that morning.
After the news broke out, police arrived at the scene and started to collect the charred remains of the family members.
The bodies had been burnt beyond recognition and it took a pathologist a whole week to piece up clues and identify the remains before they were put into individual caskets for mass burial.
Muchiri had no time to mourn as he had to play hide and seek with the villagers who claimed his family was responsible for the death of two youths whose bodies were found floating in a nearby irrigation canal.
According to the locals, the family which originated from Gichugu and Ndia had been terrorising them for years.
Later that week, three key suspects were arrested and locked up at the King’ong’o Maximum prison in Nyeri but the case was withdrawn and suspects released in mysterious circumstances.
On the day of the burial, the villagers refused to dig the graves a development that forced the government to use a tractor to dig the mass grave.
Investigations later indicated that Muthoni had reported that her life was in danger to a local chief.
During the funeral, the chief who has since been retired promised to ensure those behind the heinous crime were brought to book.
When we visited the village last week, we discovered that all traces of the Muthike family had been wiped out from Mathangauta village.
The only survivor, Muchiri, we learnt, had sold off the five-acre piece of land to a villager who levelled the mass grave and planted some trees.
The new owner has put up a house and stocked a portion of the land with dairy animals as well as some geese which welcome you to the home which is tended by a farm worker.