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The story of a man who rose from taxi driver to an MPs spouse and the tragic turn of events

By Edwin Maina and James Wanzala | September 15th 2019 at 06:30:00 GMT +0300

Peter Karanja the suspect in the murder of Tob Cohen. [Image: Courtesy]

The suspect in police custody over the murder of billionaire Tob Cohen has been identified as Peter Karanja, a former husband of Gilgil MP Martha Wangari. 

Karanja was picked up from his home in Nakuru on Friday night by officers from the Special Crimes Prevention Unit and brought to Nairobi for questioning. 

He is at Muthaiga Police Station where he has recorded statements over the gruesome murder of Cohen. 

Detectives have indicated that they plan to move to court tomorrow to seek more time to hold Karanja to complete investigations. 

Barely a year after the Gilgil MP alleged that her former husband had threatened to kill her, he is again on the wrong side of the law.

The Sunday Standard has traced the history of the man who started off as a humble taxi driver in Nakuru, to his troubled marriage to the MP and now as a murder suspect.

Should DCI chief George Kinoti and DPP Noordin Haji successfully press murder charges, Karanja will be locked up for life. 

Sources familiar with the suspect, who operated outside the gates of Lake Nakuru Lodge and at the time was known to wear a turban, say he had been operating his taxi business since the 90s until 2006. 

“He was a friendly and out-going man,” said a source. 

The man now said to be in his early 50s, hails from Gilgil town. On his Facebook page, Karanja introduces his status as Chief Executive Officer at Pernest Agency, a company that deals with real estate. 

The sources trace Karanja’s rise to 2007 at the time when former President Kibaki was running for the second term. He was a campaigner for Kibaki in Gilgil and parts of Nakuru. 

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Ms Wangari was also in the Warembo na Kibaki brigade. The two worked together and as fate would have it, they became an item. 

Karanja’s social capital went up when he hooked up with the MP, then a young university graduate with political ambitions.

He got the opportunity to meet high flying political figures crisscrossing the Rift Valley region in search of votes. 

In 2011, after the registration of the UDM party, Karanja’s life changed. He and Wangari were instrumental in the formation of the party.

Karanja and the MP lived together as husband and wife for about five years. 

However, last year, things were not rosy for the love birds. 

Wangari announced that she was divorcing Karanja. In a series of media interviews and court documents, she accused the husband of among other things battery and failure to provide for the family. 

Sources told Sunday Standard that in his statement, Karanja denies anything to do with Cohen’s brutal murder. He, however, admits knowing Cohen and his wife Sarah Wairimu. Karanja was the master of ceremony at the wedding of Cohen’s adopted daughter.

Philip Murgor, the lawyer representing Wairimu who is facing murder charges, yesterday blamed a section of the media for being ‘used by police to prosecute and persecute his client through the media by running a narrative that she is guilty.’

“We as the defence have not seen any single statement in the charge sheet signed by a senior prosecutor Nicholas Mutuku implicating her of murder. The copies of the evidence, which the prosecution intend to use for trial are attached here and there is no a single shred of evidence to say that she is guilty,” said Murgor. 

He blamed the investigators headed by one inspector Maxwell Otieno for not doing proper search and alleged that the police might have planted the body there and knew exactly where it was when they went there on Friday.

“How come the investigators did not do a thorough investigation in the compound including digging a manhole but said let’s stop at this point and continue another day on Thursday and instead of going back to the scene, the DCI took Sarah to Milimani and charged her with murder,” he added.

On the mystery man, who is alleged to have been paid some money (Sh40,000) through Mpesa in connection with the murder, is a professional master of ceremonies, who was at the wedding of Cohen’s daughter on December 22, 2018, and is not a murderer.

“Sarah has a niece, who is getting married on October 18 and she had paid him Sh18,000 deposit to book him for the event but the police have not cared or wanted to know this,” said Murgor.

The Cohen murder becomes the latest in a string of killings that have gripped the country recently.

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