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Kitui priest Mwove acquitted on charges of assaulting mother, their child

By Philip Muasya | June 16th 2021

The Kitui woman breaks down in tears after Father Japheth Mwove accused of assaulting her was freed by the court.[Philip Muasya,Standard]

A Catholic priest accused of assaulting a woman and child born out of their relationship has been acquitted by a Kitui court.

Acquitting Father Japheth Mwove, Chief Magistrate Stephen Mbungi noted that there was no evidence to link the priest to the gruesome attack that left the woman with serious injuries and her child disabled after suffering a blow to the head.

The 23-year-old woman collapsed outside the courts after Fr. Mwove was acquitted on charges of aggravated assault and causing her, and the child born out of their romantic relationship grievous bodily harm.

The inconsolable mother termed the ruling as unjust and called on the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and other human rights bodies to come to her rescue.

The drama attracted a crowd who thronged the court.

As the mother wailed, the priest now free in the eyes of the court, weaved through the crowd and was driven away in a car.

The magistrate gave the victim 14 days to appeal the decision.

The court noted that on the night of the said attack on November 16, 2015, the priest was in his Kabati Parish residence and did not leave until the following day. As such, the priest could not have been the one who attacked the woman. The magistrate further noted that there were no witnesses to link him to the assault.

In the course of the five-year-long trial, the woman told the court that on a fateful night she had gone to visit the priest at his residence on his invite to discuss how to raise their child. DNA tests carried out earlier established that the priest was the biological father of the child and the two were embroiled in an upkeep dispute.

The woman narrated to the court how, while walking to the priest’s house at around 10pm, the priest whom she recognised emerged from the side of the road and attacked her using a plank of wood. She said that he continued hitting her on the head until she collapsed on the ground, during which time the child, who was strapped on the back, was also hit on the head.

The assailant then fled after she pretended to be dead, she testified. She also told the court that before the attack, the priest kept calling and changing the venue of the meeting until it got very late in the night.

She recalled how she and her child were later rescued by villagers and taken to Muthale Mission Hospital where they were admitted for several days. Following the attack, the child became blind and is unable to walk.

She claimed in court during the trial that the attack was an attempt by her former lover to eliminate her since she and her child were becoming a burden to him.

The court ruled that Fr. Mwove was innocent since there were no witnesses to the attack and there was no evidence to link him to the assault.

The woman had told the court how the priest lured her into an intimate relationship while she was a Form Two student aged only 15. He would buy her sweets and other presents, she told the court.

The affair, the court heard started while Fr Mwove was serving at Nuu Parish in Mwingi Central sub-county.

As a result of the relationship, she became pregnant and dropped out of school. When the matter came to light, the priest was transferred to Kwa Vonza and later to Kabati parish where the said attack happened.

On one occasion, the woman wrote a moving letter to the then Kitui Bishop Antony Muheria detailing her ordeal in the hands of the priest. This prompted an internal investigation against the priest.

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