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Family claims body said to be ‘murdered’ ICC witness Meshack Yebei's

RIFT VALLEY
By SILAH KOSKEI and TITUS TOO | January 15th 2015
Saum Yussuf, the wife of Hussein Yussuf waits outside the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital Mortuary in Eldoret after identifying a body said to be that of Meshack Yebei. [PHOTOS: KEVIN TUNOI/STANDARD]

ELDORET: The mystery involving an International Criminal Court (ICC) witness reportedly abducted and killed in the last week of 2014, Meshack  Yebei, took a new twist after another family surfaced also claiming the same body lying at a mortuary in Eldoret.

The family of the late Yebei, who Deputy President William Ruto has described as his critical witness and whose reported death has fuelled bitter exchanges between Ruto’s lawyers and ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, insists the body lying at the morgue is that of their missing kin.

However, another family Wednesday also claimed the body lying at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) mortuary as that of Yusuf Hussein from Nandi county who they said disappeared on December 25, last year.

And Yusuf's family had the backing of detectives probing the killing of Yebei who announced the finger prints taken from the body had matched with those at the National Registration Bureau identifying Yusuf.

The body at the centre of international interest given the ICC link, was found badly mutilated and decomposed, floating on River Yala bridge on the Kisumu-Eldoret road near Kapsabet Town on December 31 last year.

Yebei's family, who had earlier reported he went missing on December 28, just after he stepped out from a hospital consultation room to buy water for his sick child, identified the body as his on January 3 and insisted Wednesday even in the face of recent development that it was his.

But even as the body became the subject of dispute between two families who hitherto never knew each other, detectives on the case interrogated Ken Wafula, a civil rights activist known for support for the ICC cases and who Jubilee alliance members had claimed was a top suspect in the killing of Yebei, followed by Bensouda.

Both vehemently denied the claims even as Ruto's lawyers claimed on Tuesday that a prosecution witness had threatened to abduct Yebei.

Wednesday, the family of Yusuf from Chepsonoi village visited the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) morgue, where they claimed the body after identification. 

Mohamed Khamis, an Imam from Sirwa, said they received reports of Yusuf's death on Tuesday when the family were asked to go and view it at the MTRH mortuary and they were satisfied that it was Yusuf's.

SERIOUS CRIMES

"We cannot talk much now since we also don't know the cause of his death. We were only told yesterday (Tuesday)," explained Khamis who was with the family members.

Detectives from the Serious Crimes Prevention Unit, who were dispatched from Nairobi to investigate the alleged abduction and subsequent killing of Yebei have cast their net wider.

They are also involving members of the two families to resolve the mystery using DNA testing with a conclusive report expected between tomorrow and Monday.

"The fingerprints from the body that was found floating at Yala River were taken and according to the database at the National Registration Bureau, it was identified to be that of Yusuf Hussein (who is from Sirwa Posta, near Kaimosi in Nandi County). This was from the biometric data from the National Registration Bureau in Nairobi," said John Kariuki, who is in charge of the investigating team.

Kariuki explained that the DNA test will conclusively resolve the puzzle, saying they were going to follow evidence and facts.

He explained the biometric identification was 60 per cent accurate and pointed out that a DNA test will give a result that will be 100 per cent definite.

He assured both families that investigations will be thorough so that nobody buries a body that does not belong to them, adding that the team is comprised of competent officers.

Kariuki said after the results of the fingerprints identified Yusuf, investigations were taken to Sirwa posta and it was found out that the person was known but his relatives were not aware that he was dead.

Yusuf's widow, Saumu Yusuf said: "I did not believe when I was told by detectives about the body but when I came to the mortuary, I was able to identify that it was indeed him."

She said she was able to identify him through his body marks.

However, Ben Yebei, an elder brother to the ICC witness, maintained that the body belongs to their brother.

"We still maintain our stand that the body is that of our brother, we have identified him for the umpteenth time and we are satisfied that it is Meshack's," said Ben.

Ben also questioned how the fingerprints were taken saying: "We were not present when they took finger prints. There were marks on the body that we identified to be that of Meshack including the dental arrangement, facial structure, his toes and nails".

"We want to know from the police when the fingerprints were taken and why they did not share the results with our family before they contacted Yusuf's family," he added.

Kariuki said the body will remain at the preservation facility as investigations continue.

The family from Chepsonoi claimed that their son who was a matatu tout along the Kapsabet-Kisumu Road was last seen on December 25 last year and they thought he was visiting other family members.

BLUNT OBJECT

Yusuf's family yesterday said they had not reported any incident of missing person to the police because they thought he was in Nairobi visiting relatives.

The entry of the Yusuf's family into the scene surrounding the mystery of Yebei's disappearance has thrown Yebei's family into confusion a day after his widow gave birth to a boy.

A post-mortem report conducted at the hospital by the institution's pathologist Walter Nalianya indicated that regardless of whose body it is, the person succumbed to injuries inflicted on the head by a blunt object.

Last year, Yebei had reported that his life was in danger before the police stumbled on the mutilated body.

A few days after his disappearance, his mother and a friend received a text message purporting to be coming from him, saying he was safe and in Uganda with some ICC officials.

His wife Lilian in an earlier interview claimed that he had constantly expressed that his life was in danger and reported the matter to Eldoret police.

Meshack's elder brother said in light of the new development, they had decided to put the burial plans on hold until the mystery surrounding the body at the MTRH morgue is resolved.

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