SECTIONS

Meshack Yebei's kidnapping, murder brings to fore police shortcomings

Uasin Gishu, Kenya: The murder of the man Deputy President William Ruto claimed was his witness in his crimes against humanity case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) remains unresolved even as his family prepares to bury him.

Meshack Yebei's disappearance some months ago and the subsequent discovery of his body has raised questions about the commitment of the police in tracking down those behind his kidnapping and murder.

The motive of the murder of a man ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and his office also acknowledged remains a mystery.

But, even though the family's hopes that his killers will be brought to book have been fading, they are relieved that they will now be able to give their departed kin a decent sendoff after the body was, at last, found.

Difficult time

His widow Lilian Yebei said despite undergoing a difficult time since the disappearance of her husband, the announcement by the Government chemist that the body found in Voi was indeed his has given her peace.

"I am relieved that the Government has given us the much awaited results. We can now embark on laying my husband to rest," she said adding:

"Though the Government had delayed in giving us the news, we are happy that Meshack's body will finally be laid to rest at his home."

Haki Africa, the organisation that played a leading role in finding Yebei's body,  is now questioning the Government's policy on unclaimed bodies in public hospitals.

Officials of the organisation claim they stumbled on Meshack's body on February 14 at Voi Referral while searching for a missing Kenyatta University student, Jabran Hassan Mbarak, who was kidnapped by unknown people as he left the mosque in Malindi on January 22.

Haki Africa Executive Director Khalid Hussein told The Standard that they ruled out the body as that of Jabran's, but noticed its resemblance to pictures of Yebei in circulation and alerted the Centre for Human Rights, another NGO based in Eldoret, which then informed the late Meshack's family.

Mr Khalid says the behaviour of the hospital and the police points to be a conspiracy by State security agencies to conceal some corpses to cover evidence of crime in the deaths.

He said police and hospitals are both to blame for "making no efforts to identify the so called unclaimed bodies through mosques, churches and other local channels," suggesting that security forces sometimes "want certain bodies not to be found at all and keep them in the mortuary waiting patiently to bury them."

 

Meshack's brother Ben said the body will be flown to Eldoret on Saturday ahead of the burial scheduled for March 21

"As a family, we shall meet the flight costs from Mombasa to Eldoret on Saturday," he told The Standard yesterday.

The mystery of the Meshack's whereabouts ended after DNA tests by the Government Chemist confirmed the conclusions of South Africa's Lancet Laboratories hired by the family that it was indeed his corpse.

He vanished minutes after taking his sick child to a health centre in Turbo near his home in the Rift Valley, hundreds of kilometres away from where his body was eventually found .

"The results reveal that he is the one. It was a 99.9 per cent match and the family has been informed of the latest developments," said John Kariuki, head of the Serious Crime Prevention Unit (SCPU) at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the lead investigator.

POLICE ACTION

"We shall ensure that the truth is known on what exactly happened to him that led to his death," he said.

Hospital sources confirmed that three close relatives of Meshack's visited the mortuary on February 17 and told officials they were "70 per cent sure" the body was Meshack's, but were reluctant to make pronouncements.

But it was police action in relation to the unidentified corpse that sparked curiosity.

Taita Taveta County Police Commander Richard Bitonga said CID detectives in Nairobi lifted fingerprints off the body on January 19, but Mr Kariuki denied knowledge of the body in Voi and the alleged fingerprints analysis at that point.

According to the medical records, Meshack's naked body was taken to the mortuary on December 30 last year after its discovery by a forest ranger at the famous Man Eaters' trail in Tsavo Park.

Khalid now says the police appeared to have had a special interest in Meshack's body even before it was officially identified, including guarding it for days and lifting fingerprints twice, while ignoring other corpses at the same mortuary.