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Family still waiting for justice for girl defiled and murdered 17 years ago

By Patrick Kibet | February 14th 2017

An inquest into the murder of a nine-year-old girl in Subukia has dragged on for 17 years.

Linus Ng'ang'a says his daughter, Salome Wanjiku, was defiled and murdered on January 23, 2000.

An inquest into the matter was first opened on February 27, 2001, before the senior resident magistrate at the time, Hellen Wasilwa. This was after the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped murder charges against suspects Joseph Nganga Kamau and Dickson Karemu Maina.

Witnesses told the inquest Salome, who was a pupil at Mumbui Primary School, had gone to fetch water from a nearby stream but never returned home.

"It was January 23, 2000, and Salome was playing with her friends before she went to draw water from the stream and never came back. We searched for her all over the village in vain," said Gladys Ng'ang'a, the victim's older sister, in court.

Joseph Nganga, a neighbour, told the court that Salome's body was found the next day, 50 metres from Kamau's house.

Samuel Otengwa, an officer then based at Subukia Police Station, said Kamau was arrested for the murder after a blood-stained slipper was found under his bed.

On February 4, 2000, Mr Otengwa said, blood samples from the minor's body, Kamau and the blood from the slipper were forwarded to the Government for analysis.

Cleopas Otieno, a Government analyst, told the court tests to establish blood groups were inconclusive because police officers had not stored the exhibits properly.

"When I say the blood groupings were inconclusive, I mean the slipper had lost qualities supposed to respond to test chemicals, due to poor storage conditions," Ojode said.

"There is nothing we can do about that blood stain or slipper even now. The qualities that should respond to the test were destroyed."

Some are of the opinion that a DNA test would have been more appropriate.

By June 12, 2001, only two witnesses - a doctor and an investigating officer - had not testified.

The inquest was adjourned 23 times and there has been no progress as the prosecution asks for more time to contact two more witnesses.

Dr Vitalis Koguto, who testified on behalf of his colleague, a Dr Vilemba, who conducted a postmortem on the body, appeared in court on April 24, 2003, when he said the minor had several stab wounds on the back.

She also had a cut on the left cheek and her left eye was engorged. She had been defiled and had struggled, Dr Koguto said in a report.

The hearing later stalled and the case file was moved from one magistrate to another.

In 2010, when the prosecution closed its case, Senior Resident Magistrate HM Nyaga reprimanded the police for poor investigations and questioned why the State analyst conducted only blood group tests.

"It's unfortunate the analyst only carried out blood group tests. The slipper was taken to the police a day after the girl went missing on January 24, 2000. The samples were taken to Government analyst two weeks later," noted the magistrate.

"The careless manner in which the police handled the case ought to be punished, for their actions and omissions, which has denied the victim's family justice."

Nyaga said the Government should conduct DNA tests on the samples to help close the case.

"To clear any suspicions (or confirm them), the samples ought to be taken for DNA testing. The deceased's family can then be assured of conclusive findings to the identity of the girl's killer(s)," he said.

After a ruling in 2010, the file was taken to Senior Resident Magistrate Judicaster Nthuku. However, due to what has been termed complacency on the part of police, there has been no further progress.

The hearing is set for March 9 as Salome's family continues its long wait for justice.

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