Body of missing Nakuru businesswoman found in shallow grave

Veronicah Kanini's body was found in a shallow grave in Mogotio, Baringo County. [Courtesy]

A search for a Nakuru-based trader who went missing eleven days ago ended tragically when her body was discovered in a shallow grave on the bank of Molo river in Mogotio, Baringo County on Tuesday.

Tears flowed freely as the family of 42-year-old Veronicah Kanini arrived at the scene to identify her body.

The body had decomposed and the family only identified Kanini by the clothes she was wearing the day she left home before she disappeared.

Kanini, 42, left her home in Mawanga Estate on the morning of November 12, 2021. [Courtesy]

The businesswoman left her home in Mawanga Estate on the morning of November 12 on her way to Mogotio market where she has been operating for the last three years.

"On the day she disappeared, my wife prepared breakfast for the family and left for the market as usual. We spoke on phone during the day and there was no indication of any problem," her husband Mariko Njuguna said.

Their first-born daughter Rahab Wanjiru said her mother was in a jovial mood as left that morning. There was no sign of trouble, said the 21-year-old. 

"She told me would call me after arriving at the market but she didn't. I didn't read too much into it. I felt she may have been busy. I waited for her call the whole afternoon but she did not. I tried calling her in the evening but I couldn't reach her. I kept on hoping all was well," said Wanjiru.

Detectives at the site where Kanini's body was found in Mogotio, Baringo County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

She said her mother's disappearance and death have been the most stressful experiences of their lives. 

"My younger siblings kept asking when mother was coming back home. I always told them she would soon be back. And for over ten days, I kept on assuring them that all was well even though there was no communication from her or anyone about where she could be," a distraught Wanjiru said.

Marion Njoki, a family friend, said Kanini called her around 6pm on the day she disappeared saying she urgently needed Sh3,000. "She said she wanted to use the money to settle a medical bill at a hospital in Mogotio," Njoki told journalists.

She added: "I tried interrogating her and asking for details of the hospital bill and who might have been sick but she did not tell me. She sounded distressed. She later spoke to me in Kikuyu saying she had been ordered to ask for the money and immediately hanged up. I did not get to know who had ordered her to find the money. And we did not get to talk again."

After that, Njoki said she immediately called Njuguna and told him what Kanini had said to her.

Njuguna called Kanini and she told him to send the money but through Njoki's phone number. 

Kanini's kin overwhelmed by grief at the Mogotio gravesite, Baringo County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

"In the course of our talk, she switched to Kikuyu and told me she needed the money to secure her freedom. I heard a voice in the background and the person ordered her to speak in Kiswahili," said Njuguna.

The father of five said she sent the cash. He tried calling her again moments later but her phone had been switched off.

"I felt my wife was in serious trouble. That is why I went to Nakuru Central Police Station and reported the matter via OB 98/12/11/2021. That was around 7pm. We were then referred to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) office in Mogotio,” said Njuguna.

Later, the family, friends and the police immediately set out to search for Kanini but she was nowhere to be found.

Mogotio sub-county DCI boss Luka Tumbo said they have arrested the person who received money from Kanini immediately after her husband sent it.

The scene is two and a half kilometers from Mogotio Police Station. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

"The suspect in his early 30s was arrested on November 13. He had received some cash from Kanini the previous evening through M-Pesa," said Tumbo.

The suspect was arraigned on November 15 when the court granted their request to detain him for 14 days to complete investigations.

"We tried to question the suspect during the entire period but he gave us no information. It was not until the evening of November 23 that the suspect told us he had killed her," Tumbo said. 

And on Tuesday evening, the suspect led detectives to Molo River where Kanini's body was found in a shallow grave. The man and Kanini are said to have spent some time at the river bank before the latter was reportedly killed.

The scene is two and a half kilometers from Mogotio Police Station. To access the scene, the police had to drive through vast farmland and then thick bush along the river.

The team arrived at the scene where the suspect had lit a fire and even roasted maize as he waited for Kanini to source the money. 

A suspect led detectives to Molo River where Kanini's body was found in a shallow grave. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

When they arrived at the scene, the suspect pointed to a heap of soil where Kanini's body was buried in a grave that was less than two feet deep.

"Upon moving some of the soil, we stumbled on the body and informed the family,” said Tumbo.

Njuguna was so overwhelmed with emotions that he did not get to the scene. He waited for the sad news at the police station.

Emotions ran high as family members confirmed that the body was Kanini's. 

“We could not immediately establish how the victim was killed. The body had decomposed and the family only knew it was Kanini's because of the clothes she was wearing. We moved the body to the mortuary and we look forward to producing the suspect in court at the earliest possible opportunity. We'll charge him with murder,” said Tumbo.

Kanini's decomposed body was found 11 days after she was reported missing. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Sources revealed that the suspect was not a stranger to Kanini and they had been close friends for years.

“After trading at the Mogotio market, Kanini and the suspect would hawk her merchandise in the surrounding villages. She would pay him a commission for linking her with clients,” said a source privy to the investigations.