On June 8, Reginold Odhiambo invited friends to the orphanage he runs in Mombasa to celebrate his 30th birthday.
Among those in attendance was Josphat Muiruri, 25, a student who had recently, dropped out of a local college for lack of fees. Others were the 70 children of varied ages at the institution, the Hope for Hope centre.
To make ends meet, Muiruri befriended officials at the orphanage for free meals and odd jobs like cooking, for which he was paid some money. He lived with his mother Elizabeth Wali and aunt Alice Kaweche nearby.
Residents report a lot of merry-making that day with lots of music, food and drink. They also recall Muiruri walking in, apparently to join the celebration.
A few others also recall his almost lifeless body being thrown out of the centre, minutes after hearing a blood-curdling scream uttered in apparent pain of severe beating.
A naval officer known to Muiruri and his family picked him and took him to his aunt’s house, less than a kilometre away.
Kaweche says she was alarmed by Muiruri’s physical state for he was covered in blood and was barely audible. She says he managed to tell him that he had been beaten at the orphanage by a mob at the instigation of a senior official who had invited him for the party.
“He told me (name withheld) tied him up with a rope and beat him and later ordered older boys to go on with the beating,” said a tearful Kaweche.
She went out to look for a tuk tuk to ferry him to hospital but on return found him unconscious. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital, sparking a great deal of anguish for the woman and conspiracy theories on the cause and manner of death.
Today, she alleges a massive cover-up by police and the orphanage itself. The truth of what happened on that day lies somewhere between the web of tales weaved by Odhiambo, the police, Muiruri’s own dying declaration and fearful neighbours’ claims.
Kaweche, who has been speaking on behalf of the family, claims detectives are holding onto the postmortem report which they only read to her but would not allow her to take a copy.
She now believes Muiruri was lured to the centre with a sinister intention.
Minutes after the death, Odhiambo was arrested and detained at Inuka Police Station for hours and later freed on a cash bail, according to police.
“The manager of the said orphanage Odhiambo and another suspect was arrested. They were locked up at Inuka police station but because the postmortem had not been done, we released him on police bond,” Likoni DCI Richard Koywer said.
Koywer said the second suspect was a brother of a woman Muiruri is alleged to have sexually molested at the centre. He said the postmortem established Muiruri died of lung collapse.
Kaweche denies this claim. Koywer declined to share the alleged post-mortem report with The Standard.
The deceased’s family now believes Muiruri, who lived at Shonda area some 200 metres from the orphanage, was lured to the centre after being suspected of having sex with a girl at the institution.
Odhiambo confirm claims that Muiruri had been linked to alleged sexual misconduct with three girls at the centre.
“I got information from other children that he had attempted to defile a young girl. I took immediate action as the leader and sent a student to go to his home and call him as I wanted to get the truth,” he told The Standard yesterday.
There are conflicting reports whether the girl allegedly defiled by Muiruri was indeed attacked by him. The girl denied such reports, but the boys around insisted the attack happened.
Odhiambo told The Standard that the alleged victim was not taken for a medical check up. What happened afterwards is hazy, but Odhiambo claims Muiruri was attacked outside the centre’s gates before joining the birthday party.
He told The Standard that he later saw his body at the police station.
Some students from the centre now allege Muiruri was beaten up inside the orphanage after being forced to confess to the alleged defilement.
According to other reports, the naval officer allegedly told the police that Muiruri identified his attackers inside the institution.
A trader outside the orphanage told The Standard she saw Muiruri enter the centre and later heard someone scream, “they are killing me.”
Moments later the trader encountered Muiruri writhing in pain outside the centre’s gate.
Now Kaweche claims that detectives who visited the deceased’s home have tried to convince them that Muiruri died from tuberculosis complications.