Ibrahim Rotich tells court he wants plea bargain in athlete's murder trial

Ibrahim Rotich at the Eldoret High Court. He is the main suspect linked to the murder of Agnes Tirop. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Ibrahim Rotich, the key suspect linked to the murder of international athlete Agnes Tirop, plans to seek a plea bargain with the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).

Yesterday, the High Court in Eldoret was told for the first time that Rotich and Tirop were husband and wife. According to Rotich’s lawyer Ngigi Mbugua, the two are said to have been married under statute on March 15, 2016. At the time of marriage, Tirop was 20 while Rotich was 37 years.

While appearing before Justice Reuben Nyakundi, prosecutor Mark Mugun told the court that he had been informed of the accused's prayer for a plea bargain. He told the court that the accused and Tirop were married and that the unfortunate incident took place at the couple's home.

“The two were married, and the murder scene was their matrimonial bed,” Mugun told the court.

Mugun further stated that the defence had presented an oral request for a plea bargain, but was yet to file a written request. Mbugua, the advocate representing Rotich, told the court that it was important to note that the couple had been married for five years.

He stated that a plea bargain would be the best route to take.

“We have agreed with the prosecution that a plea bargain is the best way to go to assist the deceased's family in healing and serve justice. We hope the victim's family will be receptive to this for their sake of getting closure in this otherwise painful incident,” said Mbugua.

Agnes Tirop, 25, was a star athlete who had participated in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The victim's family advocate Richard Warigi, however, told the court that he was hearing of the plea bargain request for the first time. He said that he was ready to give the defence a chance to explore their request once they file a written request.

Justice Nyakundi stated that it wise to allow the defence to pursue the plea bargain before the court would settle on proceeding with the trial of the case or working on the plea bargain. He noted that the prosecution was ready to proceed with hearing and presenting its 13 witnesses.

“Let us deal with the plea bargain issue first before we schedule a hearing date. We won't take hearing dates for now until the plea bargain issue is navigated so that we can make a firm decision whether we will proceed with the hearing or not,” he said.

Last month, the court had declined to release Rotich on bond. Justice Nyakundi noted in his ruling that the prosecution had raised compelling reasons to warrant the denial of bond/bail. This is a matter within the gender-based violence bracket, according to the allegation.

Tirop, 25, was a star athlete who had participated in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, featuring in the 5,000-metre race in which she finished fourth. She won a bronze medal at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships in the 10,000m, and also broke the record in the women’s 10km road race at the Adizero Road to Records event in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

The athlete was found dead in her house in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, on October 13, 2021. A post-mortem examination done by pathologists at the Iten County Referral Hospital mortuary revealed that Tirop had suffered neck stabs and was hit on the head with a blunt object.

She was buried at her parent’s home in Nandi County on October 23, 2021.