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Elusive justice as police killers go scot-free

By | March 14th 2012

By Francis Ngige

It has been eight agonising months for Virginia Njeri after her son, a police constable, was killed in cold blood by colleagues.

The widow has virtually been to all public offices seeking elusive justice following the murder of Eliud Wanjohi, who was attached to Narumoru Police Station.

The elderly woman from Kimahuri village in Nyeri has been spending sleepless nights following the death of her first-born son on August 13, last year.

What bothers her most is the fact that her son’s killers are known yet they were never charged with the murder. Instead, the two Administration Police officers were just transferred to a nearby station as the Government conspired to deny her justice.

Police reluctance

Despite witnesses recording statements with the CID incriminating two AP officers, police have been reluctant to prosecute them.

Mr Joseph Gichuhi, a tout at the local matatu stage says he saw Wanjohi being confronted by the two officers earlier in the day. He says they warned him against "unruly behaviour he was known for".

"The APs told him to either stop the habit of using his whistle irresponsibly or he would be taught a lesson. They said he had a habit of causing panic by whistling whenever he was drunk," recalls Ndegwa.

Mr Grishon Kariuki says he was with Wanjohi on the evening he met his death.

The 68-year-old man remembers that he was enjoying a drink bought for him by Wanjohi when the unexpected happened. Having been on leave, Wanjohi had retreated to Homeline Bar and Restaurant at Kimahuri trading centre to while away the evening with friends.

"Wanjohi was very jovial that evening when he entered the bar where I was enjoying a drink. Since I had met him earlier in the day and he promised me a beer, I knew the promise was coming to fruition," recalls Kariuki.

Witness account

Kariuki says apart from the bar attendant, he was alone in the pub when Wanjohi strolled in. "I had just ordered my first drink and I was busy chatting with the seller before Wanjohi walked in and interrupted our conversation. He immediately ordered a drink for me," the elderly man recalls. He also ordered a drink for himself.

"Within a few minutes, two Administration Police officers stormed in and asked Wanjohi if he had heard their earlier warning," Kariuki says.

Kariuki says the two were attached to Kimahuri chief’s camp and were familiar to most of the local residents.

"They immediately grabbed him by the collar telling him that his behaviours had become a bother to many. When I saw what was happening I attempted to intervene by holding one of the officers," recalls Kariuki.

Big struggle

He says one of the officers pushed him away and shouted: "This man is armed and we want to teach him a lesson."

"One of them was holding him tightly by the neck while the other held him by the waist in a scuffle that lasted nearly 20 minutes. He was then dragged out of the bar by the two strong men and placed near the window," he says.

By this time, a curious crowd of onlookers had milled around the premises to get a glimpse of what was happening.

"People were cheering up saying, ‘let’s see who is powerful between the regular police and the Administration Police officers". Nobody dared intervene because police are feared," says Kariuki.

Gichuhi, who has also recorded a statement with police, says: "When he lost the fight, they left him and by what we observed, he had already passed out. The two officers ran to the nearest Matatu Park and commandeered a matatu to take Wanjohi to the chief’s camp."

Ignored requests

Gichuhi says many matatu operators ignored a request by the two officers to assist in taking Wanjohi to the camp forcing them to commandeer one of them.

"He appeared to be dead by the time he was loaded into the matatu to the camp. People were now shouting at the officers claiming they had killed an innocent man," Gichuhi says.

Records at the chief’s office say the unconscious man was booked at the chief’s camp as a suspect for causing disturbance.

Under siege from the infuriated crowd, the APs sought reinforcement from the police officers from Kiganjo Police Station who took away Wanjohi’s body, who had by then been confirmed dead.

A post-mortem examination report by Dr Okoth Obiero indicated that Wanjohi had died as a result of strangulation and had visible injuries around his neck.

The requisition by police for the post-mortem to be conducted on the body stated: "He was found dead in an Administration Police post cell after he was arrested by the officers within Kimahuri for an alleged offence of creating disturbance."

During his burial, Central Deputy Provincial Police Officer Gideon Amalla in a note to mourners said: "He was arrested and taken to Kimahuri chief’s camp, in his home market, where he died minutes later. Investigations commenced immediately and be assured that justice will be done."

Ping pong game

Since then, Njeri has been tossed from one office to another as she seeks justice.

"It pains me to see the officers working while they deprived my family the sole breadwinner. Wanjohi was assisting the family and was paying fees for his younger siblings," says a tearful Njeri.

"The last time we talked, the CID told me the file has been sent to Nairobi. Another time I was told it is with the state counsel. This is confusing me more," she laments.

But Central Provincial CID boss Henry Ondiek says the matter is still under investigation adding that detectives are under no obligation to rush the probe.

"What is the hurry for? Even the (Robert) Ouko murder probe has not been concluded more than 20 years later. August is just a few months ago," he told this writer.

Interestingly, investigators probing the death did not record a statement from Kimahuri Chief Francis Gachihi, in whose camp Wanjohi is alleged to have died.

"I am aware of the post-mortem results about the death but I cannot tell you what really happened because I was not there. The police are the best people to answer this," says the chief.

Kieni East DC Daniel Odambu, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, says he is not in a position to comment on the matter since police had taken over the investigation.

"It is an incident that happened last year and I will need time to confirm the status of the officers," Odambu says.

In the meantime Njeri has to endure the ping-pong game as she fights for justice.

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