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Why was this man tortured, then killed?

Publication Date: 7/10/2008

Mystery surrounds the circumstances under which a matatu driver died hours after police arrested him.

Ms Margaret Wanjiru and her son, Daniel Maina, display a newspaper cutting with a picture of her husband being arrested last week. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

Mr Peter Maina Wachira was found strangled along side his tout Peter Mwangi Gitau less than 24 hours after the arrest.

A postmortem examination on his body also revealed injuries in several other parts.

The body was dumped at the City Mortuary 18 hours after a police officer had been spotted handcuffing him at Nairobi’s Muthurwa Matatu Terminus.

On Wednesday, police could not explain circumstances under which he was killed, but relatives and colleagues insisted that the officers were the last to hold the man alive.

The arrest on June 30 was captured on camera and the photograph published in newspapers the following day. It shows an administration policeman in riot gear preparing to handcuff the 37-year-old.

Mortuary records show the body was delivered in a police vehicle alongside that of the tout, and the two bodies booked in by an officer as those of  “unknown persons”.

A photographer who witnessed the arrest told the Nation it took place at around 11am. The bodies were received at the mortuary at 5.40am the following day.

Mortuary records also show they had been brought from Ngong in the outskirts of the city.

The Nation further established that the bodies were found near Kibiku Township, about three kilometres from Ngong.

Pupils spotted the bodies as they walked on a footpath to school. They lay several metres apart, off the Ngong-Ewaso Kedong road,  and were partially hidden by bushes.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the circumstances surrounding the death would be known after an inquest is conducted, adding that an inquest file would be opened.

The first step would be to trace Mr Wachira’s last movements since he was spotted being arrested, he said.

Normally, a suspect should be transported to the local police station, once arrested and booked in the Occurrence Book
(OB). The law mandates the station commander to give direction once one is held in custody, either to prosecute or release the suspect.

Mr Kiraithe said relatives or anybody could institute an inquest by formally reporting Mr Wachira’s matter at a police station.

In that case, he said, preliminary investigations would seek to interview the officer seen arresting Mr Wachira, alongside other witnesses at the matatu termini.

His Administration police counterpart Masoud Mwinyi said he was not aware of the matter, but promised to give details after making enquiries. Mr Mwinyi had not given the information by the time of going to press.

The postmortem report would also be reviewed in the probe. The autopsy report by government pathologist Peter Ndegwa cites “manual strangulation” as cause of death. It also states torture had been inflicted on the victim.

After viewing the body, Wachira’s wife Margaret Wanjiru told the Nation that her husband’s face was disfigured. A deep cut had been inflicted on the head, and there were swellings and lacerations on other parts of the body.

The bodies had not been identified until relatives and colleagues found them at the mortuary on Saturday last week. When police took them to the mortuary, they were only dressed in boxer shorts. The other clothes are yet to be found.

Ms Wanjiru said she earlier searched police stations around the city, including Kamukunji, Central , Industrial Area, Kasarani and Makongeni.

And when she finally found her husband’s body, it was so deformed she only identified it after viewing the fingers and toes.

Relatives said Mr Wachira and Mr Giatu operated a matatu plying Kayole’s route 19/60 in the city. She said her husband had been a matatu driver on the route since 1990 and had never been locked up at a police station.

That day, he left home in Kayole at 7am, but failed to return in the evening. Efforts to reach him on mobile phone were not successful.

Prior to the arrest, he had dropped passengers at the Muthurwa terminus, which doubles as a hawkers market.

At the time, there was a standoff between some hawkers and police officers who had been deployed there. Riot police had been sent to ensure hawkers did not sell outside the allotted stalls.

By the time Mr Wachira and Mr Gitau were being arrested, the situation had generated into a confrontation. A witness said Mr Wachira had stepped outside his vehicle, parked a few metres away. As police frog marched him, Mr Wachira was heard shouting that he was not a hawker but a driver.

The political wing if the outlawed Mungiki sect, the Kenya National Youth Alliance, asked police commissioner Hussein Ali to take action on the officer photographed arresting Mr Wachira.

Spokesman Gitau Njuguna Gitau said: “The officer should explain where he took Wachira after arresting him. Since last year we’ve complained that police have been involved in extra-judicial killings,” said Mr Gitau.

Mr Wachira’s children include  Daniel Wachira, 19, Wilson Mugo, 14 and four-year-old Stella Njoki. His body is to be buried in Othaya, Nyeri, on Saturday.


About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.


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