How police bungle probes from the word go
What you need to know:
- In the case of the murder of Kabete MP George Muchai and his three aides, police have been giving conflicting information.
- It is a fact that the first police officers to arrive at the scene of crime will always determine the outcome of the investigations. It is rare for a criminal to commit a crime without leaving some trace, which may assist in disclosing his identity and proving his guilt.
- All unauthorised persons, including police officers not directly involved, should be removed from the scene to protect it from interference.
At around 10pm on February 11, 2008, I was carjacked at the gate of my residence while in the company of a friend, Dennis Oseko.
He was dropping me off at home in his car, a Nissan Sunny registration number KAQ 471K.
The four armed men robbed me of my Ceska pistol and two mobile phones, among other things. A female police officer based at Gigiri later called my wife at around 3am and informed her that the vehicle had been recovered.
I went to Gigiri, and the first question I asked was whether the vehicle had been towed from the scene of recovery. “It was driven by one of the officers,” came the answer.
The car’s radio and some items I had bought and put on the rear seat were missing from the car. I knew that the scene had been tampered with but did not lose hope, since the gunmen had my two phones.
The following day, I furnished detectives from the Gigiri Police Station with the serial numbers of the phones. Unfortunately, seven years later, no one has been arrested and neither have the phones been recovered. I dare say that the case was bungled from the word go.
In the case of the murder of Kabete MP George Muchai and his three aides, police have been giving conflicting information. Reports also indicate that one of the vehicles that had been carjacked and was later recovered in Kikuyu was released to the owner without any examination, and thus crucial evidence might have been lost.
It is a fact that the first police officers to arrive at the scene of a crime will always determine the outcome of the investigations. It is rare for a criminal to commit a crime without leaving some trace, which may assist in disclosing his identity and proving his guilt.
I know that there is no laid-down formula or single step-by-step procedure to crime scenes. However, there are fundamental principles that should guide detectives in investigating a crime and preserving evidence.
For criminal acts to be successfully investigated, detectives must maintain the scene’s integrity, preserve physical evidence and collect it for scientific examination. Experts say that exhibits are crucial in any investigation and subsequent prosecutions.
Detectives should not overlook anything, and all scenes should be treated as a crime scene until assessed and determined to be otherwise.
Details and contacts of potential witnesses should be taken before they leave the scene and if possible, their statements recorded immediately. Police should also avoid unnecessary detention of witnesses or suspects.
All unauthorised persons, including police officers not directly involved, should be removed from the scene to protect it from contamination.
It is important to note that though some things may initially appear irrelevant, they may later turn out to be vital in the investigations.
The area should be cordoned off and care taken to ensure that no exhibit or evidence is contaminated or destroyed. Also, it is always important to establish the point of entry to the scene and the point of exit.
Focus should first be on the easily accessible areas in open view before checking out hidden locations. No scene should ever be left unguarded.
In case of murder or assault, all visible injuries on the body should be recorded. The injuries, for example, can point to the possible weapons that were used and thus help the detectives to know the kind of exhibits to look for. If exhibits and samples have to be removed, the original position must be marked.
Care should also be taken in handling transient evidence, which by its very nature, loses evidentiary value if not preserved and protected.
Mr Angira, a former police inspector, is a senior reporter with the Daily Nation ([email protected])