What you need to know:
- The family says the deceased, a father of five, was a herder at former Rongai MP Raymond Moi’s farm in Esageri, Eldama Ravine sub-County for more than a decade.
- The farm manager said the deceased worked at a neighboring farm and joined the Moi farm in October 2023.
On January 26, 2024, at 6pm, Esther Chelimo from Kaptumo Village in Baringo central received a text message from her husband, Paul Yatich.
He wanted her to call him back urgently.
Her 50-year-old husband was a herder at former Rongai MP Raymond Moi’s farm in Esageri, Eldama Ravine sub-County, work he had done for more than a decade.
The mother of three called her husband immediately after receiving the message.
Esther says Yatich was very uneasy. He asked her to tell one of his sons, who was a college student, not to call him again because he was in trouble.
On further interrogation on why he didn’t want to receive his son’s calls, Esther says her husband had indicated that he was living in fear because he was being pursued by the police for allegedly stealing and selling his employer’s cow, a crime he denied committing.
“I asked him why he was in fear and he said one of his employer’s cows had gone missing two days before, and was found the following day at Esageri trading centre while being ferried by individuals who fled after being intercepted".
He told his wife that since he was the herder, he was called to identify the cow and was later implicated in the theft.
That was the last time Esther heard from her husband.
The following day, she tried to contact him but he could not be reached on the phone.
His body was later found floating in a well at the farm.
“We are still shocked and do not understand what transpired because my husband had earlier complained that his life was in danger. If his death was connected to his earlier fears then we need an answer on who killed him and why,” the distraught widow told Nation.Africa in an interview.
“If indeed he was at fault, why was he not arrested and arraigned? We have lost a breadwinner and we want a thorough probe into circumstances surrounding his death.”
According to Kenneth Chelal, a family member, the herder worked at Moi’s farm in Kelelwa for 10 years before being transferred to another farm in Esageri in November 2023.
“All was well until January 25 when one of the cows he was herding got lost and was intercepted by locals the next day at Esageri shopping centre. The cow was then taken to the police station and the herder was summoned the following day to go identify it as one of his employer's,” said Chelal.
Fear for his life
While Yatich continued with his work after the incident, a new herder was employed the same day to work with him.
That evening, Yatich called his two wives, siblings, and some relatives and said his life was in danger after being accused of being behind the theft of the cow.
The new hire said his co-worker was very uneasy and at around 8pm, had excused himself, saying he was going to get milk from a neighbour’s house. That was the last he was seen alive.
The following day, the newly employed herder called the farm manager informing him about his missing colleague.
They had decided to adopt a wait-and-see approach, giving him a few days to see if he would come back to work, as they enquired about his whereabouts.
According to the family, on the evening of January 28, the new herder, while watering a herd at the well on the farm, saw a human head protruding from the water and raised an alarm.
Police from Eldama Ravine were immediately informed.
They arrived at the scene and retrieved the body, which was confirmed to be that of Yatich.
Yatich’s family learned about his death from the police on January 29.
Strangled to death
A post-mortem was carried out at the Eldama Ravine sub-County Hospital on February 2.
It was revealed that the herder died from strangulation. There was mild decomposition on his body, bruises on his ankles, and lacerations on his neck as well.
The post-mortem report concluded that he died from assault and possible strangulation by hands, and drowning the body was a suspected cover-up.
“According to the pathologist who conducted the post-mortem, there was no fluid from the airways to show that he drowned, and he also had marks on his neck, indicating that he was strangled using hands and may have been thrown into the well,” Chelal, a family member said.
“He also had bruises on his ankles. We just pray for justice and we also request his employer to come on board and help us to unravel who was behind the murder.”
Who killed Yatich?
Eldama Ravine sub-County Police Commander Joseph Ongaya told Nation.Africa that investigations into the murder was taking its course.
“We retrieved the body at a well within Kelelwa farm where he worked and the post-mortem report indicates that he was strangled to death and the drowning was just a cover-up. We have some leads into the murder and we are going for the suspects,” said Ongaya.
The deceased was a father of five and a breadwinner to the family.
Baringo County Police Commander Julius Kiragu said so far no arrests have been made, but investigators were following some leads.
Reached for comment, the Moi farm manager Dominic Too was non-committal to comment on the mysterious death, stating that police were investigating the matter.
He, however, said the deceased had worked at the farm for four months.
According to the farm manager, the deceased had worked at the neighboring Kelelwa farm for more than 10 years before his contract expired in October 2023.
"I do not want to comment on the matter because it has been taken over by the police. The deceased initially worked at Kelelwa farm until October last year when his contract expired., " said Too.
"Because he was a hard-working person, I went personally to look for him to work at the Esageri farm, where he had worked for four months."
"I even ensured at the time that he was paid his dues and gratuity before transferring him to the Esageri farm, because he was a diligent worker.”
Nation.Africa established that until his demise, the herder was tasked with taking care of more than 80 cows.
Another family member of the deceased, Sally Rotich, claimed since the demise of the herder, Moi had not bothered to follow up on the matter or offer any assistance to the family, even though he died on his farm.
“They only sent a small amount, which we believe was the deceased’s monthly salary, and said we could use it to do an autopsy,” said Ms Rotich.
"Since then, we have not heard from them and any efforts to get them on the phone have been futile. We thought that because the herder worked on their farm for more than a decade and died there, they would be at the frontline trying to unravel the circumstances under which he died."
She described the deceased as a hardworking man who took care of his family.
“We are demanding a speedy probe to know the person(s) behind his murder because the autopsy indicates he was strangled. We suspect that his death is connected to the stolen cow,” she stated.