Did he drown or was he murdered? Family of Bomet teacher seek answers

Mr Hillary Rotich, a 58-year-old primary school head teacher who went missing and body found at Kipsonoi river a week later, on this undated photo/

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The family of a primary school head teacher in Bomet county whose body was found in a river a week after he went missing are demanding that the police unravel the circumstances leading to his death.

Hillary Rotich, the head teacher of Kaplekwa Primary School in Sotik constituency left home to run an errand at Kaplong trading centre on the morning of Sunday, May, 8, 2022 in what marked a turning point for his family.

The 58-year-old father of five children casually bade farewell to his wife, Mrs Linah Rotich, a deputy primary school head teacher as he departed for his short journey – in what would be the last time his family saw him.

After undertaking what he had gone to do at Kaplong, he went to meet his friends at three local social joints at different times and parted ways with them at around 10:00 pm. It was also to be the last his friends set his eyes on him.

The widow Mrs Lilian Rotich, a teacher, with a family friend Mrs Pauline Tonui, at their home in Keronjo on May, 21, 2022 during funeral preparations

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai I Nation Media Group

Investigations have revealed that the teacher who was a little bit tipsy took a boda boda at Soiymet trading centre, where he alighted and attempted to procure transportation from another rider, in vain as he was short of fare.

Another boda boda rider later picked and allegedly dropped him near Kipsononoi river, marking an agonizing one-week search for his immediate family members and colleagues.

“When he failed to turn up at home, I took it that he had gone to our other farm at Kiptapsir village in Sotik. I woke up and went to my workstation, but could not reach him on the phone. It was quite unusual, but I pushed it to the back of my mind,” Mrs Rotich.

Speaking at the family home in Keronjo village in Sotik constituency, the widowed teacher said the reality that something was seriously wrong with her husband is when she received a call from his colleagues that for the third day, he had not reported to his work station.

r Francis Sigei, the former Kenya's High Commissioner to Nigeria, also a former Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Francis Sigei (centre), the widow Mrs Lilian Rotich and Mr Mathias Langat (right), the Sotik Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) executive secretary speaking at the family home in Keronjo village, Sotik constituency on May, 21,2022

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai I Nation Media Group

It set off a series of events including reporting the matter to the police, and inquiring from his colleagues and friends if they had come in contact with him.

“After reporting the matter to the police, the family members came together and reconstructed his movements. It led them to around Kipsonoi river and it was when a decision was arrived at that a search party of divers be called in,” said Mr Mathias Langat, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Sotik branch secretary revealed.

On Monday, May, 16, 2022, the divers from the Bomet county government came in contact with the body, which was trapped in the debris at Kipsonoi river, a few metres from a footbridge

Interestingly, he had his coat and boxers on. But he did not have his pair of trousers, socks, shirt and shoes. One of the socks was discovered metres from the river along with the trouser. Later, pieces of his torn shirt were also found,” said

Former Provincial Commissioner Francis Sigei, who is the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) parliamentary flag bearer for Sotik constituency and a family member, said the police should seek to unravel the circumstances leading to the death of the teacher.

“All that the family wants at this moment of grief is for the investigations to be hastened and lay bare the facts of the case. It is a very disturbing matter as the family does not hold the view that his death was natural,” said Mr Sigei during a fundraiser held at the home of the deceased on Sunday evening.

Mr Francis Nganga, the Sotik sub-county police commander confirmed the incident and said detectives were investigating the circumstances leading to his death.

“The body of the deceased was moved to Kapkatet sub-county hospital in the neighbouring Kericho County for preservation ahead of a postmortem to determine the actual cause of death,” said Mr Nganga.

A funeral earlier scheduled for Tuesday has been shifted to Wednesday according to the family members who spoke to the Nation on Sunday.

“It has clearly come out that he had issues with some of his neighbours over a land dispute. A matter that has previously led to him being injured, hospitalized with multiple leg fractures and another assault,” said a family member who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals.

Mr Collins Yegon, the family’s firstborn child said they were living in fear following their father’s untimely death.

“Our family has faced a lot of threats in the past few months and we do not feel secure now that the head of the family, who has previously faced our tormentors head-on, has died under very mysterious circumstances,” said Mr Yegon, a student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

Mr Yegon said the family had brought the matter to the attention of the authorities, hoping that it would be acted on so the family can be assured of their security.

Some hold the view that the deceased might have slipped into the river and drowned under the raging waters, while others point to the position that he might have been killed.

It is claimed that he might have taken off his clothes so as to cross the river and avoid drowning, but questions have been raised as to why he avoided the footbridge.

What is not in dispute is the fact that he lived in fear of attack and most of the time when he had had one too many, he always had the presence of mind not to use a particular route leading to his home.

His colleagues and neighbours said he was not only an amiable person but never shied away from facing matters head-on at all levels.

“The late Rotich was a man who spoke his mind irrespective of the position and the people involved in whatever the subject was. He was a workaholic who valued education and went to great lengths to ensure the children he mentored succeeded in their endeavors,” said Mr Malel Langat, the Bomet KNUT executive secretary.

Mr Langat called on investigators to handle the matter with the seriousness it deserved so that the fears the family, the entire community and the teaching fraternity have can be settled once and for all.