Targeting estranged wife, man who killed 7 in Embu arson attack ‘burnt wrong house’

Embu arson attack

Coffins bearing the remains of seven members of the same family who were killed in an arson attack during their burial last year.

Photo credit: George Munene | Nation media Group

On the dawn of October 2, 2022, a man set ablaze a home in Ngimari village in Embu County, an attack that left grief and shock in its wake. Seven members of the same family were burnt to death and their timber house reduced to ashes.

Those who perished were Charles Kariuki, 50 and his wife Catherine Wanjiru, 46 as well as their three children — Joel Njeru, Judy Wanjiku and Maryanne Murugi.

Maryanne was preparing to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam in November.

The couple’s two grandchildren — Tumaini Blessings and Prince Baraka — also died during the incident.

What was so surprising is that no one survived to tell the shocking story.

The suspect, who had been on the run since the attack, was arrested last Friday.

However, more shocking is that it has emerged that the suspect burnt down the wrong house — he had intended to kill his estranged wife.

He will now be arraigned to face murder charges, according to Embu East Sub-county Police Commander Emmanuel Okanda.

He said the offence was serious and capital charges will be preferred against the prime suspect who was flushed out of his hideout in Kakamega County on Friday night by detectives.

Mr Okanda said the suspect is currently being held at a police station in Nairobi and would be transferred to Embu so that he could be arraigned in the local High Court for trial.

 The victims were laid to rest side by side in the same grave during a sorrowful funeral, which attracted local leaders led by Governor Cecily Mbarire.

The attack drew condemnation from the leaders who demanded that justice be done.

According to residents, the victims were sleeping when the worst happened to them. They narrated how they heard screams and rushed to the scene, only to find the house engulfed in fiery flames. The residents described the victims as honest and Godly people who didn’t deserve to die such a painful death.

“The victims were born-again Christians and gave generously towards the service of God but, sadly, they died in a very cruel manner,” lamented pastor Ronald Kariuki of Jesus True Vine Chapel Church during the burial.

A relative, Dr Oliver Kariuki, said the victims were peace-loving people who had no quarrel with anyone and that their deaths shook the entire village.

“We have forgiven those who wiped out our relatives but the pain will remain in our hearts forever,” said Dr Kariuki.

Yesterday, Embu East Deputy Commissioner Jane Waruinge said justice would be served after the suspect in the gruesome murders was seized.

“We lost the entire family during the attack and detectives have done a good job. Appropriate legal action will be taken against the prime suspect,” she said and thanked relatives and residents for remaining calm throughout the investigation process.

According to detectives handling the matter, it is believed that the suspect had disagreed with his wife, who fled her matrimonial home in Kakamega ony to be married by another man in the Embu village.

The couple had two children together. After learning that the woman had remarried, the suspect allegedly sent a text message, threatening to set their family home on fire.

However, he is said to have mistakenly set a neighbour’s house ablaze, killing the seven family members, leaving local residents and leaders reeling in shock.