Why bizarre killings in Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Kirinyaga have worried locals

Murder suicide

Moses Kirimi, a Chuka University Architect and Head of Estates Department whose body was found in a pool of blood at his homestead and his wife, Pamela Wanja who is believed to have committed suicide.

Photo credit: Courtesy

Rising cases of gruesome murders in Kirinyaga, Embu and Tharaka Nithi counties have baffled residents, who are now living in fear.

The victims are usually found dead in houses while others are dumped in rivers and farms.

These senseless murders have sent shockwaves through the three counties that boast as the region’s bread basket. 

Kirinyaga is the most notorious, with murders reported frequently.

The killers do not spare anyone, including women and children.

One recent incident involved Hesbon Munene, 42, who was found hacked to death and dumped in a banana farm in Ichang'i village in Mwea East.

Pedestrians stumbled upon the badly mutilated body of Mr Munene on October 3 and alerted the police.

The mystery surrounding his death is far from being solved, although it is suspected that Mr Munene, who became mentally ill after being involved in a road accident 10 years earlier, was killed by a relative for allegedly stealing his sugarcane.

His body is now lying at Kibugi Funeral Home as detectives investigate the circumstances of his death.

Area police boss Daniel Kitavi suspected that Mr Munene, who had been accused of stealing farm produce from local farmers, could have been a victim of mob justice.

But he said investigations will ascertain the truth.

Stanley Njiru

Retired senior police officer Stanley Njiru who had gone missing from his Embu home before being found dead.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

The death of Mr Munene is the latest in the region, with residents and church leaders fearing this and other mysterious deaths could scare away investors.

The cases have eerie similarities. Some victims go missing and are later found dead.

This year alone, more than 23 people have been murdered. The victims are brutally eliminated and residents feel that something urgent should be done to stop the killings.

June was the worst month, when seven people, including third-year Kirinyaga University student Collins Kipchumba, were hacked to death.

Rental rooms

The same month, a man and his sister-in-law were separately found dead in rental rooms, with deep cuts, suggesting they were brutally eliminated by unknown criminals.

Relatives said the victims – Simon Mureithi, 57, and his sister-law Waruguru Wachira, 55 – were found lying in their beds.

It is suspected the woman, whose husband died last year, was raped by the killers before her life was snuffed out.

Children coffins

Coffins containing five members of the same family who were hacked to death by their father following a domestic quarrel.

Photo credit: George Munene I Nation Media Group

Relatives said they became suspicious because they had not seen the victims for days and went to check on them in their rooms.

On arrival, they saw flies hovering over the area and knew there was something amiss.

It was then that they reported the matter to officers at the Wang'uru Police Station. Moments later, the officers drove to the scene and forced their way into the rooms, only to find corpses. They took the bodies to the Kerugoya Referral Hospital mortuary.

Resident Sospeter Njeru said locals were still reeling in shock following what happened in the area. 

And a relative, John Njoka, said the victims lived in separate rental rooms and they did not know why they were murdered.

Relatives said the killers were only interested in eliminating the victims as nothing was stolen from their rooms.

"The assailants planned and murdered the victims before they took off unnoticed," said Mr Njoka 

Following the killings, family members are now crying out for Justice.

Embu businessman Mbae

A prominent Embu businessman, Dennis Mbae who was killed on his way home.

Photo credit: George Munene I Nation Media Group

"We want those who committed the crime to be exposed and legal action taken against them," said Mr Njoka.

On June 15, Stephen Murimi, 31, was found murdered and his body dumped in a septic tank in Murinduko village.

A prime suspect in the murder, who was the best friend of the victim, was seized. The suspect, who had been on the run, was apprehended in Nanyuki by detectives who were acting on a tip-off.

He is undergoing interrogation at the Wang'uru Police Station.

Businessman Daniel Maina, 46, was also found strangled to death and dumped in the Ragati river in Ndia Constituency.

His hands and legs had been tied with electric wires. Before his death, Mr Maina, a cigarette dealer, had been spotted in a bar.

It could not be immediately established why the victim was murdered.

Eric Mureithi

Eric Muriithi, 23, who was found beheaded and his body dumped in a rice farm at Kamuchege in Kirinyaga County.

Photo credit: Courtesy

Grace Muthoni Ndambiri, 76, was also killed. She was struck dead by her own son in Njoga village following a domestic quarrel.

Neighbours found the woman lying dead in her bathroom when they responded to distress calls. They reported the matter to the Wang'uru Police Station.

Even young ones are not spared. Alex Macharia,17, was thrashed to death by his biological father, who accused him of smoking bhang.

According to Kutus town residents, the assailant struck the victim several times in the head before he fell to the floor.

But neighbours came to the rescue of the boy, who was rushed to Kerugoya hospital but succumbed to his injuries while being treated.
Equally shocked by senseless murders are church leaders who offer spiritual nourishment in the region.

Anglican Church of Kenya priest Cyrus Ngeera said the murders are of grave concern.

"In my area of jurisdiction, I presided over the burial of five members of the same family who were hacked to death, allegedly by their father. The situation is serious," said Rev Ngeera.

Woman killed

Jackline Waruguru, 30, who was found killed in her rental room in Ngurubani town.

Photo credit: Courtesy

He blamed most of the murders on drugs and land disputes.

"When some residents abuse drugs and engage in land rows, this could lead to the killing of their own people,” said the priest.

Pastor Simon Njogu said the murders are disturbing and a lasting solution to the problem should be sought.

"Murder cases are reported monthly and we are worried. The root cause of these murders should be known and addressed," said Pastor Njogu of Victory Revival Church.

The spiritual leader said the killings demonstrated the prevalence of moral decadence in society, adding that concerted efforts by church and political leaders and the government are required to end the killings.

Residents said murders were ruining the region’s image.

"Those people who are tarnishing the name of our region by shedding blood should all be sought and legal action taken against them," said local Jubilee chairman Mureithi Kang'ara.

County Police Commander Mathew Mang'ira attributed most of the cases to domestic violence.

But he said most of those implicated have been arrested and charged in court.

"Most of the murders happen at home and police can't do anything about it. Families need counselling and to be preached to so as to stop the murders," Mr Mang'ira said.

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said he had noted a surge in criminal activities in Kirinyaga but he was quick to add that security officers were dealing with them.

Kianjokoma brothers

The two slain Kianjokoma brothers. They died in the hands of police in Embu county.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

In Embu, matatu driver Moses Njue, 60, was found strangled to death in September and his remains thrown in a tea farm in Gitwara village.

Casual workers picking tea spotted his body and fled in panic to inform the law enforcers.

The same month, a young man, who is yet to be identified, was found hacked to death in a horticultural farm.

Embu East police boss Samuel Okanda suspected the victim could have been murdered on suspicion that he was a thief.

He cautioned residents against taking the law into their own hands, saying suspects should be handed over to the police for questioning but not be lynched.

This month, seven members of the same family died in a house fire in Gicheche sub-location in a suspected arson.

The man, his wife and their three children – two daughters and a son – were burnt beyond recognition, drawing condemnation from local leaders.

The couple's two grandchildren also perished in the fire.

Police commander

Embu County Police Commander Daniel Rukunga said the cause of the killer fire could not be immediately established.

Earlier this year, three bodies of young men aged between 20 and 30 were pulled out of the Tana River in Mbeere South sub-county.

They had been stashed in gunny bags and police said they were treating the deaths as murders.

The bodies have not been identified and are lying at the Embu Referral Hospital mortuary as police try to unravel the mystery.

Residents were living in fear following increasing security, said Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Embu branch chairman John Mate.

"People are being killed and maimed. Police should tell us what they are doing about it," Mr Mate said.

Businessman Maina Kanyi said everyone was scared and called on the police to curb crime in the region.

"No one is safe. One of our colleagues was shot dead and another one seriously wounded by gangsters," said the worried Mr Kanyi, who runs a butchery in Embu town.

Suicide notes

In Tharaka Nithi, six people, including two pupils, have taken their own lives by hanging in the last nine days.

Of the six, only two left suicide notes, which pointed to unresolved marital conflicts as the reason for their actions.

The cases have stunned residents, with experts blaming them on stress caused by the high cost of living.

Tharaka Nithi County Police Commander Donatha Chali Kiplagat said investigations were underway to establish the exact cause of the deaths and the motives.

But she said stress could be the cause of suicides and urged those facing psychological problems to speak out and seek counselling from experts.

Kenya National Union of Teachers Tharaka Nithi County chapter Njeru Mutani also wants the Ministry of Education to enhance guidance and counselling in schools to curb suicides among learners and teachers.

Two primary school pupils aged 13 and 14, who were also relatives from Mugwe ward in Chuka sub-county, took their own lives by hanging.

“We urge the Ministry of Education to adequately facilitate guidance and counselling in schools to curb the rising cases of learners killing themselves,” Mr Mutani said.

Domestic misunderstandings between spouses and even children are to blame for the many cases of suicide and even murder, said Bishop Dr Mutegi Rindiri.

Married people, he said, should endeavour to remain faithful and parents should always seek to understand the challenges that their teenage children are going through.

“The marriage institution must be respected by the partners and if the two cannot resolve their misunderstandings, they should seek guidance and counselling or even [separate],” Dr Rindiri said.