Caption for the landscape image:

Hours to horror: What Kisumu man said before hacking four relatives to death

Scroll down to read the article

In this undated photo, Emily Akinyi, her son Joseph Ouma, and her husband Shem Akuku Otieno enjoy a meal. Akuku is suspected of killing his wife, son and two other relatives at Wagunga village in Kisumu County on February 24, 2024.

The main suspect in the gruesome killings of four relatives, including a six-year-old child, appears to have meditated upon his plans before unleashing the horror that has left villagers in shock

On Saturday morning, a few hours before the killings in the evening, Shem Akuku Otieno’s relatives said he told them to expect “a heavy presence of the media” in the village the following day, Sunday.

Wangunga Village in Muhoroni sub-County is about a 45-minute drive from the Kisumu-Nairobi road, accessible only by motorbikes.

Daddy, as the murder suspect is popularly known in the village, repeatedly told his uncle, Stephen Onyango, about the impending visit by the media forcing Mr Onyango to ask him why he was so certain.

“Just wait, you will see for yourself,” was the answer from Daddy.

Pamela Adhiambo displays a photo of her husband Thomas Odula, 72, who was among the people allegedly murdered on February 24 by Shem Akuku Otieno at Wagunga village in Kisumu County. Domnic Ambok | Nation Media Group

Mr Onyango said that even though they had planned to invite journalists to the village to highlight the bad state of roads in the area, the message was yet to be sent out.

“That’s why I found Daddy’s announcement intriguing because he was not even part of the team that was tasked to contact the media,” said Mr Onyango.

Daddy's cousin, Stephen Onyango, echoed their uncle’s sentiments, disclosing that in the run-up to the fateful day, the suspect was acting and behaving unusually.

He said Akuku sold his cane and mobile phone and spoke of the media flooding the village on Sunday morning.

"I didn't understand what he meant by saying that journalists from several media houses would come here until after he committed the murders. That's when I figured out that he had planned all this very well," said Mr Onyango.

And just like Daddy had predicted, the media arrived in the village on Sunday at 10am not to cover the bad roads but a murder most foul.

Akuku is suspected of having hacked to death his 23-year-old wife Emily Akinyi, his six-year-old child Joseph Ouma, his uncle Thomas Odula, 72, and the suspect’s 55-year-old aunt Mary Kuya Otieno using a machete before disappearing into a cane plantation.

Five months pregnant 

The late Emily was five months pregnant.

The horrifying sequence of events began on Saturday evening when Shem, armed with a machete, cut his wife on the nape before grabbing their son Joseph, whom he slashed on the nape and chest.

He proceeded to his uncle's homestead, about 100 meters away, knocked on the door, and lied to the old man that a fight had broken out between his brothers over a land dispute and therefore he needed his assistance to resolve the matter.

"It was around 7.30 pm. They left together with the old man. He was leading the way while my husband was following from behind," recounted Pamela Adhiambo.

Moments later, Adhiambo heard footsteps outside her fence and before she could ask what was going on the suspect shouted, "Mama Aus, things are not good.”

Pool of blood

Pamela and her daughter rushed towards the direction her husband had gone only to find his lifeless body lying in a pool of blood.

"When I lifted his head my left fingers felt something like a hole on the back of his neck," she said.

At that time, the suspect had entered the homestead of 56-year-old Mary Kuya Otieno and hacked her to death. Relatives said she too was cut on the nape.

Akuku then proceeded to the next homestead belonging to another of his uncles where he enquired about his target’s whereabouts but upon learning that the old man was not present, he left.

According to Mr James Otieno, the suspect's father, his son had a troubled past which was marked by defiance, truancy, and desertion.

Mr Otieno spoke of a tumultuous upbringing that featured the young Akuku running away from home at age 12.

“He abandoned his studies at Milenya Primary School, leaving the family in the dark about his whereabouts for three years,” explained Mr Otieno.

It was only when Daddy returned home that the family learned that he had been living with an unidentified person in Naivasha.

Despite his parents’ efforts to have him rejoin school, Akuku refused and instead opted to venture into farming, signaling a shift in his aspirations.

'Good farmer'

"Daddy started serious farming, and I was convinced he would make a good farmer. However, this didn’t last for long,” narrated Mr Otieno.

“One morning, while I was in my workshop in Kericho, I was informed that he had decided to sell all his livestock and left.”

He moved in with his elder brother who was living in Yala, Siaya County, briefly before he disappeared again without a trace.

"After a couple of months, I got a call from a certain lady who said she was in Eldoret and asked me if I knew a young man by the name Shem Akuku. I said yes and sent him fare to return home because that is what the lady told me he wanted,” said the father.

According to Mr Otieno, his son appeared to heed his advice and never left home again.

However, Akuku’s life took another dark turn when sometime last year, a police officer informed Mr Otieno that his son had been arrested in Nyamasaria, Kisumu.

Though Akuku was released without charges, the incident added another layer to the complexities of his life.

"We last spoke on Thursday after he called to inform me about a wild bull that was harassing them in the homestead. We agreed to sell the animal the following week. He got a buyer and sold the troubled bull and sent me the money,” explained Mr Otieno.

Akuku’s mother Phoebe Akoth, described her son as a loving, soft-spoken young man who never raised a finger at his wife.

Loved his wife

“Daddy loved his wife. He loved her so much that every time he came back home, he would carry her a gift,” she said.

Four days before the chilling suspected murders, Akuku took his mother and wife out where he treated them to a sumptuous lunch at Awasi Trading Centre.

“After we had eaten to our fill, he gave me Sh1,500 and his wife Sh2,500 for pocket money,” Ms Akoth recalls.

She said her son was an obedient child who cherished peace.

“He never quarreled with anybody in the village. I am still struggling to understand why he took away the lives of his uncle and aunty because he has never wronged them and they have never wronged him,” she said.

Ms Akoth, however, said that her son had recently joined some suspicious church in Kisumu town.

"He was seen giving some testimony on the church's television channel. When I asked him about it, he was evasive," she said.

And on Saturday, a few hours before he ran amok, the suspect, who is a farmer and a sugarcane cutter, told his sister that he had planned to give out his old television set and coffee table to his parents since he was expecting new ones.

Seen 'a vision'

"He told his sister that he had seen a vision that a new TV and glass table would arrive later that night but he did not disclose from where,” Ms Akoth said.

Akuku’s run reached the end of the road on Sunday evening when police arrested him in Muhoroni.

Muhoroni sub-County police commander Joshua Nyasimi said that the suspect was caught in a sugarcane plantation in Kamswa sub-Location.

“Through a tip-off from members of the public, our officers were able to track him to his hideout,” he said.

The police boss disclosed that the 28-year-old man was found weak and looking seriously ill.

“Upon interrogation by the officers, the suspect confessed that he had swallowed a pesticide with the intention of ending his life.”

The police officers rushed him to Muhoroni sub-County hospital where he is currently receiving treatment.