How evidence from minors earned Lamu murder suspect 25 years in prison

A court gavel.

The court found that the Briton was also qualified for the custody of the minor but ruled that his absence from Kenya and residence status did not work in his favour.

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Unexplained bloodstains on his beddings and because he was the last person to be seen with a deceased person has earned a man 25 years in prison for murder.

Maxwell Munene would have got away with the murder of SW were it not for two children, who had seen him with the victim before she was found murdered and her body dumped in a thicket in his compound in Kauthara Hindi division, Lamu County.

DNA analysis on samples taken from the deceased girl and from Munene yielded negative results.

But evidence from two minors, aged 11 and seven, implicated Munene, leaving no doubt in the court’s mind that he was responsible for the girl’s death.

The children had informed the court that on November 17, 2012, they went to the house of a man only identified as Thuo to fetch water, and on knocking the door, Munene came out with the victim, a minor.

He told them that he did not know where the keys for the water tap were. The children headed back home without the water, leaving him with the girl.

The minors testified that they heard the next day that SW was missing, but added that Munene was with the girl the previous day.

“SW did not follow us to go and play. We left her with the suspect,” they said.

On further examination, the children said they did not thereafter play with the girl after leaving her with Munene.

Munene had denied killing the girl, and explained that she had left to play with the two witnesses.

He said he had seen her the previous day but he continued with his chores.

“The deceased [girl’s] mother later came looking for the child. I was taken to the station to explain about the matter,” he said.

Police Constable Henry Mwenda also testified that after collecting the girl’s body and her dress, he visited the suspect’s home, where he found and took a mattress that had bloodstains.

He took the body to Lamu district hospital, where samples were taken along with those of Munene and taken to the Government Chemist for a DNA analysis.

Also taken were the piece of the mattress with bloodstains.

The court heard that the bloodstains on the mattress did not generate any DNA profile as the DNA was degraded due to microbial activity due to exposure.

A postmortem showed that the girl’s neck was disarticulated from the body, which had cyanosis, showing lack of blood.

On the left side was a big gush from the cheek to the mandibular bone, the body had a piece of cloth tied on the neck and the right lung had collapsed.

The cause of death was found to be asphyxiation secondary to cervical spine injury.

The trial judge found that prosecutors had proved its case, and after considering Munene’s mitigation, sentenced him to be detained at the President’s pleasure under Section 25 of the Penal Code.

Aggrieved by the sentence, he went to the Court of Appeal, where he accused the High Court of ignoring that his case was based purely on circumstantial evidence.

He also argued that the circumstantial evidence did not prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt and that the court failed to consider the contradictions in prosecutors’ evidence.

“I was sentenced on presidential pleasure, which was unconstitutional. A non-custodial sentence would have helped me to reform as I was a young man at the time,” he lamented.

Court of Appeal judges Jessie Lessit, Pauline Nyamweya and Stephen Kairu sitting in Malindi upheld the conviction.

“We, however, allow the appeal against the sentence and set aside the sentence of detention at the President’s pleasure, and substitute there for a sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment,” the judges ruled.

Munene committed the murder on November 7, 2012 in Kauthara Hindi division, Lamu County, when he was 16 years old.