Justice at last as killer chief to cool heels in jail for 10 years

Chief jailed

Mr Stephen Kinyua Thuuria sub location in Tigania East who was jailed for 10 years for killing two minors on November 30, 2012.

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete I Nation Media Group

The events of Friday November 30, 2012 have remained painfully etched in Jones Mutethia’s memory.

At the age of 10, he was trapped in the jaws of death. He has never come to terms with the experience that left two of his friends dead and scars of trauma in his young life.

On that day, he accompanied two other boys – Alex Munene and Godfrey Mutuma, who were both nine years old – to fetch water in the neighbouring village.

At around 9pm, after they had had dinner and were about to go to bed, some five people went to the boys' homes and accused them of having stolen Sh16,000 from the home of Ms Rahab Kananu, the water vendor.

Their parents argued for some time with Mutuma’s father, Mr Peter Kailemia, who was volunteering to sell his only cow the following day and pay back the money. But no one would hear of it, so they reported the matter to Stephen Kinyua, the assistant chief.

Jones Mutethia

Mr Jones Mutethia who survived the ordeal that left two of his friends dead on November 30, 2012.

Photo credit: G

Kinyua ordered that the boys be beaten until they said who had stolen the money. Then the madness began. The boys were frog-matched to a stinging nettle bush and beaten senseless.

The flogging that lasted about two hours left Munene and Mutuma dead, and Mutethia seriously injured. The following day, Kinyua was arrested and charged with double murder. Also arrested were three men identified in court papers as Salesio, Mwika and Gaturuku.

Kinyua was charged that on the material day at Kabari village, Mbaranga location in Tigania East, he, jointly with others not before court, killed Munene and Mutuma.

After a protracted court case that saw the matter dropped at one point, allegedly due to lack of evidence, justice was finally served when Meru High Court Judge Thripsisa Cherere convicted Kinyua on March 30, 2023, and on Thursday last week jailed him for 10 years.

Justice Cherere ruled that Kinyua was guilty of the murders and sentenced him to jail, disregarding a probation report that had recommended he should serve a non-custodial sentence.

“The accused is a first offender but he had an obligation not only to maintain law and order but also to protect the boys against harm. He played a primary role in handing over the boys to the killers and he cannot escape punishment,” she ruled.

The sentence marked teh end of 10 years in pursuit of justice for the boys’ families, with Mr Kailemia saying although he expected a stiffer sentence, justice had been served.

“My son was killed in a ruthless and brutal manner and I opposed a non-custodial sentence, which would have been a slap on the wrist,” he said in an interview.

Chief jailed

Mr Peter Kailemia whose son Godfrey Mutuma was killed by an assistant chief on November 30, 2012. The administrator was jailed for 10 years.

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete I Nation Media Group

But it was the gruesome murder of the boys that caught the attention of the court and Justice Cherere, who described the assistant chief as ‘malicious’ and ‘heartless’.

In his testimony, Mutethia, who is now 20 years old, recounted how the attackers stuffed stinging nettle leaves in their mouths so that their tongues would swell and leave them gasping for breath.

Mr Kailemia testified that Kinyua ordered the boys to undress and ordered the five men to beat them to force a confession out of them.

“They beat them with clubs, stinging plant sticks and other crude objects after which they escaped, leaving them for dead. The boys were taken to hospital where unfortunately, Munene and Mutuma succumbed to their injuries,” he said.

A post-mortem report compiled by Dr Sammy Githu Wachira detailed how the boys met their death. Besides other injuries suffered, Mutuma was “strangled and there was evidence of brain oedema (swelling).”

“The report for Munene revealed protruding eyes with extensive haemorrhage on both eyes. There was bleeding through the nasal cavity and bleeding on the left side of the brain. An opinion was formed that the cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest due to head injury caused by a heavy object,” Dr Wachira said.

In her judgment, Justice Cherere noted that as the assailants beat the boys, the parents were not allowed to intervene and were also denied the opportunity to repay the money the boys had allegedly stolen.

The judge described the injuries suffered by the boys as “heart-wrenching” and that it was hard to imagine the amount of pain and degradation the children went through at the hands of an administrator who would have been expected to protect them.

“By the time the assault stopped, the boys lay semiconsciously in a heap on the ground, immobile ... the grief, anguish and distress that the parents went through when the boys wailed and screamed for help and upon losing them is unimaginable,” Justice Cherere said.

She continued: “From the foregoing, I find that the attack shows the maliciousness and heartlessness by the accused. The boys did not have to die as painfully as they did. That there was an intention to kill is explained by the breaking of their neck bones among other serious injuries. I, therefore, find the accused guilty of the two counts of murder and convict him accordingly,” she ruled.

Mr Kailemia recalled that they nearly lost the battle in 2017 when the case was thrown out allegedly for lack of evidence.

He said it took the efforts of officers at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), Mr Edwin Mulochi who is now a magistrate and Mr Baylon Mutahi, who ensured that the case was reinstated.

“My son did not deserve to die. I was ready to pay the money but nobody listened to my pleas. Surprisingly the following day the money was discovered hidden under a mattress. Apparently, after finding it placed on the table, Ms Kananu’s house help kept it safely,” he said.

In mitigation, Kinyua through lawyer Ken Muriuki had pleaded for leniency, saying he had not absconded court since the case began, and he was also a family man.

Mr Jackson Kinyua, the probation officer, said in a report that the family of the deceased had no problem with a non-custodial sentence.

“It is my view that a probation sentence be given to the subject and our office will see to it that he goes back to his civil service career. Our office will ensure he is guided, settled, counselled and rehabilitated back to the community,” the officer wrote.

But Mr Kailemia disowned the report that the prosecutor, Ms Rita Rotich, read in court, saying when the officer interviewed him, he insisted the accused should be put behind bars.

Justice Cherere ruled that as an assistant chief, Kinyua's responsibility was to protect the boys.

“I have considered the probation report and heard from the parents of the deceased and found that justice cannot be said to be done if the accused is not punished for his action, thus a non-custodial sentence is not merited. In the circumstances and the role in the murders, I sentence him to serve 10 years in jail,” she ruled, adding that the accused had a right to appeal.