It is a cold morning and Mzee Mwamba M’Irandu slowly walks into Geeto Primary School's compound in Igoji, Meru County.
Though his health is failing and he uses a walking stick, the 77-year-old former Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) deacon makes calculated steps towards the school farm where he will be working for the next two hours.
He is determined to push himself to complete the one year community service he was sentenced to for killing his antagonistic son, Erick Mwiti, by chopping off his head.
Before the fateful afternoon on January 22, 2020, Mzee M’Irandu had endured untold suffering from Mwiti, who violently demanded money from him, pushing his patience to the limit.
The habitual drunk constantly accosted his father demanding money from the stipends given by the government to elderly persons and from the sale of his farm produce.
Sold father’s livestock
Mwiti also routinely sold his father’s livestock and spent the money on alcohol.
One day, he seized his father’s title deed and menacingly demanded that he be given the parcel of land to sell so that he could buy a motorbike and a power saw.
“He really soothed me, promising to supply me with half a kilo of liver daily. After I declined, he set the document ablaze,” narrated Mzee M’Irandu in a confession at Meru High Court, adding that his habitually drunk son always insulted his parents and even physically assaulted them.
One time, according to the old man, Mwiti beat up his late mother, Beth Igoki, sending her sprawling in the mud.
“His mother was so angry with him and she vowed that we must discipline him. We ambushed him in the kitchen but he bolted, leaving us transfixed while holding our pangas,” recounted Mzee M’Irandu in court documents.
Rescued by neighbour
In yet another instance, the unruly son grabbed his father’s money and when he protested, he held the old man by the neck while threatening to kill him until a neighbour rescued him.
On the day Mzee M’Irandu’s patience ran out, Mwiti had harvested five kilogrammes of macadamia nuts which he sold for Sh500 and bought illicit liquor known locally as mugacha which he consumed with a friend.
The elderly man had told his son that he was preserving the macadamia to enable him raise school fees for his grandson who is in secondary school.
On return from the drinking spree, Mwiti confronted his father and demanded that he shelve the idea of paying school fees for his grandson and allocate the macadamia to him.
While Mwiti quarrelled with his father, the old man was resting in bed at their home in Kithima village since he was unwell.
The unruly son insisted that he would continue harvesting his father’s macadamia to satisfy his drinking habit and proceeded to his house together with a friend and held a party.
Later, Mwiti staggered into his father’s bedroom and stole Sh3,000 the elderly man had received from the government cash transfer programme.
That proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“I felt this was a hard life and it must come to an end. I seized a sharp panga and vowed to cut the hand as it came out of my pocket. But he was too fast for me. He seized the money and ran off,” he recounted in court.
Cut off his head
In the confession, Mzee M’Irandu told how he walked to Mwiti’s house and found him sleeping and cut his neck using two sharp machetes, decapitating him.
“I saw blood ooze out and hit the walls of his house at a high pressure and the head fell down; I knew that Mwiti was no more. I took a blanket, covered him, left the panga that I found at his house with blood stains in the deceased’s house, took the narrow panga I had found outside his house and went with it to my house, wiped it and washed the blood then slept,” reads the confession.
But the deeply religious man, deep in thought is now remorseful and wants to atone for the killing.
Though he remains haunted by the son’s violence, Mzee M’Irandu finds solace in the fact that family and friends have rallied behind him as he seeks to open a new chapter in life.
They were part of the people who convinced probation officers based at Nkubu, Imenti South that he deserved a non-custodial sentence.
The report later swayed Justice Edward Muriithi’s judgment.
Mzee Joses Kaaria, a friend, says he was afraid M’Irandu would suffer in jail due to his age and ailment.
“We knew their history with the son who was problematic. I once faced his wrath and I was always afraid of him. I am happy that Mwamba is not in jail. His health is failing and I doubt he would have survived,” he said.
While sentencing him, the judge said he considered Mwamba's advanced age, ill-health and the fact that he shall for the rest of life live with the fact of having killed his own son, to justify a non-custodial sentence.
“The penal objective which may be served by punishment on the old, sickly offender is perhaps only community service as a way of assuaging the revulsion of the community for the act of unlawful killing [by] a father of his child,” ruled Justice Muriithi.
Mzee M’Irandu says he is still mourning his wayward son and says a prayer whenever he attends service at his local Kithima PCEA church.
“I think about it and ask myself, what is money? After all, I still get more. I really loved him and even stood surety for him using a title deed in an assault case which is still ongoing. The title deed is still at Maua Law Courts. Life in prison is awful because there is no freedom. There are good people but the majority are bad,” he says.