What you need to know:
- The search for Mr Gitere had gone cold until August last year, when a resident accused Ms Jane Mwaromo, one of his wives, of being an accessory to his murder.
Palpable suspense is hanging over a remote village in Meru County, where detectives have suspended an excavation in a search for a man thought to have been buried in an abandoned well over four years ago.
The disappearance of Mr Geoffrey Gitere, 60, on the night of August 28, 2016 left residents of Karirwara in Imenti North worried, and deepened the rivalry between his wives.
The search for Mr Gitere, described as a maverick and an intriguing man, had gone cold until August last year, when a resident accused Ms Jane Mwaromo, one of his wives, of being an accessory to his murder.
The informant sensationally alleged that Jane’s nephew had, while being reprimanded for an offence, spilled the beans on alleged clandestine activity.
“He asked Ms Mwaromo’s lover, 'do you want to kill me the same way you killed the old man and buried him?' People who were there came and informed us. They said he had been buried in the well and a banana stalk planted on top,” said Mr Martin Mugambi, Mr Gitere’s eldest son.
Based on this, they reported the matter to the police, who in turn invited Ms Mwaromo, her neighbour and alleged lover Francis Kai, and the nephew to record statements at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in Imenti North.
Imenti North DCIO Jamlick Kithinji says, however, that there is no incriminating evidence so far, since the man said to have made the allegations denied that he did so.
“Several people recorded statements but there is no tangible evidence. We have nothing on them,” said Mr Kithinji.
However, the police moved to court and obtained an order to excavate the area where the body was reportedly buried.
If a body is found, they will make arrests.
During the excavation, police were forced to fire several shots in the air to disperse an excited crowd which surged towards the hole after a man claimed to have spotted a shoe. Police also closely guarded Ms Mwaromo and Mr Kai.
First wife’s account
Mr Gitere is reported to have gone missing while on a spree to dispose of his parcels of land.
His first wife, Ms Rosa M Geoffrey says they got married on March 8, 1978 and were blessed with four children, and that they got separated on September 29, 1989.
“He started selling land in the early 90s and was remaining with just a small piece. I had bought a plot at Kabaune but he sold it together with another two acres I bought for the sons."
“I was divorced on Friday and the second wife brought in on Sunday. I went to stay at my father’s home and only visited when there was an occasion,” she recounted.
Despite the separation and the wanton sale of property they had bought together, Ms Geoffrey says she has the man’s best interests at heart.
She recalls how she was informed of the disappearance and says she joined the search party together with her two sons and daughter, but claims her co-wife appeared disinterested.
“We spent the entire day searching. They rebuffed our suggestions to look for him on the farm. At one point, we were told that he had been spotted in Ukambani and Tharaka, but those claims led us on a wild goose chase,” she said.
Her son Mr Mugambi, who filed the missing persons report at Giaki Police Station, says his step-mother’s actions were not in line with those of someone affected by a disappearance.
“Soon after he disappeared, she moved to a neighbour’s home. Now she resides in both homesteads, tilling two farms,” he said.
Mr Mugambi wants police to continue with the search, saying the excavator missed the actual spot where the well was in the 1980s.
He also says there were peculiarities during the excavation and alleges that witchcraft was at play.
“At one point, the excavator just went off and then one of its tyres started deflating. Someone leaned on it and started crying and it suddenly stopped working,” he claimed.
The DCIO says they did not abandon the search but that it was unlikely the excavation would continue.
“The file is still open and the investigations remain. We will pursue the case to its logical conclusion,” he said.
Ms Mwaromo says she is innocent and has cooperated with police.