No prints were lifted from Sharon Otieno murder scene

Okoth Obado

Migori Governor Okoth Obado in the dock on July 13, 2021.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Police investigators did not lift fingerprints from the many items they collected from the scene of the murder of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno, it has emerged.

Even though the extraction of the evidence failed to take place, officers from Oyugis Police Station kept an account of the circumstances of the murder.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado, his personal assistant Michael Oyamo and county government clerk Casper Obiero are on trial for the September 3, 2018 murders of Ms Otieno and her unborn child inside Kodera Forest in Homa Bay County.

The second prosecution witness on Tuesday told the High Court in Milimani, Nairobi, that there was an attempt to lift the fingerprints from a condom wrapper that was found at the scene of murder.

However, Chief Inspector Lilian Saka, a scene of crime officer from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), said the exercise proved futile because the piece was too small.

Ms Saka told Justice Cecilia Githua that police collected eight items from the scene, including two used condoms, condom wrappers, a bottle top, alcohol wrappers, open shoes, a bra, blood stained underpants and a pair of blood stained trousers.

She said she documented the items in 213 photographs in her response to the defence legal team led by Mr Kioko Kilukumi, Prof Tom Ojienda and Elisha Ongoya.

In their cross-examination, the defence lawyers sought to poke holes in the prosecution’s evidence. The lawyers pushed the witness to explain why she amended her report to read that the post-mortem happened on September 8, 2018 and not on September 6 as had been indicated earlier.

Ms Saka had also put additional information in the report, indicating she had “proceeded to Oyugis Police Station” during the documentation. The court heard that the changes were done yesterday morning ahead of the hearing.

The witness explained that the amendment of the date was a typographical error while the additional information was for her own use; to help refresh her memory.

In her evidence, Ms Saka said she travelled from Nairobi to Homa Bay on September 5, 2018 when Ms Otieno’s body had already been moved from the scene and taken to morgue. However, she said, at the scene the vegetation appeared disturbed.

She travelled alongside a team of DCI homicide detectives led by their boss Martin Nyuguto and upon arrival they were briefed by their colleagues on circumstances surrounding the murders.

During a meeting held at the Homa Bay County DCI office, the Nairobi team was told that there was a kidnapping, a possible rape and the murder.

The following day, they went to the scene where Ms Saka’s role was to reconstruct and document the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping and the murder.

In the performance of her duty, she took photographs in the forest as well as photos of the items recovered at the scene, the post-mortem exercise and at Graca Hotel where Ms Otieno and Nation journalist Barrack Oduor were kidnapped prior to the murder.

Other images are of Homa Bay-Lela road where Mr Oduor escaped from the kidnappers’ moving car and Rachuonyo North sub-county hospital where Mr Oduor was treated for the injuries he sustained. 

During cross examination, the witness confirmed to the court that investigators would be interested in any clues linking the perpetrators to the murder.

Asked by Mr Kilukumi who accompanied her to the scene of crime and the other scenes to take the photographs, the officer said she was in company of Mr Nyuguto, a colleague, homicide officers from Nairobi and detectives based in Homa Bay. Also with her were police officers from Oyugis Police Station and Inspector Mary Mogire, who also guided her in the reconstruction and documentation exercise.

She said at Graca Hotel, Rachuonyo Hospital and along the Homa Bay-Lela road she was guided by the journalist.

Ms Saka added that police and detectives in Oyugis and Homa Bay were the first responders at the scene and did initial investigations before handing over to the team from the DCI headquarters.

Asked by Mr Kilukumi whether there was any handover document, the witness said she cannot recall and asked that the question be directed to the case’s investigation officer.

The lawyer also questioned why the investigators did not address a footwear impression found at the scene of the murder.

“Photo number 17 is a shoe impression. Was the impression left by the police or the perpetrators?” posed Mr Kilukumi.

The witness responded that she could not tell, adding that the police did not take soil samples from the scene for forensic investigations. She explained that the shoe impression was not clear and so she decided to take its picture.

In regard to the car that was used by the kidnappers, Prof Ojienda asked whether police extracted any marks or impressions left by the car’s tyres at the scene of the murder.

No transportation

Prof Ojienda posed: “(Since) it was wet, did you extract footprints and markings leading to the scene? Was the car used to take the body to the scene?”

“No. The murder occurred at the scene and there was no transportation of body,” Ms Saka responded.

Prof Ojienda and prosecution counsel Catherine Mwaniki also faced off after the former questioned the witness on whether there was a possibility of the people living near Kodera Forest hearing the motor vehicle enter the forest.

Prof Ojienda: Are there homes near the forest?

Witness: Yes, there are people living around.

Prof Ojienda: So there is possibility witnesses would have seen the car taking the victim to the scene?

Ms Mwaniki: That is speculation.

Still on the issue of the car, lawyer Ongoya questioned the officer on who parked it at Oyugis Police Station and who instructed her to photograph it. The witness said it was parked by the homicide detectives but she could not tell the exact officer who did it.

The hearing continues Wednesday with the government analyst expected to testify on the findings of blood analysis of Ms Otieno and her unborn baby as well tests conducted on the items recovered at the scene.