'I will call you later': Woman's last message to friend before she was murdered in Kilifi
"I tried calling her twice on the evening of May 4, 2021, but she responded with a text message saying she would call me back later. It was the last time I heard from her."
This is the statement Patronilah Kijana gave when she appeared as a witness in the murder of her friend Ngina Kitheka.
Kitheka’s body was found stuffed in a wardrobe at her home in Mtwapa, Kilifi County, in May 2021.
Robert Waliaula Kinisu, who was sentenced to death in 2018 for robbery with violence, is the prime suspect in the murder. He is accused of murdering Kitheka between May 3 and May 6, 2021, before selling her items.
On Tuesday, Kijana recalled her last conversation with the deceased before she received news of her death.
She told Justice Ann Ong'injo that Kitheka not taking her call was unusual.
"Kitheka did not reject my call or respond via text message for more than a year of our friendship. This was unusual. I, however, waited for her call," she said while being questioned by State Counsel Bernard Ngiri.
The witness stated that she had travelled to Bungoma for a burial and became preoccupied with funeral preparations at home while waiting for her friend to return her call as promised.
Three days later, Kijana told the court that she was called by a friend, only identified as Monica, who told her that Kitheka had been murdered inside her home.
"I was shocked because she never allowed anyone to enter her house," the witness said of Kitheka.
The 42-year-old witness said she met Kitheka in 2020 at a club in Mtwapa. They became close friends and remained so until her death.
"Every evening, we would meet at the club, have fun, leave, and walk home together. We even started working out together every morning," she said during questioning by Waliaula's lawyer, Derick Mwanzia.
The witness said she would go to Kitheka’s house and the two would go to the apartment’s rooftop where they would work out from 6am to 7am daily.
During their friendship, the witness said Kitheka told her she was in a relationship with a white man who was out of the country.
Kijana confirmed that she had never seen Kitheka with any man except one whom they met at a club within Mtwapa.
"The deceased later told me that the man wanted to date her. She mentioned that the guy told her that he was a broker, selling motor vehicles, and he would like to introduce her to the business,” Kijana said.
She reportedly warned her friend to be cautious of the unidentified man, because most people claiming to be brokers were conmen.
"I am not sure if the deceased ever had a relationship with the broker guy. I do know that the deceased had only one white man. She did not have many friends, and she preferred to keep her life and affairs private," she explained, adding that Kitheka only let a few people into her home.
Kijana positively identified Kitheka’s items in court, which were recovered from Waliaula.
Another witness, Alfred Kombe, worked as a security guard in the apartment block where Kitheka lived.
“The deceased used to live alone. When I last saw her, she left her room alone at around 11pm with a handbag and she later returned alone,” he testified in court.
The witness confirmed he had never seen Kitheka with a man; she was always alone when she left, and alone when she came back to the house.
"I did not see anyone who was not a tenant enter the compound or any of the rooms during the night. I worked at night, so I do not know what happened during the day," the witness explained.
He stated that he was astounded to learn that Kitheka had been murdered inside her home.
“I received a call from the property's owner at around 11am. He enquired if I had left work and if everything was all right. He then told me that there was a foul smell coming from one of the houses and that I should go back," he said.
When Kombe went back, he found police officers in the compound.
“The deceased’s room was locked so the police broke the door before removing her body from the wardrobe. The deceased occupied the fourth unit on the ground floor,” he said.
David Ngumbao, an analyst with the Government Chemist, testified through a report tabled in court that Kitheka did not ingest any toxic substance prior to her death.
The samples that were forwarded for analysis were taken from the stomach and its contents, liver and kidney.
Ngumbao was to ascertain whether the exhibits contained toxic substance, which could have caused Kitheka’s death.
“After analysis, I concluded that there was no toxic substance found in the exhibits analysed,” said the witness.
The household items that were positively identified as Kitheka’s were found at a shop owned by one Hamisi Mohamed.
The murder suspect had deposited the items at Mohamed’s shop in exchange for cash.
Mohamed has also testified in the case, and has positively identified Waliaula as the man who left the items at his shop in Mtwapa.
The businessman finalised his testimony by affirming that it was Waliaula who sold him the items stolen from Kitheka’s house at Sh1,550, an amount he paid the suspect via M-Pesa
The items included a blender, iron box, juice mixer, and a toaster.
These properties have been confirmed to have been stolen from the Kitheka’s house after she was murdered. Waliaula has denied killing Kitheka.
The court has been told that the suspect murdered the woman and hid her body in the wardrobe at her house in Mtwapa’s Marina area before taking off with her valuables, including her mobile phones.
The body was discovered about three days after she was killed.
Waliaula was in 2019 acquitted by the High Court for violently robbing and killing Mombasa-based model Janet Adhiambo Asuna at her Kizingo home.
Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor and two other key witnesses are expected to close the prosecution’s case.
The hearing will continue on July 7.