The grave of Boniface Ngigi in Mumbu village, Murang'a County.

| Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

'They killed my son after I failed to pay Sh100'

What you need to know:

  • Immediately after the murder, some of the attackers took to social media and posted pictures of the killing.

At around 10am on  June 14, James Thuo received a call from his 25-year-old son, who was in dire straits.

His son, Boniface Ngigi, desperately needed Sh100 to pay an extrajudicial fine imposed on him by a lynch mob on suspicion of stealing dry beans.

"I was in my Mumbu home while he said he was in Kirima, a neighbouring village in Kigumo Constituency. I could tell from his voice that he was in great pain... He said he was dying and the phone went silent," said Mr Thuo.

Confused and panicked, Mr Thuo made his way to Kirima about two kilometres away. 

James Thuo during an interview on September 10, 2023. His son, Boniface Ngigi, was lynched by villagers.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

"I had no money with me. As we talked on the phone, the background noise said it all. There were people shouting for my son to say his last prayers. One voice said they knew I could not afford the Sh100 fine," he said.

As he thought he was rushing to the scene where his first-born son was showing signs of distress, another call came, this time from a friend.

"Your son has been murdered... beaten to death by a group of youths... There was nothing we could do because the gang was very violent," the caller said. 

It was then that Mr Thuo realised that he had not run towards the scene of the crime. In his panic, he ran in the opposite direction. He says he fell and was suspended between consciousness and darkness when passers-by fanned him back to life.

Mr Thuo says the incident made him hate poverty.

"I reflected on my 49 years of life so far. How poverty made me drop out of primary school. How I always relied on menial jobs to make a living... how I struggled to raise my three children... and now this," he said.

Mr Thuo says his son had come to visit his parents from Nairobi, where he worked as a tout and boda boda rider.

"He had told me the night before that he was going to visit his grandfather in Kirima. I heard that he was in the company of three other youths when a gang on patrol encountered them and on interrogation accused them of being criminals," he said.

A police report filed by Kigumo Sub-County Police Commander, Inviolata Lumati, said the deceased was suspected of being a thief.

"He was suspected of being part of a gang that had been terrorising residents in the area. The angry public pounced on the youth and he succumbed," the report reads in part.

Eyewitnesses, however, told Nation.Africa that the youth was murdered because he could not explain himself well as he was new in the village.

"He could not name the area chief... but he said his grandfather was a village elder and he had an uncle who was a chief. He said his family once had a policeman who had died... The gang said he was acting like a thief to scare them and they attacked him with crude weapons,' said Simon Karange, an eyewitness.

Immediately after the murder, some of the attackers took to social media and posted pictures of the killing.

Following the murder, the case was referred to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for investigation. However, Nation.Africa has learnt that the DCI was not convinced that it was a criminal incident that needed to be investigated.

Glaring evidence of this position is the DCI's failure to have the body autopsied.

On June 20, the DCI allegedly Mr Thuo to forgo the autopsy and bury his son as a victim of an attack by unknown and untraceable suspects.

"I don't know what the document was. I cannot communicate in English. I was just shown a dotted line and told to sign it. You are now telling me that I said I had forgiven my son's killers? That cannot be... I was told I was agreeing to bury my son," he said.

The victim's cousin, Isaac Nderi, said "there is no way the Kigumo DCI can say that the gang that attacked was unknown and could not be traced".

He said: "The incident happened in broad daylight and some of the suspects appeared on social media, posting pictures that clearly showed the faces of some of these attackers.

Without being a member of the DCI, I can positively identify at least five of the killers by name and face".

Lawyer Timothy Kariuki said the DCI had acted in complete disregard of the law.

"It was gross for the DCI to sanitise the act of murder by getting the father to sign an affidavit dropping the investigation by agreeing in advance that the killers were faceless. This is a stupid dereliction of duty," he said.

Mr Kariuki added that "a post-mortem and inquest was mandatory in this case".

He said a medical expert recognised by the legal threshold must state how the victim died.

"This death report has to be from a post-mortem. This was not a sudden death. It is profiled as an express case of murder and the law expressly requires that all persons who commit the crime of murder must be arrested and prosecuted. They cannot be prosecuted in the absence of a post-mortem form stating the cause of death," Mr Kariuki said.

He added that the DCI's behaviour was an indirect way of endorsing lynch mobs as partners in law enforcement. 

He said such a mindset is a recipe for anarchy where society is encouraged to take the law into their own hands under any pretext, the key one being security lethargy in curbing crime.

Mr Thuo said the killing of his son had shattered his family.

"My wife saw the pictures on social media of our son being ordered to undress and lying on the hard ground breathing his last with blood dripping from his wounds... she was so distraught that she just left my house saying we are a society of barbaric butchers and went back to her home village in Embu," he said.

Mr Thuo says he is unsure of his options unless the government or well-wishers come to his aid to seek justice for his son.

Murang'a County Criminal Investigations Officer, Ms Cecilia Mugambi, said she needed time to study the case reports filed so far.