James Muturi Gathaiya.
Caption for the landscape image:

How alcohol delivery to an addict cost Murang'a courier his life

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The late James Muturi Gathaiya.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

On April 23, this year, James Muturi Gathaiya got a Sh50 job to deliver a parcel to an address at Thika Greens Phase III Estate in Murang'a.

Gathaiya, 38, was living in the compound of a benefactor.

He had gone to spend the evening at a nearby wines and spirits shop when the assignment to deliver a Sh350 bottle of vodka presented itself.

"I was with Gathaiya when the owner of the liquor shop told him that a neighbour had placed an order through the phone for a 250ml Vodka," Mr Frank Kiriinya recounts.

He says the owner of the liquor store knew that Gathaiya lived in that estate and sent him to make the delivery at a fee.

"Gathaiya took the parcel and set off at around 6.30pm," Mr Kiriinya recounts in an interview with Nation.Africa.

The owner of Edwinpark Liquor Store, Mr Moses Kimani, confirmed he sent Gathaiya to deliver the parcel.

Make online payment

"Residents of Thika Greens often place phone orders and make payments online. They give their addresses and I send motorcycle riders to make the deliveries," Mr Kimani explains.

"I offered Gathaiya the opportunity to deliver the parcel and earn the Sh50 since it was near where he stayed,” he told the Nation.  

But it would turn out to be a deadly assignment. The young man who had placed the order was a recovering addict. He had just been discharged from a rehabilitation centre after battling addiction.

Gathaiya is reported to have walked into the compound carrying the liquor where he met the recovering addict's mother.

Liquor store

According to witnesses, he handed over the parcel to the woman and told her that it was from the liquor store before hell broke loose.

"The woman, upon unwrapping the parcel, found that it was alcohol. She screamed and drew the attention of the security guards manning the entry of the gated community estate," says a guard at the estate who sought anonymity.

The guard told Nation.Africa that the young man’s mother ordered the guards to discipline Gathaiya.

"The bitter woman participated in the beating of Gathaiya while screaming that she had spent a fortune treating her son," the guard said.

He claims they were paid to discipline Gathaiya who was known to them. He also alleges that he called the family that was hosting Gathaiya when he realised that things  were getting out of hand.  

 Ms Joyce Ndirangu explains she took Gathaiya in 2018.

"He (Gathaiya) told me he was an orphan from Nakuru who was facing rejection from his relatives. I took him in as a farm help. He was a disciplined, peaceful and religious man," Ms Ndirangu says.

She says she received a distressing call, asking her to hurry up to the Nyumba ya Mzungu location as Gathaiya was in trouble and sent her son to find out what was happening. 

"My son called me moments later to inform me the guards were very hostile and that Gathaiya was in dire need of help," she recalls.

Her son said he watched helplessly from a distance as the beatings continued. The angry woman, according to him, was cursing all those people who expose people's children to substance abuse.

After the beating, the guard claims, his colleagues bundled their victim in the woman’s car and dumped him on a nearby road. 

 "Gathaiya was so weak and he fell headfirst on the road," the guard says.

What happened next to the injured Gathaiya is unclear because of conflicting accounts. Some reports allege he was deliberately run over by a car.

However, the woman at the centre of the incident says she heard he was hit by a vehicle. The woman, whom we cannot name for legal reasons, claims police told her the victim died in a road accident.

"He was disciplined at my place for illegally peddling alcohol in my compound. He was let to go and I hear he was hit by a vehicle," she insists.

She adds that "you should identify with the pain of losing a son to those selling poison and they dare bring it to him while he is fresh from rehab.”

Cause of death

A police vehicle took the body to General Kago Mortuary where the drama continued amid accusations of an attempt to cover up the cause of death. 

Mr Kennedy Kimathi, who introduced himself as Gathaiya's friend, says he went to the mortuary to identify the body.

"I found that police had ordered that no one should be allowed to view the body unless in the company of officers or with a court order," Mr Kimathi says.

"A female officer kept vigil in the mortuary and at one time declared that Gathaiya should be buried as soon as possible. The officer said she was willing to foot the bill for Gathaiya's burial so as ‘to put the incident behind us,”’ he claims. 

Pathologist John Mathaiya, who performed a postmortem examination on Gathaiya’s body on May 2, says his findings were classified by security as confidential.

 "As such, the findings can only be availed in a judicial process and not to members of the public," Mr Mathaiya says.

 According to an investigation report by Gatanga sub-county police the Nation.Africa confidentially saw, "Gathaiya, who has since been buried in Nakuru County, died in a road accident.”

The report does not mention anything to do with the delivery job, assault at the woman’s home and dumping of the body even after Mr Kiriinya and Mr Kimathi offered to record statements about the incident.

Murang'a County Commissioner Joshua Nkanatha says the security committee he chairs has received some information about the incident and he has ordered that a report of the facts be made available to him as soon as possible.

 Mr Nkanatha adds, "Officers have since been dispatched to verify the claims and all available witness statements be recorded. I have also ordered that a copy of the postmortem examination report be made available to us.”

 He says the matter urgently requires a public inquest to ascertain the circumstances under which Gathiya met his death.

 "For that to happen, we must push people around. It is not in the interest of the government to cover up for anyone. All those to be found in the wrong, including our uniformed officers, must carry the cross of justice," Mr Nkanatha says.

And for the liquor seller who 'sent Gathaiya to his death', the incident will haunt him forever. Mr Kimani says he received the news of the attack and his subsequent death with a heavy heart.

 "I sincerely did not know the order came from an addict discharged from a rehabilitation centre. If I had known, I would not have initiated the delivery. I feel sorry and guilty. My conscience has been tasked to the limit," he says.

Mr Kimani adds he is ready to cooperate with investigations in pursuit of justice for Gathaiya.

"He was that kind of a man that you could not quarrel with. He was courteous and to imagine he died so violently breaks my spirit," he says.