March 14, 2023 began like any other Tuesday for the Francis Maina’s family at Kamataathi village in Kiharu constituency, Murang’a County with members of the family going about their business.
But at 10am, everything changed, throwing the family in panic, pain and confusion, as some members nursed injuries inflicted by their relative.
Mr Maina’s son, 20-year-old Eric Mwangi, had been abusing drugs for almost five years and had even dropped out of school in Form One due to drug abuse. His father says that all efforts to rehabilitate him had failed.
“Even after I upscaled efforts to counsel him and beseech him to stop the destructive lifestyle, it was all in vain. Unfortunately, he ended up breaking down in a tragic rage that was incomprehensible, nearly killing eight of us in the family,” the father said.
On that Tuesday morning, Mwangi’s 18-year-old sister Catherine Wairimu saw him go into a plantation near the home where he stayed for about 10 minutes.
“I saw my brother retreat to a nearby banana plantation where he used to smoke his bhang,” she says.
When he emerged, he looked bewildered and began shouting that he would kill someone.
"It did not alarm me since even in his past odd behaviours once under influence, he remained close to me and never exhibited any signs of extremism behaviour," Ms Wairimu says.
But on this date, she was wrong for her brother rushed into his hut and came out moments later shirtless and brandishing a machete. He then dashed for her.
“I was too scared to think. I just stood rooted as if frozen into a statue. I consciously saw him close in on me...I did not even scream. His right hand held the machete high in the air and I saw it descend [on me] as he screamed,” Ms Wairimu says.
She instinctively threw up her right hand and she immediately felt excruciating pain on her wrist and on the left side of her neck.
“The pain factory reset me and I screamed as blood streamed from the two injuries...I screamed as I ran for my life; my brother screaming harder as he came after me,” Ms Wairimu says.
Four of her cousins--three males and a female--saw her running and being chased by her brother and they also took to their heels.
Wairimu and her four cousins jumped into a granary and locked themselves from the inside while screaming.
The commotion attracted Mwangi’s 78-year-old grandmother Naomi Wangari who was in her kitchen preparing lunch.
“I heard the screams and I walked out to see what it was all about. I came face to face with the charging Mwangi...I called out his name and his red eyes gave me a piercing look...He was possessed. He charged at me and I too started screaming,” she told Nation.Africa at her home.
She says that Mwangi reached her and cut her on the head.
“I felt my knees cave in and I collapsed in a heap,” Ms Wangari adds.
As the pandemonium escalated and screams got louder, Mr Mwangi's uncle, Herman Irungu, 48, ran out of his house to find out what the commotion was about.
“I found my elderly mother on the ground, unconscious and bleeding from her head. Mr Mwangi was uttering war cries and swearing that today was the day he dealt with his enemies,” he narrates.
Mr Irungu says he screamed at the boy to lay down his weapon.
“He in turn warned me to keep off him or else he would murder me…I saw him look at my mother on the ground and he raised his machete intending to cut her again. Alarmed, I dived at him with an intention of shoving him to the ground but he sidestepped me making me collapse in a heap on the ground,” Mr Irungu said.
He said that the terror of seeing Mr Mwangi turn to him and raise the machete, aiming it at his head made him gather strength to try and wrest the machete from Mwangi’s hands.
“I felt an excruciating pain as he pulled the machete from my hands as I lay with face upwards, all along screaming. I managed to throw my legs up that caught him in the abdomen sending him reeling to the ground and the machete came out of his grip, flying into the air and away from him,” Mr Irungu said.
Seeing his nephew on the ground and the machete out of his hands, Mr Irungu regained confidence and he managed to seize him and hold him down as he screamed for help.
Three women arrived at the scene and also raised the alarm, alerting other men who came to help Mr Irungu.
“There were those who were administering first aid to us while others started chasing after Mr Mwangi who had sensed danger and taken off. The three of us were taken to Kiria-ini Mission Hospital for treatment where my mother was admitted for 12 days, Ms Wairimu for 8 days and I for six days,” Mr Irungu said.
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The villagers who had given chase to Mr Mwangi eventually cornered and lynched him. He was later buried in a public cemetery.
Ms Wangari, Mwangi’s grandmother, says it was by God’s grace that they were not hacked to death.
In retrospect, she adds, “I feel sorry for my grandchild who was possessed by the demon of narcotics”.
Ms Wangari told Nation that “he was not all that bad...only that someone slept on his/her job and merchants of narcotics seized him and destroyed his mind.”
“The government should act tougher against those cartels that sell narcotics in the society since lethargy in the fight nearly saw the whole of my family wiped out by one of our own.”
Ms Wangari said the family has since moved on, “but our collective player is for our government in the grassroots to say no to all forms of substance abuse breeding such tragic mental collapses, especially among our youth.”