Mr Kanda says investigations will try to unravel the mystery behind the handcuffs.

| File | Nation Media Group

Mystery of missing handcuffs as police probe Murang’a deaths

Investigations into the drowning of two youths in River Chania in Gatanga Sub County have shifted to the possibility that they were unlawfully handcuffed, tortured and then murdered.

The chiefs, who were in the company of six others, are said to have confronted Nicholas Maithya, 20, and Asman John Kamau, 18, near the river at Rubiro village, handcuffed them, beat them up, before pushing them into the river.

Nicholas Maithya, who drowned in Chania River in Murang'a County.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

The investigations have also roped in the National Police Service (NPS) following suspicion from witnesses that officers may have interfered with the bodies when they were taken out of the river, with the intention of destroying evidence.

Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) chairperson Anne Makori said officers were investigating those claims.

The bodies of the two men were recovered from the river last Saturday after a week’s search.

According to Gatanga Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss John Kanda, the inquiry is centering on allegations that the two had been handcuffed before they went into the river, and also whether or not they were pushed into the river as claimed by witnesses.

The incident was reported by Mr Joseph Ndolo Mbatha and Kamau’s mother, Ms Beth Mumbua Muya, who said officers on patrol had pushed the two into the river while they were handcuffed.

The two were seeking police help to rescue them.

Police, in a briefing to the media, said the men were criminals who were being sought for brewing chang’aa on River Chania’s banks.

Asman John Kamau

Asman John Kamau, whose body was recovered from Chania River on May 15, 2021, eight days after he had gone missing.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

Ithanga Police Station had told the media that the two were in a chang’aa den that was being raided by the officers on patrol and in evading arrest, jumped into the swollen river with the hope of swimming to safety.

Mr Kanda told the Nation that he has since recorded statements from the chiefs and it was clear there were no police officers in the patrol party.

He added that the chiefs said they did not seek police escort on the raid for fear that the information would leak. He said they also maintained that the two men were running away from them when they jumped into the river.

“There are interesting facets emerging in this case, which if disclosed, would turn out to be prejudicial to our general investigations,” the DCI boss said.

Mr Kanda said there were five people who said they witnessed the incident.

One of the witnesses said he was with seven other youths, among them the two victims, fishing in the river. “We ran out of worms to use as bait on our fishing rods and the two went on higher ground to hunt for some more. They had been gone for 10 minutes when we heard a commotion and upon moving up to see what was happening, we saw the two handcuffed by the officers,” he said in his statement.

The other youths ran away, but the witness stayed behind, asking why the two had been arrested.

“The officers were now beating them, asking them to produce the chang’aa that they were brewing. I told the officers that we were only fishing and we had nothing to do with chang’aa …One of the officers was beating the two handcuffed men with a baton ... another took a stone and hit Kamau at the back of his head and the force pushed him to a free fall (sic) into the river, dragging Maithya with him,” he wrote.

The witness said he jumped into the river to try and rescue them, but was overwhelmed by the water.

A storm was to later emerge when the two decomposing bodies were retrieved from the water.

The first body to be recovered was that of Maithya, and it had a circular cut on the left wrist. Witnesses present attributed the cut to handcuffs.

When the second body was found at 8pm by civilians after police had withdrawn from the search, it had handcuffs dangling from the right wrist.

When police arrived at around 10pm to collect the body, the handcuffs were nowhere to be seen.

Photographs taken by crime scene officers showed the body without the handcuffs, but civilians, who included journalists, had seen and photographed them clearly dangling from the right hand of the deceased.

Mr Kanda says investigations will try to unravel the mystery behind the handcuffs.

“One, chiefs and their assistants are not allowed by law to be armed. It would be illegal for them to go about handcuffing suspects. If it is true that they had handcuffed the two, it is to be expected that the two would be discovered in water handcuffed. This is where we have a major issue. How we have some saying the two had been handcuffed and police collecting the bodies without the handcuffs,” he said.

A postmortem is expected to provide crucial information on what happened to the two men before they died.