Who burnt 70-year-old granny to death behind a Murang'a police station?

Jane Wanjiru

The late  Jane Wanjiru who was burnt to death inside her house in Kirogo village, Kiharu Constituency. 

Photo credit: Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • Postmortem report indicates that the deceased suffered 85 per cent body burns and had been strangled.
  • Also discovered from the scene as an exhibit was a forcibly removed pantie that detectives believe belonged to the deceased.

On the morning of October 21, 2023, Ms Jane Wanjiru, 70, was found burnt to death inside her house about 100 metres behind Kirogo Police Post in Murang'a County.

According to a post-mortem report submitted on October 26 by pathologist Kamotho Watenga, she had suffered 85 per cent body burns.

"This is an act of murder. It is beyond reasonable doubt that it was so since the injuries depict a premeditated attack where catalysts to burn her were used," Dr Watenga said in his report.

What was recovered from the rubble was so badly disfigured that it was not immediately possible to determine whether her head was part of the charred remains, with detectives saying there were no teeth in the charred remains, suggesting she may have been beheaded.

Dr Watenga said DNA tests would be needed to ascertain whether any part of her body was missing, “and we have also taken swabs that will help us deduce if she was raped before death.”

Jane Wanjiru

Inside Jane Wanjiru's house where the 70-year-old was burnt to death on October 21, 2023 in Kirogo village. 

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

The incident has shocked residents of the relatively quiet village of Kirogo in Kiharu Constituency, with neighbours describing her as God-fearing, peaceful, generous, and hardworking but reclusive.

"I am lost for words. I could not have imagined that my mother would die such a violent death. The death is, of course, murder. The post-mortem has informed us. I am the only child she had and she raised me singlehandedly. I'm devastated," said Anthony Horoho.

He says he received the horrific news with great shock, "and my prayer is that God, whose justice surpasses human understanding, blesses our police officers with the magnanimity to one day publicly parade my mother's killer(s)".

While Horoho struggles to come to terms with the death and seek closure, police in the area are burning the midnight oil to solve the murder.

According to Kahuro police chief Catherine Ringera, detectives from Murang'a and Nairobi are working together to unravel the mystery.

"We are on track. We are steadily getting somewhere. At least we know that the deceased was murdered. The method was by use of fire that was deliberately started and aided to rage by use of flammable liquids and acids," she said.

"We are now trying our level best to identify suspect(s) and the motive," Ms Ringera added.

She said that the deceased had been seen walking from the nearest shopping centre around 9pm."

She said in retracing her last moments alive, the deceased was seen walking to her home that is 300 metres from Karuri shopping centre.

"It is our working hunch that she found an assailant or assailants waiting for her in her compound where she lived alone," Ms Ringera added.

Jane Wanjiru

Neighbours peep through the window of 70-year-old Jane Wanjiru's house. Ms Wanjiru was burnt to death inside her house.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

The preliminary investigation report by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) states that the deceased was found dead in one of the four rooms in her house.

The report adds that scene of crime investigations ascertained that certain fuels and acids were used to burn her, burnt while lying on her back and the fires started in a way that gave her zero chance of escaping.

The report states that her house had two access doors and that one fire was started in her bedroom where she was lying, while a second fire was started in the living room, leaving her with no means of escape.

“One of the access doors was slightly open, suggesting that the killer(s) waited until she opened it and followed her or forced her into the house and the heinous fatal acts executed,” the report said.

Investigations revealed that flammable substances and acids were used to start the two fires. Her underwear was also found at the scene, leading detectives to believe she may have been sexually assaulted.

But what has shocked residents is that neighbours and officers at the nearby police station failed to notice the fire.

"I want to imagine a station that must at all times remain guarded was not deserted. How officers who reside within it did not detect such a big fire behind them makes me not want to comment about it rest I become slanderous against the government," said Fredrick Mwangi, a resident.

"We the members of the public can be excused not to have seen the fire since it is our business to sleep soundly at night, but police officers have to be vigilant at all times," he said.

Ms Ringera said it was suspected that the fire started well after midnight when everyone in the neighbourhood was asleep.

Jane Wanjiru

Scene of Crime officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations outside the house where the charred remains of 70-year-old Jane Wanjiru were found on October 21, 2023. 

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

"The fire was only discovered in the morning by a passerby since the deceased's home is next to a public path. The passerby raised an alarm and a rescue mission was carried out," she said.

She added that the deceased, who was a secretary by profession and had retired from Kahuhia Girls High School, did not lead a life that made it easy to guess what her murder was about.

"All our hunches are that she was a straightforward woman who went about her life managing her rentals at Karuri market and farming. Once in a while, she would suffer ordinary crimes like her livestock getting stolen. But generally, all was peaceful around her," she said.

"I cannot even dare a guess on why someone wanted my mum dead. She was just cool, loved peace around herself and her prayerful nature is the solid rock that saw her bring me up, affording me quality education as per her abilities to a point I am a manager in the finance sector," Mr Horoho said.

The detectives added in their report that most of her bones had become calcified by the extreme heat.

"Given that  an average human body takes from two to three hours to burn completely, it is estimated that the fires that were started in the house most likely lasted from 2am to 5am," reads the report in part.

Ms Ringera urged for patience saying they are doing all they can to ensure justice is delivered.

She urged members of the public to also help in investigations and all who feel they have an aspect that needs to be investigated to come forward with the information.

"While we remain optimistic that we can crack this murder, there is also a need to also invest in God's justice who clearly makes it known that human blood shall never spill in vain... that God also serves his own justice against all murderers," she added.

Meanwhile, Murang'a Senator Joe Nyutu has decried cases of murder in the county that have been on the rise.

"Something must be very wrong somewhere. We cannot be waking up to these senseless murders and we rest easy, becoming a county of horrific statistics. It is a county crisis," he said.

He urged area residents to collaborate with security agencies to fight crime in the region.

"These acts of horrendous murders are making the society suffer fatigue against government and should be addressed in a more convincing way," Mr Nyutu said.