Police in Murang’a South are burning their midnight oil in trying to identify who petrol-bombed Ms Agnes Muthoni, 41, in the early morning of September 17, 2023.
The attack occurred in Matheng’eta village near Kambiti town along Kenol-Nyeri highway.
Described as amiable, generous and prayerful, she died the following day at around 12.45pm at Kenyatta National Hospital, her medical report indicating that she suffered 55 percent burns on her body.
Ms Muthoni, who worked as a secretary for Matsac Public transport Sacco at the nearby Gakungu town where she was overseeing the management of 31 vehicles, had woken early at around 5.30am to open the compound gate, leaving her husband in bed.
“It is routine that we lock the compound gate at 10pm and usually open it in the morning between 5am and 6am. It depends on who is available to open it…It can be me, my wife or any of our two daughters,” said the deceased’s husband Mr Morris Muiruri, a public transport driver.
In her conversations with those who responded to her distress call, Ms Muthoni said that after she unlocked the gate and began walking back to the house, she sensed someone behind her.
“I turned to see who it was and I was encountered by a male of fairly tall slim build who had his head covered with a scarf and wore a facemask,” she said in her statement.
She added the man held a flaming object on his right hand and quickly moved towards her. When she turned to flee, he tripped her using his leg and she fell to the ground.
“I saw him throw the object at me and I burst into a fireball...I started screaming in pain while rolling to put out the fire,” she said.
Mr Muiruri says he heard his wife screaming and rushed outside to find her on fire.
“I momentarily froze…I could not think. I could not decide whether to rush back into the house and get a bucket of water or use my mouth to blow the fire off. It was a huge fire that covered her chest and the abdomen…I also started screaming as I pulled the burning clothes off her,” he says.
Villagers heard the screams and rushed into the compound and helped him put out the fire.
Ms Faith Nyawira was among the first neighbours to arrive and describes the scene as “scary”. “My friend writhed in pain, screaming as neighbours frantically fought the fire using tree branches, water and soil”.
She says that once the fire was put out, Ms Muthoni “looked at me and asked me who wanted her dead”.
“I could not answer the question because sincerely speaking I had no clue. Instead, we started preparing her for the hospital,” Ms Nyawira says.
Mr Muiruri said he took his wife to Makuyu town health centre where she received first aid, and then he took her to Thika Level Five Hospital.
“She was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital where she did not make it…her last words being: Tell those police officers to reveal to my daughters who murdered their mum,” he said.
Mr Muiruri added, “The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) who are investigating this case owe my late wife, my daughters, me and our relatives and close friends an answer”.
Murang’a South Deputy County Commissioner Gitonga Murungi told Nation.Africa that the DCI officers are on the case.
“We already have the post-mortem report that indicates the fire injuries on her face, chest and abdomen were the cause of her death. The injuries ate into 55 percent of the areas that were attacked,” he said.
“We have profiled the scene of crime and investigations are on good course as we now pursue identification of possible motives of the attack,” Mr Murungi added.
The investigative preamble that Nation.Africa has seen indicates that sleuths believe the attack was most probably revenge or hatred based.
“We seek to investigate any lead that could have ignited revenge against her or her family or, someone who hated her or her family, to a point of wanting her dead. We also seek to probe whether there were differences between her and any other person(s) that could lead to a common or individual plan to eliminate her,” the report reads in part.
The report observes that the attacker was not interested in stealing from Ms Muthoni or stealing from the home.
“The use of fire appears to have been a deliberate foresight hence making this crime a premeditated one. The attacker also appeared well versed with lack of spy cameras in the compound and knew exactly how to escape despite the scene being near a busy road lined with several homesteads,” it reads.
Mr Murungi said officers are yet to identify any suspect “but we have activated all our security networks in that area and anytime we will have a lead to build on”.
He said detectives are also liaising with telecommunications companies to profile active networks that were near the scene during the time of the attack.