A domestic quarrel on April 28, 2015 between Eliza Joyce Wangui and her boyfriend Polycarp Ontonyi about cooking oil resulted in her walking out and disappearing without a trace.
At the time, 20-year-old Ms Wangui was a mother of a one-year-old daughter and was also a student at Nairobi Aviation College, pursuing a Business Management course.
“Ms Wangui wanted the husband to go out and get cooking oil for supper but he was insisting that he had no money. She raised her voice in reprimand and in protest. Mr Ontonyi slapped her twice. He said that Kisii men do not buy harsh tongues from women. In great anger, Ms Wangui stormed out of the house and left, locking it from the outside,” said Faith Cherop in her statement to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
Ms Cherop introduced herself as a house help to the couple who, at the time, lived in Nairobi’s Industrial Area.
The simple conflict that could have been talked over without the violence has become a daily nightmare for 61-year-old Eunice Wahura, Ms Wangui’s mother.
“Things have never been the same again. This was my lastborn child and I loved her so much. She was the quiet type who never shared what she was going through. Her stress could not be noted since she kept that deceitful cool that made all believe that everything was okay with her,” she said.
She says she has made more than 100 trips from her home in Kamune village, Mathioya Sub-county, in search of her daughter.
“It is the boyfriend who called me at around 9pm informing me that Wangui had stormed out of the house and had not carried her phone. He told me that they had quarrelled and in anger, she had left swearing that she was tired of living with a stubborn man,” she said.
Ms Wahura says she advised Ontonyi to try and trace her, talk her into going back to the house and to reconcile.
“I called on daily basis for the next three days asking whether my daughter had come back…She had not. I felt alarmed and told him to report to the police. He said he had already done it. And the wait for the return of my daughter started, agonisingly apprehensive, while Mr Ontonyi kept on telling me that police had told him to be patient,” she said.
It was after one year of waiting that she decided to get involved in the search for her daughter and sought to interact with the Industrial Area police station that Mr Ontonyi claimed he had reported the missing person incident.
“The station’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) was at first cooperative, telling me they could help me if I fuelled their cars. I would occasionally part with some amounts until another year elapsed and no progress report had come from the station,” she said.
In 2021, Ms Wahura’s impatience ran out and she decided to go to the DCI headquarters in Kiambu where she sought audience with the then director, George Kinoti.
“Mr Kinoti was very helpful and he called the Nairobi Region Criminal Investigating Officer Mr Paul Wachira ordering him to take a personal interest in the case,” she says.
That is when the first shocker about the case came out in the open that Mr Ontonyi had not officially reported the missing person incident all along.
Mr Wachira then ordered that the report be made and Ms Wahura recorded the disappearance at Industrial Area police station and got an Occurrence Book (OB) number—six years after her daughter’s disappearance.
It was a depressing moment for Ms Wahura who says, “The realisation that no one had been searching for my missing daughter for the six years made me feel hollow, hate these hasty relationships our children are naively founding, and the end result was suffering from blood pressure that has on several occasions nearly killed me”.
“I felt that the whole world had departed my daughter and she was on her own wherever she was and I was the only lone person concerned about her whereabouts”.
Mr Ontonyi told Nation.Africa that, “Police told me she would come back on her own just as she left and there was no need to get unnecessarily worried”.
He said that he tried tracing the possible destinations she could have gone to “and with time I realised that unless she came back on her own, or personally led us to where she was, searching for her was one impossible task”.
Mr Wachira said, “The DCI tried its best to track her whereabouts but was unsuccessful”.
A report that he filed to Mr Kinoti about the case identified no involvement of another human in her disappearance.
“There is no dispute that she left on her own and unaccompanied from the inside of the house that she was cohabiting with Ontonyi, both being clear age of consent. After she left, she locked those she had left in the house from the outside. That means her disappearance was not helped by those to last be seen alive with,” the report reads.
It adds that analysis on her phone and that of Ontonyi did not disclose anything fishy that could provide answers about her disappearance.
“We also traced the house help to her parents’ Kabarak home and recorded a statement that did not give any fishy dimensions about the two lovebirds. The only mistake was the boyfriend’s failure to report the issue of a missing person and which he defended himself by saying he was taking advise of uniformed officers at Industrial Area Station Police (Stapol),” it reads in part.
The report observes that failure to report the incident collapsed great opportunity of monitoring hospitals, police stations, mortuaries and jails for her.
The report added that “without establishment of potential crime in the disappearance and with no known whereabouts the case should rely on availability of emergent leads currently non-existent”.
“Her phone number remains in disuse until the provider sold it to another user and no new one registered in her name, [or] her identity card number has ever been replaced and no transaction since then has ever happened using her identity card number as well as not getting active even on the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) data”.
The DCI said an inquest file should be opened and a plea issued for anyone with information that could help unravel the case.
As Ms Wahura keeps her hopes alive that she will one day be reunited with her missing daughter, she laments that she has been denied the custody of her granddaughter as well as Ms Wangui’s personal effects.
“That man had not met the bare minimum provisions of the Agikuyu culture in being recognised as an in law hence why we only identify him as my daughter’s boyfriend,” she said.
She said that if he had taken a young virgin sheep (Mwati) and a goat (harika), he would have qualified to be identified as an in law who was waiting to pay dowry hence winning entitlement of claiming the right to the child custody.
However, Mr Ontonyi said, “I am also mourning and every day I revive hopes that my sweetheart will come back into my life and help me raise this child that bonded our love.”
He said he had great plans about his life with Wangui as his wife “and it pains me to remember how a childish quarrel led to all this agony”.