Before May 27, the families of Charles Mwangi and Ibrahim Wanyoike, whose bodies were found in a stolen car in Nairobi’s Lucky Summer estate, neither knew one another nor had anything in common.
It is in death that they were brought together, as it dawned on the families that their bread winners were bound by their love for cars. Yet, in that shared love for cars, death lurked.
The two men lived different lives but had a lot in common. They were both driven by the desire to fend for their families, even as the love for cars brought them together. Might this love for cars have led to their murders?
Their bodies were found in the back seat of a stolen vehicle. Who could have wanted the two men dead?
The bodies were taken to the City mortuary for post-mortem and identification.
The post-mortem report, which the Nation has seen, shows that Wanyoike, 48, was strangled, while Mwangi, 43, died of blunt force trauma to the head.
The two men lived on opposite ends of the city -- Wanyoike in Uthiru, and Mwangi in Kariobangi South.
To his family, Mwangi was a freelance mechanic, but little is known about his exact place of work.
He was a single father of two daughters. After a week of waiting for her father’s call in vain, Juliet Wanjiru Gituro, 21 -- his first-born -- started to get worried.
“The last time I talked to him was on May 18. By May 25, I was worried because he calls me often, but that whole week passed without his call,” Ms Wanjiru said.
“My father was a mechanic. He did not have a specific place where he used to make the cars.”
Call from caretaker
When the caretaker of the premises where her father lived, who is also his next door neighbour, called her to inquire of his whereabouts, she reached out to her extended family to see if any of them had seen or talked to Mwangi recently.
“We were worried. It was scary, but we opted to go straight to City Mortuary after we searched for him in vain. Had we not found his body there, our next step was to search for him in hospitals. We opted for the mortuary because I knew something was wrong … but I never wanted to find him there,” Ms Wanjiru said.
She added: “When we reached the mortuary, I saw him lying there lifeless. I had mixed emotions. I wanted to wake him up. I screamed. My father usually wears his mechanic’s apron, but on that day he did not have it on.”
Then it dawned on her that he was no more.
Seeing her father’s body at the morgue had scarred her forever, she said.
“I know my father was a good a man. He did not deserve to die like that. Even if he had wronged anyone, he did not deserve to die such a cruel and painful death,” Ms Wanjiru said.
With her father’s sudden demise, Ms Wanjiru said, she is forced to step up to be the family’s breadwinner.
Wanyoike, on the other hand, was a businessman who had tried his hand at the taxi business as a driver. However, he was known for his banana business in Nairobi’s Kangemi market.
It is also said he loved cars. He frequently bought cars and disposed of them just as frequently.
His son James Ndung’u, the first-born in a family of three sons and one daughter, mourned his father as a hard-working man, who provided diligently for the family.
The last time Mr Ndung’u saw his father was on Monday, May 23, in Kangemi. He, however, did not know that that would be the last time he was seeing him alive. He said his father went missing on May 25, two days before he was found dead.
Between Tuesday and the Friday he was found, Wanyoike’s phone was on, and ringing, but the calls went unanswered.
Wanyoike had ordered bananas from Meru and his business partner had been calling to notify him that the goods were on transit.
Once the goods were in Nairobi, Wanyoike was to pay for transportation.
Family grew worried
At first, there was no sign that something was amiss and the family thought their breadwinner would resurface. But as days went by, the family grew worried. “He is not known to ignore his calls,” his son recalled.
“Mum, dad, and I own shops in the same area. My mum sells chicken, while my dad sold bananas. We had to foot the bills, because we knew once dad returned, he would give us back the money,” Mr Ndung’u said.
That was the first red flag. But when a relative visited their upcountry home and did not find him there, it became apparent that something was wrong.
Mr Ndung’u travelled upcountry just to confirm, if nothing else, his fears. It was unlikely of Wanyoike to travel home and go silent, his son said.
On reaching home, Mr Ndung’u found the door open, his father’s phone and keys were on the table, and beneath the table was the pair of shoes he frequently wore. And that was not normal.
He told his mother about what he had seen and reported the matter to Nguruini Police Post, in Mathioya, Murang’a County, which filed a missing person’s report under OB 02/27/05/2022.
“It is at that moment that it hit me that something was wrong. That was the beginning of a serious, frantic search.”
A few hours later, Wanyoike’s body was found at City Mortuary.
“He was cold and his warm smile had faded.”
“I identified him by the shirt and the trousers he had on. He was barefoot. He had a wound on his head and left foot. I hoped we would find him alive. I just thought that maybe he was on some business deal, and as soon as it was done, he would return home. I was crushed to see him lifeless in the mortuary,” Mr Ndung’u said. He remembers his father as quiet, not-so-chatty, but genuinely loving.
He was always jovial, easy, and entrepreneurial.
“He had many friends,” his son recalled.
Of the many friends he had, one happened to be Mwangi. He was among the many friends his family had not met.
“Whenever we had a father-son moment, he always guided me on life’s issues. He told me that life can never be scripted,” recounted Mr Ndung’u.
The banana business his father did sustained the family, Mr Ndung’u said.
Before Wanyoike ventured into the banana trade, he, together with his brother and cousin, was in the taxi business.
Sadly, the other two were killed five years ago under mysterious circumstances. That is when Wanyoike quit the taxi job to venture into banana selling.
Wanyoike will be buried on June 8.
The white Toyota Vitz in which the bodies were found was towed to Starehe Police Station. The owner had reported it missing.