James Gakara was a good doctor; always jovial, empathetic and spared time for all, according to patients, friends and kin who interacted with him.
His gentle nature and concern for his patients, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, has made many doubt if he really murdered his children before taking his own life.
Friends say Dr Gakara, an obstetrician-gynaecologist, had never shown signs of depression though they recall he had become very apologetic to everyone he met.
“I can’t tell if something bothered him, but I remember him asking me to forgive him for anything I feel he had not done right. He did this on two occasions and I remember a lady who referred me to him, asking me if I had realised that the doctor was being overly apologetic for no apparent reason,” a client who recently visited the late doctor at his private practice in Nakuru, Mercy Njeri, told the Nation in an interview Thursday.
“During the pandemic, he would call and just ask you how you were doing. He loved his clients and if you met him at a supermarket, he would be talking to several people he bumped into. He knew how to make people feel special,” another client, Phyllis Njeri, said.
His employees describe him as a soft-spoken man who would crack jokes to make his clients comfortable.
“He also loved his children so much and would come with them most of the time... we were always with them. You could tell from how he treated them that he loved them very much. We also never heard him and his wife argue,” an employee of the Optimum Current Hospital in Section 58 Nakuru said.
Dr Gakara’s children — Dylan Gakara, 5, and Karuana Gakara,3, both pupils at the Greensteds International Schools — were on Saturday night found dead inside their apartment in Nakuru’s Milimani estate while he lay unconscious in the same house. He died on Wednesday at the Nakuru Level 5 Hospital, where he had been admitted.
Injected killer substance
According to the police, the doctor injected his two children with a killer substance that took their lives almost immediately. An assortment of drugs, used syringes and a sharp kitchen knife were recovered at the house.
Although the police say that the doctor was behind the murders, his close friends and relatives do not believe the account.
“My brother would never do that. He was not that kind of person and I keep saying that the police need to investigate the matter thoroughly. When he had a problem, he used to share. Nothing prepared us for this,” the doctor’s elder sister, Mary Gakara, said.
A friend to the doctor, Burton Njoroge, questioned why the police did not dust the door knobs of the second-floor apartment for fingerprints when they found the bodies of the two children on Saturday. The police are also said to have allowed people, including relatives, to access the house and even collect clothes and other personal belongings.
“The fact that the house has an automatic lock door that can be locked even from outside should have been the first indication that the police should have, aside from suspecting the doctor, thought of the possibility that someone else may have had a hand in the deaths,” said Mr Njoroge, adding that several people had the key to the house.
Nos sign he was disturbed
Mr Njoroge, who has been identified as the doctor’s best friend, maintained that the deceased did not show any sign that he was disturbed or that he was planning anything sinister.
“We spoke at length the previous night when we had dinner at his house and he was talking of plans to extend his house. He even asked for a plan from me and I gave him. He was also upbeat about his wife’s education,” Mr Njoroge said, adding that the doctor always spoke of expanding his business.
He added that his friend had been happy that his business was doing well and planned to expand it to other parts of Nakuru town.
“He really wanted his wife to study so that she could help him at the clinic. That Saturday, when all these things happened, his wife had travelled to Nairobi to attend her classes at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. In fact, they kept chatting on text till 1pm that Saturday,” Mr Njoroge said.
The sixth born in a family of eight hails from Kirinyaga County, but his parents and siblings had moved to Subukia in Nakuru County.
Dr Gakara, according to his family, was a bright student at the Subukia Primary School. He passed his examinations and joined Mang’u High School before gaining admission to the University of Nairobi’s School of Medicine.
After graduation, the doctor worked in different hospitals in Nyeri and Olkalou before joining the Kenyatta National Hospital, and later on going into private practice.
The Nation has also learnt that before he married Winnie Odhiambo, 29, six years ago, Dr Gakara, 56, was legally married to another woman with whom they had children — the eldest being 20. The woman now lives abroad.
Many unanswered questions surround the death of the doctor and his two children as family and friends poke holes into the manner in which the police handled the matter from the start.
Apart from booking in the doctor as an ‘Unknown Male Adult’ when they took him to hospital, despite having picked him from his house in the presence of his brother in law, the police have not interrogated key people who were last seen with him and have also not extracted the CCTV footages from the Milimani Apartments where the doctor lived.
Additional reporting by Mercy Koskey