Driver found culpable in late governor Wahome Gakuru's fatal road crash

Wahome Gakuru

The vehicle of former Nyeri Governor the late Wahome Gakuru (inset, left). Inset (right): The former governor's driver Samson Kinyanyui Wanyaga.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Gakuru had been in office for 77 days when he met his death in a road crash.
  • Magistrate recommends that the DPP charges the former governor's driver.

The driver of a vehicle which killed former Nyeri governor Patrick Wahome Gakuru was speeding, a Nyeri court has ruled.

While delivering the ruling on Thursday on a  public death inquest that started five years ago, Nyeri Chief Magistrate Alfred Kibiru said Mr Samson Kinyanjui, who was driving the governor’s car on the fateful morning of November 7, 2017, was reckless.

The deceased had been in office for only 77 days when he met his death in a road crash at Makenji on the Nyeri-Nairobi highway.

At the time of the crash, the governor was on his way to Nairobi for an interview with Kameme and Inooro radio stations.

The driver lost control of the vehicle, a Mercedes E250, and rammed into a guard rail which tore through the car.

Apart from the late governor and the driver, the other occupants of the vehicle were his personal assistant, Albert Muchiri Gakuru and his bodyguard Corporal Ahmed Abdi Khaliff.

However, it was only the governor who succumbed to the injuries he sustained in the crash.

In his ruling, Magistrate Kibiru recommended the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge the driver with the relevant charges noting that his actions had led to the occurrence of the accident and the subsequent demise of the deceased.

He said the ruling sought to establish whether there was any foul play surrounding the crash.

From its findings, the court determined that the vehicle was in good condition before the incident and that the driver was speeding.

The magistrate noted that Corporal Abdi testified that the driver was speeding when he overtook a lorry driving in the inner lane.

He said that the driver overtook on the left lane but lost control of the vehicle and hit the guardrail which tore through the vehicle.

Mr Abdi lost his leg and was hospitalised at the Thika Level Five Hospital and the Nairobi Hospital for five months.

Mr Muchiri, the governor’s personal assistant, however testified that he did not witness anything as he was either on his phone or asleep during the journey. The accident took away his fingers.

Corporal Abdi’s testimony was corroborated by three witnesses who were in a police chase car following the governor’s vehicle that morning.

The trio included the driver of the chase car, Peter Mwaniki, a government security officer, Samson Lekool, and a personal security officer to the late governor, Josphat Mwangi alias Baba Maina.

The magistrate also noted that seven police officers who visited the scene after the crash testified that the driver must have been speeding in the circumstances, as it was raining and visibility was poor.

The magistrate further said a motor vehicle inspector based in Thika, who inspected the vehicle, told the inquest that the vehicle was speeding at an estimate of over 120km per hour.

He said the vehicle expert found that the rear side front tyre had been ripped off while the near side tyre was cut and deflated.

On cross-examination, the witness had told the inquest that contrary to the driver’s testimony, the vehicle’s brake pipes could not have been cut before the crash because of the long distance the vehicle covered after knocking down the first post supporting the guardrail.

The vehicle expert further said the first three posts were bent while the others were cleared, noting that the driver could have accelerated after hitting the third post.

Thus, he said the brakes were likely cut after the crash. He further told the court that all the airbags of vehicle deflated. 

This was contrary to the testimony of the witnesses at the scene who told the court that the airbags on the governor’s side failed to deflate while those on the driver's side deflated on impact, allowing the driver to escape unhurt.

He said the driver accelerated through the guardrail which tore the vehicle, entering through the front and existing at the rear.

“The issue of the maintenance of the late Governor’s vehicle was raised, no evidence was tendered to indicate that the vehicle had any defects that could have led to the accident, the motor vehicle inspector testified that the car had no pre-accident defects,” the magistrate said in his ruling.

 The inquest had been told that the deceased was initially supposed to use a different vehicle – a Mitsubishi Pajero – but the arrangements were changed.

The magistrate said an investigation done by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) found that the accident was caused by careless driving.

In his defence, Mr Kinyanjui denied speeding saying he accidentally hit a guardrail to avoid a collision with a speeding lorry. He blamed the governor’s death on late response by emergency teams.

The inquest also looked into the governor’s personal life, with some of the witnesses testifying that the deceased faced political threats and that his family life was troubled.

But while dismissing the claims, Judge Kibiru termed the accusations as ‘mere suspicions’.

He said the inquest brought forth several theories which attempted to connect other players to the accident but there was no concrete evidence produced before the court to prove that the accident was planned.

“Even attempts to connect the estranged wife of the deceased, Catherine Kirumba Karemu, with his death turned out to be speculative without concrete evidence,” he said.

During the inquest, Ms Karemu, now a nominee for the High Commissioner post in the United Kingdom, revealed that she had fallen out with her husband who had filed a divorce suit at the Milimani Law Courts.

The public inquest also heard that the late governor separated from his wife in 2013. The two lived separately from 2008 but at the time of the governor’s death, the divorce was yet to be finalised.

The court was told that the governor also wanted to issue orders restraining his wife from interfering with his peace.

During cross-examination, Ms Karemu denied accusations that she could have been involved in a plot to kill her estranged husband, since their marriage was on the rocks.

The court also heard that during his last days, the governor was paranoid and feared for his life.

Mr Simon Ndegwa, the governor’s nephew, told the inquest that during campaigns, the late Gakuru avoided eating in major hotels and preferred local kiosks for fear of being poisoned.

He said when Gakuru received visitors at his office and was served tea, he would pretend to be drinking without taking a sip.

Mr Ndegwa told the inquest that the governor confided in him that he feared that there were people who would not mind putting something in his tea.

The governor had ordered a special audit in the county government’s accounts because he thought there was mismanagement of resources by the previous regime.

“The governor would tell me that people like the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua would not want the audit done saying he was an interested party in the last regime,” Mr Ndegwa told the court.

The testimony would later see the Magistrate Court issue sermons for Mr Gachagua and Nyeri’s current Governor Mutahi Kahiga to appear before the court as witnesses.

Mr Kahiga had been summoned by the court to clarify sentiments he made during a public event saying that the vehicle of the deceased governor was faulty.

But after seeking a review before the High Court, Justice Florence Muchemi quashed the orders saying the two would not add any value to the public inquiry.

The court was also told that the late governor had fallen out with one of his main campaigners, Mr Kinyua Kimuri.

The court was told that Mr Kimuri wanted to be the governor’s political advisor but Gakuru preferred to have him as the CEC for Water and Environment.

The court further heard that Mr Kimuri held a meeting with some of the campaign team members who were unhappy with how the late governor had constituted his government.

A video clip, presented to the governor confirmed the meeting but Magistrate Kibiru dismissed it saying it was never produced as evidence before court.