Ex-KDF man accused of killing wife, two children challenges court’s jurisdiction

Peter Mwaura Mugure

Peter Mwaura Mugure, the ex-military man accused of murdering his estranged wife and two children during  a past court session.

Photo credit: File | Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

A few months to the end of his trial, former soldier Peter Mugure has challenged the jurisdiction of the High Court in trying him for the murder of his estranged wife and their two children.

The ex-Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) man is facing triple murder charges for killing Joyce Syombua and their children Shanice Maua and Prince Michael in November 2019 at the Laikipia Airbase.

In a civil suit presented before Nyeri High Court Judge Martin Muya, Mr Mugure, through lawyer George Gori, has raised concerns about the court’s authority to try him for the capital offences.

In an application, Mr Gori says the court and police erred in law by arresting, charging and prosecuting a military officer instead of handing him over to the military police, as required by law.

“The KDF has a court martial, which prosecutes military personnel for any criminal offence, including murder,” says Mr Gori.

On Thursday, during a hearing of the murder case against Mr Mugure, Mr Gori questioned one of the investigating officers in the case — Retired Chief Inspector Jacob Muriithi, on his powers to arrest the former major.

During cross-examination, Mr Gori said Mr Muriithi, being a civil police officer, lacked the power to authorise the arrest and detention of the accused at Nanyuki Police Station from November 15 to 18, 2019.

“The detention and imprisonment of the accused were illegal, unprocedural and unlawful. It was a gross violation of his constitutional rights,” said Mr Gori.

Mr Muriithi, however, noted that the law allowed civil police to investigate criminal offences committed by military personnel.

In the 40 years he worked as an investigating officer, Mr Muriithi said, he had investigated and arrested soldiers facing similar crimes.

“Furthermore, I had informed the management of KDF on the investigations I was conducting regarding the accused,” he said.

The court session also saw Mr Mugure, through his lawyer, accuse the police of disparities and lawlessness in the manner in which they conducted the investigation.

Justice Muya was told that Mr Mugure was arrested after he was summoned by Mr Muriithi for further interviewing on a missing persons’ report that he had filed with the police a week earlier.

According to the inspector, he resorted to arresting the accused after Joyce Syombua’s friend, Ms Farizannah Syombua, who had also reported a missing persons’ case to the police, became suspicious of Mr Mugure when Syombua’s phone went unanswered for days.

“Farizannah told me that Syombua had filed suits at the Children’s court at Milimani compelling the accused to pay for upkeep, thus there were some marital disputes that the couple was facing,” said Mr Muriithi.

Further, the former inspector said, Mr Mugure started acting suspiciously when he was questioned on the disappearance of his family.

“I took his phone and found a constant number that he had been in communication with. Upon asking him, I found out that the number belonged to a taxi driver known as Peter Mwangi working with KDF Nanyuki,” said Mr Muriithi.

In his testimony before the court, the former police inspector narrated how he called the number and summoned the owner to the police station immediately.

“I invited Mwangi to my office for an interrogation. This was when he disclosed to me that the accused had approached him on several occasions, asking that he assist him in killing his wife and children,” he said.

Mr Mwangi also told him that Mr Mugure had sought his assistance in looking for a pit latrine where they would dispose of the bodies, Mr Muriithi told the court.

“The two had even visited the Nanyuki sewage next to the Laikipia Airbase where Mr Mugure had lied to the taxi driver that he was looking at the dumpsite as he was to get a contract with the county government for dumping waste at the site,” said the former chief inspector.

In another incident on October 26, 2019, the taxi driver said that Mr Mugure had requested him to buy piriton, three ropes and three gunny bags, but he refused by lying to him that he was away and committed.

During the interview with Mr Mwangi, the former chief Inspector had left Mr Mugure under the watch of a police officer at the station known as Inspector Kiptoo.

He said that Mr Mugure then asked Mr Kiptoo for his phone, saying he needed to get a phone number from it urgently.

“But instead, he formatted his phone to factory settings, meaning that we could no longer access his call logs or messages,” Mr Muriithi told the court.

This, Mr Muriithi said, prompted him to order Mr Mugure’s arrest as a suspect in murder investigations.

However, during cross-examination, Mr Gori faulted the police officer for arresting the accused for the offence of murder before the bodies were found.

“It was unfair to conclude that the accused killed his family based on suspicions and the mere evidence of the taxi driver without ascertaining it first,” he said.

Mr Gori also argued that the investigating officer ought to have placed an Occurrence Book (OB) number, explaining how Mr Mugure tampered with evidence after resetting his phone to factory settings amidst a police interrogation.

After putting him in custody, Mr Muriithi told the court that he requested Mr Mugure’s phone communication data from Safaricom, in an effort to find out what he had deleted, an investigation that Mr Gori argued was done without a court order.

The documents from Safaricom revealed that Mr Mugure had been in constant communication with Mr Collins Pamba, a casual labourer at the air base.

This, Mr Muriithi said, helped in tracking Mr Pamba whom the accused had allegedly promised a job in KDF on the condition that he helped him in disposing of the bodies.

In his follow-up investigations done in Mr Mugure’s room at the barracks, Mr Muriithi said he found Mr Pamba’s identification card, and a school leaving certificate, which Mr Mugure was to use to get him a job.

However, Mr Mugure, through his lawyer, told the court that the documents allegedly found in his room had never been presented before the court as evidence.

During yesterday’s court session, Mr Mugure also told the court that he had filed another application seeking to be released on bond.

This is the fifth time the accused is seeking a bond.

In the application, Mr Mugure requests the court to release him on bond, arguing that all the major witnesses in the case had testified.

“My client can no longer tamper with the witnesses as alleged by the prosecution since most of them have already testified,” Mr Gori told the court yesterday.

Currently, only three witnesses remain — an investigating officer attached to the Directorate of Criminal Investigation’s Homicide department, a cyber-crime officer and a liaison officer.

Hearing of the case continues on November 1 and 2.