Gakuru death inquest put off after High Court order

Mutahi Kahiga and Rigathi Gachagua

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga (left) and Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua who obtained orders blocking their summons to appear at the inquest into the death of former governor Wahome Gakuru..

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The inquest into the death of former Nyeri governor Wahome Gakuru failed to proceed on Tuesday after the High Court issued temporary orders halting the sessions.

When the matter came up before Nyeri Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi, the court heard that the inquest could not resume as Governor Mutahi Kahiga and Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua had obtained orders blocking their summons to appear.

A magistrate ruled last month that the two were vital witnesses in the inquest.

The court had summoned them to appear alongside Nyeri Chief of Staff Paul Wambugu and County Secretary Benjamin Gachichio.

But through lawyer Wahome Gikonyo, the four sought a review of the ruling from High Court Judge Florence Muchemi.

File not unavailable

During the Tuesday session, prosecutors, led by Mr Mwangi Gachanja, said the matter could not proceed as the file with the proceedings was not unavailable.

He said Justice Muchemi had ordered that the file be taken to him following the application for a review of the ruling.

“The matter before the High court is already ongoing and will continue on April 5 for the state’s response to the application,” he said.

Even though Mr Gakuru’s family lawyer, Martha Waweru, said that she was unaware of the suit in the High Court and opposed the application for review, in his orders Magistrate Andayi ruled that the inquest be postponed pending the hearing of the application.

“It will not be appropriate to defy the High Court order that the matter be stayed pending the hearing of the suit before it,” he said.

The officials were supposed to testify alongside Chief Inspector Clement Mwangi from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

Prosecutors said Mr Mwangi, the investigating officer in charge of the case, was in court ready to testify.

But the magistrate asked that his testimony be delayed until the High Court issues its directions on the matter.

“The inquest will resume on May 3 for directions once the judge has heard and determined both the application and the prosecution’s response on it,” Mr Andayi said.

Mr Gakuru died following a car crash in 2017 at Makenji in Kabati, Murang’a County.

Court summonses

Following his death and amid the inquest proceedings, his family last year obtained court summonses requiring the four government officials to appear as witnesses.

Mr Kahiga was asked to appear so he could explain a statement he made after Mr Gakuru’s death.

According to the family, during a requiem mass for Mr Gakuru in November 2017 at Dedan Kimathi University, Mr Kahiga said he had warned Mr Gakuru not to use his Mercedes Benz due to its mechanical state.

Person of interest

Mr Gachagua was listed as a person of interest in a matter the county was investigating.

Lawyer Waweru said the late Gakuru had started investigating a case of misappropriation of public funds during the tenure of Nyeri's first governor, Nderitu Gachagua, who was a brother of MP Gachagua.

County Secretary Gachichio and Chief of Staff Wambugu were ordered to appear as they were the ones who allocated the governor's staff, especially the driver, on the fateful day.

But the four have denied being involved in the accident, saying they came to know about it at the same time as everyone else.