Inmate serving life sentence jailed for 35 years for killing fellow prisoner 

Peter Gachau, a life inmate at King'ong'o GK Prison, attends virtual proceedings of the High Court in Nyeri on November 30, 2022, for the murder of a fellow prisoner. He was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years imprisonment.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

An inmate serving a life sentence at the King’ong’o GK Prison in Nyeri has been sentenced to 35 years in jail for killing a fellow prisoner seven years ago. 

Appearing before High Court Judge Florence Muchemi on Wednesday, Peter Hiuhu Gachau (alias ‘Undertaker’) was found guilty of killing Shem Mugendi on the night of August 17, 2015.

Issuing the sentence, Justice Muchemi said she considered the fact that the inmate was killed in his sleep.

“The accused’s actions must have caused great loss and pain to the victim, who was also strangled and handcuffed while sleeping,” said the judge.

The court had found that Gachau hit Mugendi several times with a hammer that he had sneaked in from a workshop where he was studying carpentry.

A postmortem report had cited severe head injuries inflicted on Mugendi.

Prosecutors had recommended a life sentence for Gachau, arguing that he had not changed his violent behaviour.

They said Gachau was serving a life in prison after being found guilty of robbery with violence by a Nyeri court on July 8, 1999.

The court had sentenced him to death but his jail term was commuted to life following a presidential order.

Gachau had been sentenced alongside his friend Simon Njoroge for the killing of a teacher known as Mr Charles Mwariri Wachira in a robbery in Nyaribo on January 13, 1998.

The teacher’s body was found days later floating in the River Honi. His gumboots were found in the home of Gachau and his jacket in the possession of Njoroge.

But Justice Muchemi Gachau disagreed, saying Gachau was holding mentorship sessions with fellow prisoners at the King’ong’o GK Prison.

Life sentence

“The accused has also since presented a mitigation before the court which shows that he is remorseful for his actions,” the judge said.

Because Gachau is already serving a life sentence, the court said that if he appeals the current jail term and it is reduced to a measurable number of years, he will still be expected to serve the additional 35 years he was handed in the new case.

On the night Gachau attacked his fellow inmate, the court was told, prison wardens heard a commotion from their cell. When they responded, they found the inmate dead. On being questioned, Gachau confessed to killing him.

“The accused approached the wardens, saying ‘Nimemmaliza’ before he was handcuffed and the matter reported to the prison authorities,” the judge said.

The inmate’s body was found lying on the top deck of a bed with his hands handcuffed and blood oozing from his head.

But in his defence, Gachau had accused the prison wardens of framing him with the charges while denying the confession.

Through lawyer Douglas Ombongi, Gachau said that the dead inmate, who was a former Administration Police officer, had been seen by a warden using a phone at the correctional facility.

“He was carried away by a warden and beaten up for failing to surrender the phone on the fateful night he died,” said Gachau, adding that the inmate was severely injured when he returned to the cell.

But Justice Muchemi said none of the other prisoners in the cell corroborated Gachau’s evidence.

“In fact, one of the prisoners did not even know Gachau nor the deceased and was not aware of the day the incident happened,” said the judge, adding that the evidence was fabricated.