Police probe insurance motive in case of Nyeri tycoon accused of killing son

Stephen Wang’ondu

Nyeri businessman Stephen Wang’ondu, who is accused of plotting his son’s murder, at the Nyeri Law Courts on February 26, 2021.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

A Nyeri businessman accused of plotting his son’s murder has denied the charge, as investigations sought to establish if a life insurance pay-out had any links to New Year’s Day killing.

Mr Stephen Wang’ondu, alongside four others, has been charged with his son Daniel Mwangi’s murder.

Tuesday, Mr Wang’ondu, Mr James Mwangi, Mr Eddy Kariuki, Mr Raphael Wachira and Mr Geoffrey Warutumo appeared before the Nyeri High Court, where they denied murdering Mr Mwangi on January 1, 2021.

Detectives are looking into past life insurance claims made by the Nyeri businessman, fresh details now reveal.

Life insurance policies

Investigators are now said to be looking into multiple life insurance policies Mr Wang’ondu had taken on his relatives, employees and friends.

In fact, he made a life insurance claim barely a month after his son’s burial.

The tycoon is said to have been the one paying the premiums and that he initiated the compensation claim shortly after Mr Mwangi’s burial.

Fresh details also suggest his businesses were struggling financially.

Relatives have revealed that the businessman, who owns more than 100 acres of land, commercial buildings, petrol stations and a quarry, was struggling to keep his businesses afloat over the past year.

Properties auctioned

Findings by the Nation reveal that two of his prime properties in Mweiga town were to be auctioned in May 2020.

This is the second time the tycoon is making an insurance claim after the death of his child, with the first being in 1995 following the drowning of his 18-year-old son, Emmanuel Thuita. The teenager drowned in one of the dams in Mr Wang’ondu’s farms in Mweiga.

The turbulent relationship between Mr Wang’ondu and his son Mwangi had boiled over when the latter’s wife moved into his father’s home after they separated. Mwangi had reportedly confronted his father over the decision to house his estranged wife and even set up a business for her.

The accused will remain in custody after the High Court granted the prosecution two days to file an application opposing their release on bail.

While delivering the ruling, Justice Florence Muchemi considered that the suspects had remained in custody since the start of investigations.

She, however, said the duration was the least that the court would grant and it would not interfere with the suspects’ right to liberty.

Security concerns

“The prosecution has raised serious security concerns about the suspects’ welfare. It’s appropriate we give them time to present their argument,” said the judge.

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions, led by Mr Duncan Ondimu, had told the court that the investigating officer had raised security concerns on the suspects’ welfare.

He requested the court to instead detain the accused in different prisons while the case is being heard and determined.

“I would recommend that Mr Wang’ondu, Kariuki and Wachira be detained at the Kerugoya prison while Mwangi stays at the Embu prison and Warutumo at the Mwea prison,” said the prosecutor.

But the accused, through their lawyers, said the court was obligated to grant them bail or bond after plea-taking.

Investigations concluded

They argued that the police had concluded their investigations and already knew that murder charges would be preferred against them.

“The prosecution ought to have prepared an affidavit opposing the bail application earlier as they were already aware that the suspects would be arraigned for the murder charge today,” said lawyer Mahugu Mbarire.

But Mr Ondimu argued that the court had not given them enough time to write and present the application before the plea-taking.

“The magistrate’s court only granted us five days to finalise our investigations before the accused were arraigned today,” he said.

The hearing for the bail application will continue on March 9 after it was established that the court will not be sitting on Thursday.