Detectives in Nyeri are investigating whether a serial killer is on the loose targeting young girls in Othaya and Mukurwe-ini.
In three homicide cases in the past one year, the children were kidnapped in broad daylight, murdered and their bodies dumped near their homes.
On Monday night, the search for 13–year-old Margaret Waithera, from Gikondi in Mukurwe-ini, ended in anguish when her body was found in River Rwarai, near Ngamwa market.
Margaret was reported missing three weeks ago but details on how she disappeared remain unclear. Police reports show that a missing-person report was made at the Mukurwe-ini Police Station on August 29.
The investigation and search for the Form One student at Ngamwa Secondary School was taken up by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
Locals and police are reported to have combed the Gikondi area for her over the last three weeks, without any success.
The search was called off on Monday evening when fishermen in Ngamwa alerted local authorities about the presence of a suspicious sack on the banks of River Rwarai.
“The fishermen were drawn to the scene by a foul smell that came from a sack. We were alerted and responded to investigate the contents of the sack and discovered that it was the body of a girl matching descriptions of the victim,” Mukurwe-ini sub-county police Commander Jesse Mwakiria told the Nation on Tuesday.
Because the body was partially decomposed, police said that a preliminary analysis did not reveal any physical injuries on the victim.
However, the police boss said they could not rule out that the girl was defiled before being killed.
“Given the nature of the case, we cannot rule out the possibility of sexual assault. But the cause of death and what actually happened to her will be revealed through an autopsy,” Mr Mwakiria said.
With the body found, detectives have now closed the missing-person file and the case is now a murder investigation.
The body was found a few hundred metres from her home, suggesting that it was dumped there after she was killed elsewhere, as locals had searched that very location multiple times.
The investigation into Margaret’s murder is likely to be enjoined to enquiries into the killings of two other minors, one reported barely two weeks ago and another a year ago.
Sharlene Wangui was also abducted from her home in Gakira village, also in Gikondi, and killed by an unknown person.
Police reports say that a bearded man wearing a mask and carrying an umbrella lured the child away as she was playing with her friends near her home on August 16.
A report was made to police on the same day, prompting a search in the area, but without success.
On September 8, the lifeless, decomposing body of the child was found stuffed in polythene bags near her home.
An autopsy was inconclusive on the cause of death, owing to the extensive decomposition.
Because of the similarity of the cases, police now suspect they could be looking for the same killer.
“We are already looking into the two cases and they are very similar. It could be the same person or people. But we have made substantial progress already and have very strong leads,” said Mr Mwakiria, the Mukurwe-ini police boss.
In yet another similar case, police are yet to solve the gruesome murder of a four-year-old girl in Chinga, Nyeri County, a year ago.
Sylvia Wanjiru had disappeared from her grandparents’ home on October 31, 2020.
Relatives say that she had been playing outside with other children but disappeared. Her body was found floating in the River Chinga two weeks later.
An autopsy seen by the Nation shows that the child was sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times and beaten.
She suffered a broken limb and skull and three stab wounds.
The medical examiner concluded that Sylvia died from “severe head, chest, abdominal and genital injuries secondary to sharp and blunt trauma”.
Nyeri South police boss Serah Koki said no arrests had been made.
Given the locations of the three murders, detectives say they will not rule out that they are related and could have been perpetrated by the same person.