The high number of suicides, murders and abortion cases reported in Tharaka Nithi County in the past few weeks is alarming experts.
Security officers, psychologists and clerics are pondering the trend as at least five people were reported dying by suicide and were four killed in cold blood within a week.
On Sunday night, a woman in Kiriani, Maara sub-county, reportedly took her own life by hanging, while a man in Ngonya, Tharaka, hit his wife with a rock in the head, leaving her for dead.
Ms Nanoa Wanja lay unconscious in a trench near Ngonya market before being taken to Marimanti Level Four Hospital, as police sought her husband Mutuma Nkunyu, who was on the run.
Police also took the body of the Kiriani woman to Chuka County Referral Hospital mortuary and started investigating the case.
Last week started with a 42-year-old man in Ruguti village, Igambang’ombe sub-county taking his own life by hanging on Sunday night over domestic squabbles.
Mr Jose Kimathi reportedly left a suicide note, explaining that he decided to take his own life after his wife, Regina Kawira, declined to stop cheating on him.
Mr Kimanthi said his wife had been going out with other men and efforts to stop her had failed, and that he could not live with the shame.
On Monday morning, the body of Moses Kirimi, a Chuka University architect and head of the Estates Department, was found in a pool of blood at the parking lot of his homestead, while the body of his wife, Pamela Wanja, was discovered later hanging from a balcony in the couple’s four-storey building.
Maara sub-county Police Commander Mohammed Jarso said initial investigations indicated that the wife killed the husband by hitting him with a metal rod in the head several times before taking her own life.
CCTV footage taken from the building had captured the scuffle that happened on Sunday night. Police also discovered a suicide note believed to have been written by the woman in which she apologised to the couple’s three children for the deaths.
On Tuesday, a senior police officer at the Chogoria Police Station in Maara sub-county reportedly hanged himself in his rented house in Chogoria town.
Tharaka Nithi County Police Commander Donatha Chali Kiplagat said the police inspector had not left a suicide note and that it was not possible to immediately establish why he decided to end his life.
The following day, a 13-year-old boy in Kangutu village in Mariani location reportedly hanged himself in his room.
Meru South sub-county Police Commander Eunia Onyancha said the body of the Standard Seven boy at Salama Academy was discovered by his mother at around 7am. He had not left a suicide note.
The same day, a man was found murdered and his body thrown into the Maara River in Maara sub-county.
On Thursday, a fetus was found floating in the Maara River, near Kathwana. It was believed to have been aborted and dumped there.
On Friday, a man from Tumbura location in Tharaka South sub-county was stabbed to death over a roasted fish.
Matakiri location Chief Emmanuel Kibunjia said Mr Nicholas Mwiti Nthiga, a fishmonger, reportedly killed Mr Geoffrey Mukundi Makara at around 6pm by stabbing him twice in a scuffle over a fish.
Local administrators, police and religious leaders attribute the cases to family conflicts due to infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse, especially among the youth, and money-related stress caused by hard economic times.
Bishop Dr Mutegi Rindiri says most domestic killings are a result of marital issues and hard economic times.
He says that instead of seeking guidance and counselling from experts, depressed spouses opt to kill each other or take their own lives, leaving their children and relatives suffering.
“The number of murder and suicide cases reported in our county in the last few weeks is worrying. Spouses should seek counselling and if they cannot settle their disputes, they [should] divorce instead of killing each other or taking their own lives,” said Dr Rindiri.
He said parents must listen to their teenage children and address their needs and not handle them like small babies.
Ms Kiplagat argues that people are stressed due to economic problems and this could be a major cause of suicides and murder cases.
But she advised stressed people to seek psychological support from experts and not terminate their lives.
"Police work is generally stressful, but officers facing extreme challenges should seek guidance and counselling. People are also stressed due to the difficult economic times," said Ms Kiplagat.
Dr Alice Waithira, a counselling psychologist, also attributes the murders to unresolved marital conflicts, financial difficulties and addiction to drugs.
She says people have made infidelity a fashion and freely go out with their opposite-sex social media friends without caring about the feelings of their spouses.
“Most of these cases are a reflection of moral decay in society, spouses don’t respect the marriage institution,” Dr Waithira said.
Mr Kinyua Riungu, the children’s officer in charge of Tharaka constituency, says poverty is partly to blame for abortions and child abandonment cases, while Njuri Ncheke blames these on moral decay.
Some 12 newborn babies have been discovered dumped in various parts of the county in the last few months, said Tharaka Nithi County fire and rescue team manager Alex Mugambi.