Village in shock after newly married woman sets her co-wife's three children on fire

A house where three children were burnt to death by a woman in Losam, West Pokot County.

Photo credit: Oscar Kakai | Nation Media Group

Police in Kacheliba, West Pokot County, have launched a manhunt for a woman who allegedly burnt her co-wives' three children to death on Sunday night.

Cheptokol village in Kacheliba woke up to a disturbing tragedy on Monday morning after the newly married fourth wife allegedly locked her three stepchildren in a house and set it on fire, burning them to death.

Police are investigating allegations that the suspect Esther Chemanda, the fourth wife of Pusiye Domochola, locked the three minors inside the house before setting it ablaze. The suspect is feared to have fled to neighbouring Uganda after the incident.

News of Sunday night's tragedy has remained the talk of the village in North Pokot sub-county. Residents claim that the suspect, who has been married to the man for a year, was not happy with her husband because he used to sleep in the houses of the other two wives, leaving her and the first wife alone.

According to Pokot North Police Commander Victor Nzaka, the first and fourth wives stayed together while the other two co-wives stayed separately.

They were living with two of their co-wives' children who were studying at a neighbouring school.

The deceased children, Kibet Pusiye, 12, Krop Pusiye, 9, and Enock Pusiye, 11, were allegedly locked inside their house where they met their deaths. One of the children belonged to the first wife, one to the second wife and one to the third wife.

Losam Station Commander Felix Lodite said the suspect had quarrels with her husband.

"We have also learnt that she even burnt her husband's clothes a few months ago," he said.

Mrs Chepokugha Pusiye, the first wife, claims she and her co-wife went to a church in Kasei area on Sunday for a night crusade with the children.

"I told my co-wife to go home with the children and cook for them. I gave her the keys to the house, and she showed no signs of anything sinister. We stayed in peace without any quarrel," the first co-wife told Nation.Africa. She says that after the crusade, she went to sleep at her relatives' house in Kasei because it was late at night."I didn't know what had happened until we were called in the morning," she said. 

A neighbour of the family - Ms Julia Cheyech - recalls waking up at 6am to milk her cow when she saw her neighbour's house on fire. She quickly called other neighbours and they rushed to the house to find the bodies of three children. 

"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the bodies lying on the floor," she said. 

The neighbours began to search for the landlord, who arrived later. 

Mr Domochola, the children's father, said he had gone to his other house in Orolwo where he received news of the tragedy. 

"I am not in a good mood to talk.Losing three children at once is no joke. I don't even understand what happened," he said when Nation.Africa contacted him for comment.Pokot North Sub County Police Commander Victor Nzaka said they had launched a manhunt for the missing woman, who is believed to have fled to neighbouring Uganda.

Police said the first woman was pregnant and had gone to a midwife for a massage.

David Korkomur, a relative of the family, said they wanted an autopsy to establish the cause of death.

"We want to know if the women killed the children before burning them, or what happened," he said.

He said no one could save the children because everyone had gone to church except the suspect, who returned.

The four women have been identified as Chepokugha Pusiye, Chepchomu Pusiye, Chemurukei Pusiye and Chemandan Pusiye.

The bodies of the children who died are at the Kapenguria County Referral Morgue awaiting autopsies.