Detectives clutch at straws in search for Sheila Murage's killer

Santonia Court in Kilimani, in Nairobi. A woman’s body was found in a flower bed . PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

Questions abound about who killed Sheila Murage, the woman whose body was found in a flowerbed after a house party in the upmarket Kilimani area of Nairobi last weekend.

Detectives seem to be pegging all their hopes on forensic and circumstantial evidence to decide whom to charge with the murder.

In the absence of a clear motive of the person believed to have killed Ms Murage, or witnesses, detectives are relying on forensic analysis of the scene of crime and the people who were last seen with her to crack the case.

Police are holding Shem Lwanga Mang’ula who, together with two other suspects – Christine Awuor Aluoch and Claire Chepkoech Ng’eno – were arraigned before a city magistrate’s court on Thursday in connection with the case.

The two women were released on a Sh100,000 cash bail each and the prosecution is expected to inform the court on Monday whether it has a murder case to prosecute.

Allowed access

Yesterday, Ms Ngeno’s lawyer, Cliff Ombetta, told the Nation that his client had been allowed access to her house, which police believe could be the scene of the murder.

“The scene has been processed,” said Mr Ombeta.

“The police are saying that they are tracing other people whose identity they have not told us,” he added.

Detectives are heavily depending on a DNA test to lead them to the killer, after a postmortem exam showed that she had sexual intercourse before her death.

They are also relying on locating and questioning other people who were at the party at House Number B03 on the night before Ms Murage’s body was found lying on a flowerbed in one of the corners of Santonia Court, which, coincidentally was also the scene of another famous murder, that of Careen Chepchumba in 2012 - an open case to date.

Similar circumstances

Although the deaths of the two women have taken place eight years apart, the circumstances are similar. They both had sexual intercourse on the day they died and their killers left few hints about who they are.

Additionally, both killers appear to have meticulously planned the killings so well, complete with exit strategies which perplexed both neighbours and security guards at the property.

Santonia Court is guarded round the clock by security company G4S.

Careen, a 26-year-old employee of Kenya Power at the time, was found dead in her apartment on Valentine’s Day in 2012 by her brother after going incommunicado for two days.

An inquest into her death, which implicated former television journalist Louis Otieno, gave a conclusion that she was murdered but police were accused of bungling the investigation.

Mr Otieno, who was alleged to have been in a romantic relationship with the deceased, denied killing her saying that they were friends.

A scuffle

Ms Murage’s body was found early on Saturday. Blood was oozing from her nose and she had visible bruises on her waist while her clothes had been torn, indicating that she may have been involved in some kind of a scuffle before she died.

A postmortem, however, revealed that she had sexual intercourse on the day she died, leading the police to ask for more days to detain Mr Mang’ula. This is as the two other suspects in the murder, Christine Awuor Aluoch and Claire Chepkoech Ng’eno, were allowed to go home on a technicality that since they are women and there is no possibility that the sperms found were theirs.

By yesterday, a review of CCTV footage from the property had not shown if indeed there were other people at house number B03, which is so far presumed to be the scene of the murder on July 16.

DNA samples

Mr Mang’ula’s DNA samples were taken on Friday evening by the Government Chemist in the presence of the suspect’s lawyers and the police. It is, however, unclear if the police will have matched the DNA samples by Monday morning, the day that the three suspects are supposed to be presented in court.

Additionally, it is also baffling why police just narrowed down to Mr Mang’ula, Ms Aluoch and Ms Ng’eno as possible suspects in the murder if indeed there were other people at the party that night.

Ms Ngeno is the occupant of House number B03, the venue of the party.

Mr Mangula lives in another area within Kilimani and was said to have been heading home from drinking at 1824, a nightclub on Lang’ata road, when he was invited for more drinks at Ms Ngeno’s house.

In his statement to the police, Mr Mang’ula said that he fell asleep on the couch at some point during the party due to having too much alcohol and also because he couldn’t go home due to the current night curfew.

He added he was woken up at some point by Ms Ngeno and ushered to one of the bedrooms to continue sleeping. In the morning, he woke up and went to his house only to be summoned at the Kilimani Police Station later in the day.

Ms Aluoch, who was also lives in the same building, said she left at some point in the night and headed to her house. The three – Ms Ngeno, Mr Mangula and Ms Aluoch – all agreed that Ms Murage was at the party but gave conflicting times on when the deceased left the party.

Questions raised

“The respondents’ explanation as to the whereabouts of the deceased raises questions due to the contradiction brought to light by the inconsistencies of their statements,” detective Joseph Nderitu of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Kilimani told the court through an affidavit on Friday.

Since it is now clear that Ms Murage’s death was caused by a blow to the head, the big question is who killed her?

If she had sexual intercourse with her killer, who was he? And if the DNA profile of the sperms found in her vagina does not match with Mr Mang’ula’s DNA, was there another person in the picture who we don’t know yet?

Phones confiscated

Also unanswered is how Ms Murage found herself at the party, who invited her, when she left – if at all she did – and why all those present say they don’t know how she died. All the suspects’ phones have been confiscated by the police for analysis.

“The mobile phones recovered from the respondents were forwarded to the DCI Cybercrimes Unit, which the applicant believes contain crucial evidence that will assist in the investigations of the matter,” detective Nderitu told the court.

Sources close to the investigation have told the Nation that Ms Murage only had one shoe when her body was discovered in a flower bed at the property. The matching shoe was found in the house she was believed to be living in on the fifth floor together with a wig which she had on at the party.

Lived together

It is said that Ms Aluoch also lived in the same house. One of the suspects in the case told police that Ms Murage and Ms Aluoch left the party together. This claim was countered by another which said that Ms Murage left the party alone after having an argument with one of the participants in the party.

Neighbours, however, say that Ms Murage was not a tenant in any of the buildings there but she was a regular visitor.

The claim by neighbours was that the house on the fifth floor of the apartment thought to be owned by Ms Murage belonged to a man who rents it out using the AirBnb website.

“I only see her once in a while,” said one of the neighbours.

Answers needed

So if Ms Murage was not a tenant at Santonia Court, then who was she and what was her relationship with the three suspects?

A search on the Internet, which could have created the profile of a woman whose career is not known but lives a flamboyant lifestyle, reveals nothing on who she was.

By yesterday, the Nation had been unable to find a single condolence message about her on social media. Police Sources, too, told us that her family members had not showed up to assist in investigations.

The answers to who Ms Murage was and her relationship Ms Aluoch and Ms Ngeno who are tenants in Santonia Court, lies in one man whom we have established is yet to be questioned by the police.