A British businessman who is now to be charged over the controversial death of his wife in Malindi was embroiled in a tussle over property with the family of the woman’s first husband.
Police last Sunday arrested Mr Simon Harold Shiels for the suspected murder of his wife Jecinter Njoki in a 2018 road accident on the Thalathameli-Kaoyeni road in Ganda, Kilifi County.
This follows a directive from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to take over the file. He is expected to appear at the Malindi High Court today. Court documents obtained by the Nation indicate that a fierce property battle between Mr Shiels, Njoki’s ex-husband Amos Okoth Oluoch and his children ensued shortly after her death. The woman’s children, Anthony Otieno and Mary Akinyi, and her relatives, fought the foreigner over the property they claimed belonged to Njoki.
In a case filed in 2018, Mr Oluoch sued Mr Shiels over the ownership of the property worth millions of shillings. Mr Oluoch argued in that case that, although he and Njoki were separated, their marriage was not formally dissolved, and he was still her legal husband, having conducted their marriage under the Luo customary law in 1981.
“We separated but never divorced, so I am her dependant,” he said in court. He did not, however, support this claim with evidence of the Luo customary marriage. The court nevertheless presumed that there was a marriage between them, having cohabited for more than 10 years and had two children.
Evidence tabled in the case indicated that after Mr Oluoch and Njoki separated, she got married to Mr Shiels, and lived with him for some years before her death in 2018. The court documents further show that the Briton paid bride price to Njoki’s parents under Kikuyu customary law.
During the marriage with Mr Shiels, the couple acquired property in Malindi worth millions of shillings. But Mr Oluoch had described the foreigner as a “casual” boyfriend, who took advantage of their separation to date her.
Mr Oluoch had filed for revocation of the letters of administration issued to the foreigner as the administrator of Njoki’s estate.
He presented himself as her spouse, arguing that he and his two children were the rightful beneficiaries of her estate.
“The foreigner is not my late wife’s husband. His allegations of marriage are marred with falsehoods,” he said, describing Mr Shiels as “a tourist”, who did not have a permit to work in Kenya to accumulate wealth.
He said those listed as beneficiaries of his late wife’s property are just relatives, who were not under her maintenance, while some were employees at her hotel in Malindi. According to Mr Oluoch, Njoki was the owner of all the properties that were being claimed by Mr Shiels.
Court records show that Njoki owned several businesses and properties, including vehicles. She worked in the UK and in Kenya, was in the import business and bought properties, including UK Lounge Guest House, in Malindi. Mr Shiels had denied that Mr Olouch had ever been Njoki’s legal husband since no proof of marriage had been produced. According to Mr Shiels, he only got to know of the woman’s son upon her death, while he had known her daughter during her lifetime as her cousin.
“They have no history of our relationship. The deceased had already divorced by the time we met in the UK,” he said in court.
Mr Oluoch and his son had filed separate suits while seeking to nullify the grant issued to Mr Shiels. Mr Shiels won the court case after Njoki’s family confirmed their marriage by swearing five affidavits. Malindi High Court Judge Reuben Nyakundi, who handled the dispute, ruled in favour of Mr Shiels, noting that he had proved his marriage to Njoki. Besides inability to prove their marriage, Mr Oluoch’s failure to claim Njoki’s body for burial after she had died worked against him, ruled the court.
“It is a curious feature of this case that Oluoch would claim the validity of marriage with the deceased but in her death, he did not advance a case to bury her in accordance with two customary laws,” noted the judge.
According to a police report, on January 22, 2018, Mr Shiels was driving a Mitsubishi pick-up when the crash in which Njoki would die occurred. Before the incident, he had gone to the couple’s farm in Kaoyeni village and was later joined by Njoki, who arrived on a motorbike. The two disagreed about an unknown matter. Njoki then left on the same motorbike. Mr Shiels allegedly pursued them with his vehicle and this prompted the rider to branch off onto a footpath. He kept following them and ran over them. Njoki was pronounced dead on arrival at Tawfiq Hospital in Malindi.
A post-mortem revealed that she died of acute blood loss and head injuries. Yesterday, Kilifi DPP Alex Jamii expressed confidence that his office had gathered enough evidence to prosecute Mr Shiels for Njoki’s murder.
Kilifi County Criminal Investigations Officer Noah Katumo said the police arrested Mr Shiels last Sunday: “The DPP asked the Traffic department to withdraw the case it had filed against the accused to have the police pursue it criminally. So we launched our investigations, and the evidence points to murder.”
Mr Katumo said witnesses recorded statements afresh, including Njoki’s daughter and son.
Mr Alex Kahindi, the boda boda rider who was carrying Njoki as a pillion passenger when the accident happened, also submitted his statement to investigators, Mr Katumo said.