Cohen’s widow fights off bid to stop her from using murdered tycoon’s name

Sarah Wairimu Cohen

Sarah Wairimu Cohen during an interview at her Njigari home in Nyeri county on June 17, 2021. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Tob’s sister, Ms Gabriel Hannah van Straten, seeking to force the widow drop the name Cohen.
  • The widow claims that Tob’s sister was pushing for their separation and that she used to refer to her as “negro”.

The widow of murdered Dutch tycoon Tob Cohen is fighting off attempts by his family to stop her from using his name to identify herself in a court battle for the control of his estate.

Ms Sarah Wairimu Kamotho Cohen maintains that as the wife of the late tycoon, she is entitled to identify herself using his name, whether he is alive or not.

In her response to an application by Tob’s sister, Ms Gabriel Hannah van Straten seeking to force her drop the name Cohen, the widow says the application is an attempt to divorce her from her husband posthumously.

She claims it is not the first time the family is trying to engineer a divorce, pointing out that during her marriage, Ms Straten used to introduce the businessman, who died in 2019, to white women of Caucasian origin.

“I am not at all surprised by Ms Van Straten’s endeavour to bar me from using my late husband’s name, which is an attempt to posthumously divorce me from him,” she says.

She also denies that she had a strained relationship with Mr Tob, adding that she was married to Tob for 29 years during which time he used to introduce her as Mrs Cohen. 

In the court papers, the widow claims that Tob’s sister was pushing for their separation and that she used to refer to her as “negro”.

“Ms Van Straten did not initially approve of the relationship between Mr Tob and I, which disapproval was fuelled by racist undertones as Ms Van Straten, who refers to me as a “negro”, often interfered by attempting to introduce him to women of Caucasian descent who she deemed to be more preferable,” claims Ms Cohen.

She says Tob eventually began to ignore his sister’s efforts to introduce him to Caucasian women. Later, she says, Ms Straten continued with her interference in the relationship.

“Ms Van Straten was nosy and constantly curious about the goings-on in our relationship, with a peculiar interest in our matrimonial home,” she says.

“She (Van Straten) often bombarded me with hypothetical questions about what would happen to our matrimonial home if Tob and I were ever to divorce, which surprised me as I had not had any such discussions concerning divorce with her. She, however, would often advise me to divorce Mr Tob as he was ‘unstable’,” Ms Cohen states.

She narrates to the court how and when she met Tob, adding that though her maiden name is Kamotho, she adopted the name Cohen with the full knowledge and consent of the tycoon by virtue of her marriage to him.

And since the dispute in court is about the administration of Tob’s estate, which is estimated to be worth Sh700 million, Ms Kamotho is aggrieved that the family wants her pleadings struck out on the basis of the name Cohen.

“Instead of responding substantively to the weighty issues raised by me, Ms Van Straten has elected to file the instant application seeking to have my application dated October 14, 2021 struck out solely on the basis that I have referred to myself in the pleadings as Sarah Wairimu Kamotho Cohen,” she says.  

She further argues that Ms Straten also uses her maiden name, Cohen, as well as her husband’s surname, Van Straten, sometimes interchangeably, including in the pleadings filed in court.

Tob Cohen

The late Dutch tycoon Tob Cohen. His widow is fighting his family over authority to administer his estate.

Photo credit: Joel Odidi | Nation Media Group

“No question whatsoever has been raised by me regarding the Applicant’s use of her husband’s surname as it is obvious that the name Van Straten is her marriage name, neither have I requested a deed poll to prove her change of name, as her identity in this matter is not in question,” says Ms Kamotho.

The case will be heard on June 27 and 28, 2022.