Nearly 20 years ago, Lydia Nyaguthii, a nurse at Tumutumu PCEA Hospital in Nyeri County cared for a male patient who was a victim of domestic violence.
Mr Stephen Muriithi had been wheeled into the hospital after being scalded with hot water by his wife. The assault case was heard at a Karatina court, but was later terminated under unclear circumstances and the suspect set free.
At the hospital, Muriithi met Nyaguthii and had a second chance at love. After three months of interaction with Muriithi, Nyaguthii’s tender care morphed into love. They married soon after he was discharged from hospital and lived happily, or so everyone thought.
In the two decades since, it seems their love turned sour at some point, and the man Nyaguthii cared for, and whose wounds – both physical and emotional – she helped to heal, turned against her.
Last Friday, Nyaguthii’s life was cut short in a case of gender-based violence, allegedly by a victim of the same vice – her husband of 20 years.
Muriithi is alleged to have stabbed her several times with a knife at their home, killing her instantly. He is on the run, and police have launched a manhunt.
As her body lies in a Karatina mortuary, residents of Unjiru village in Mathira West sub-county, relatives and friends of the couple are reeling in shock.
When the Nation visited the village on Sunday, neighbours were still trying to come to terms with the tragic turn of events, with some describing Muriithi, a freelance photographer, as a “reserved and laid-back” man.
“Muriithi, or Abbas, as we called him, is a close friend of mine for a long time, but it was very hard to understand him since he kept his domestic matters to himself. He looked disturbed, but he did not tell us what was happening,” said Mr Joseph Weru, a health officer.
Mr Weru said he met Nyaguthii as she walked home from work minutes after 5pm. In less than 30 minutes, someone called to tell him about the tragic incident.
“The couple are my neighbours and very close family friends. I met Lydia as she went home from work on that fateful day and she seemed to be in a hurry, so we didn’t talk much. However, a few minutes after we parted, I received the call. On arriving at the scene, I found her in a pool of blood. It was very shocking,” he said.
A fellow freelance photographer, David Gikandi, said: “I have interacted with Abbas for a long time as a colleague and have always known him as a very humble person. When I first heard the news, I couldn’t believe it.”
To her friends, workmates, and villagers, Nyaguthii was the epitome of humility – a kind and loving woman.
“ I know her as a very kind person. I remember once taking my sick father to Tumutumu Hospital. She was always ready to assist,” said Mr Michael Ngatia, a local boda boda operator.
Members of the family were reluctant to give information about the relationship between the two, saying the police should be allowed to carry out investigations.
Mathira West police commander Michael Ndegwa said the Directorate of Criminal Investigations has taken over the suspected homicide case, but no arrest had been made by yesterday.
He said Nyaguthii’s tragic end exemplifies the endemic domestic violence in Kenyan homes as the number of fatalities in marriages continues to rise.