Forensics link former Jumwa aide to murder

Geoffrey Otieno Okuto Aisha Jumwa court murder case

Mr Geoffrey Otieno Okuto, the former bodyguard of Gender and Public Service Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa. 

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Forensic investigators have told a High Court in Mombasa that Geoffrey Otieno Okuto, a former aide to Gender CS Aisha Jumwa, fired the bullet that killed Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) supporter Jola Ngumbao during campaigns for the 2019 Ganda Ward by-election in Malindi.

The court was told in detail how Okuto, who was accompanying Ms Jumwa at the time, allegedly stormed the homestead of the deceased's uncle, Reuben Katana, where ODM party agents were holding a meeting, and started shooting.

Crime scene investigator Sikukuu Mayumbe told Justice Ann Ong'injo that an analysis of the bullet casings and the gun, which were sent for ballistic and forensic analysis, showed that Okuto fired the bullet that killed Ngumbao. 

Ms Mayumbe testified that at the time of the fatal shooting, Ngumbao was in a standing position on a slightly raised floor near some plastic chairs, while Okuto, the alleged shooter, was on the move, judging by the distance of his shell casings recovered.

“My analysis and opinions in this report are rendered to within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. This above opinions at this time are based on all materials thus far reviewed. I therefore reserve the right to change or have additional opinions if additional materials or factual data become available in this case,” she said in the report, which was read out and produced as an exhibit in court.

The officer also produced a crime scene reconstruction report that she made when she visited the site where Ngumbao was murdered. She also produced 182 photographs, including those of the deceased, and the spent cartridge and guns that the police suspect may have been used in the shooting and killing of the deceased.

Okuto was charged with the murder of Ngumbao in 2019. He was initially charged jointly with Ms Jumwa, but the CS was let off the hook after the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew the charges against her when new evidence reviewed by the state cleared her of any culpability in the murder. 

On Tuesday, the reconstruction of the shooting incident showed how the deceased was struck down by a bullet.

The reconstruction of the crime scene included the general position of the deceased and the suspect at the time the bullet was fired, the distance of the bullet casings from the body, and the pattern of the ejector casing.

Using various scientific techniques, the investigator analysed the crime scene, the deceased's body, and the blood spatter involved.

“The deceased's left hand was resting on his chest with [his] eyes and mouth open. The deceased’s left T-shirt sleeve appeared to be the target of high velocity (mist pattern) back spatter, indicating that there was an exit,” said Ms Mayumbe.

According to her analysis of the deceased, she noticed an exit wound on the body, suggesting that there will be forward blood spatter within the death scene.

Regarding the analysis of the firearms involved in the case, the witness said that five firearms – one AK-47, three Ceska pistols and one Jericho pistol – were sent to them for analysis.

The analysis showed that the AK-47 rifle was fired at a distance of about 56 metres from where the deceased fell.

“There being a structure, the projectile could not hit the deceased even though the effective range of fire is 300 metres off any obstacle,” said Ms Mayumbe.

The first Ceska pistol, with an effective range of 50 metres, was fired about 27 metres from where Ngumbao fell. As it was in the effective range, the officer said this shot was capable of hitting the deceased.

The Jericho pistol, with an effective range of 50 metres, was fired from behind a house. The officer said that the projectile could not reach the deceased's position because there was another house that could have obstructed it.

The second Ceska pistol was linked to Okuto and with an effective range of 50 metres, police said it was fired three times at 29 metres, 24 metres and 9 metres from where the deceased fell. 

“Being in the effective range of fire, these shots were all capable of hitting the deceased,” the officer said.

An analysis of the bullet trajectory showed that the entry point had a small hole with no blood stain on the sight side and the exit had a hole with blood on the upper left.

According to Ms Mayumbe, the estimated angle of entry into the victim's body was 45 degrees from the bottom to the top, moving from right to left.

“From this trajectory, the most possible muzzle position along the flight paths would be less than 10 metres from the shooter,” she said as she was questioned by State Counsel Bernard Ngiri.

The witness, however, said the x-ray of the deceased did not show any fragment, meaning the bullet passed through and exited his body.

Seven spent shell casings were recovered from the scene, which the court heard was consistent with shooting in an open area.

On the ejector casing patterns, the court heard that Ceska is a right-handed ejector and a casing can be ejected as close as 1 foot (0.308m) to around 13 feet (3.962m).

“Based on this and given the angle of incident, coupled with the fact that the projectile passed through [his body] and exited, it is evident that the shooter was close to the deceased at the time he fired the fatal shot,” Ms Mayumbe said.

The court also heard that on October 19, 2019 at Malindi Sub-County Hospital, the deceased's clothing was visually examined around the suspected bullet hole during autopsy.

During the post-mortem, the pathologist found that the heart, liver and lungs were perforated, while the right lung was bruised.

“The bullet penetrated front right side of the body to the left in a down to up movement. The exit gunshot wound left shoulder was 1cm long, located 9cm from midline, and 133cm from the heel. From the autopsy, the heart, liver, and lungs hit and the bullet exited through the upper left shoulder, this is consistence with the cause of death being chest injuries due to gunshot from a low velocity firearm,” the officer said.

She added: “This implies that the flight path (trajectory) discussed above is indeed from the angle of incident and not the angle of deflection (ricochet).”

The court was also told that four firearms were fired during the riot, but it was Okuto's bullet that hit the deceased.

The other three firearms belonged to police officers attached to Malindi Police Station and the type of bullets fired at the time were full metal jacket.

Ms Mayumbe said the bullets were distinguishable as those of Mr Okuto, who is a licensed firearm holder, were hollow point.

According to the officer, hollow point bullets are special bullets designed to deform on impact because of a collapsible space in the tip of the bullet.

The court heard that a single projectile from these bullets will cause greater overall damage to a target, allowing a greater transfer of kinetic energy compared to a standard bullet.

“The cartridge casing found about 9 metres from where Ngumbao fell matched with those of holders of exhibit marked D as per ballistic report. This is consistent with Mr Okuto having fired at around that place and this bullet having caused the fatality,” the officer said.

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.