Celebrated model and LGBTQ activist Edwin Chiloba had his eyes gouged out, with preliminary police reports indicating that he died from strangulation.
Police are planning to arraign the prime suspect, 24-year-old Nairobi -based freelance photographer Jackton Odhiambo, as they seek 14 days to establish the motive.
He is being held at Langas police station in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County. “Apart from the eyes being gouged out, there were no physical injuries on the body, suggesting that the victim might have died out of choking,” said Peter Kimulwa, Uasin Gishu County Directorate of Criminal Investigations officer.
Last evening, police were pursuing a betrayal angle in the investigations, with Jackton suspected to have committed the act over jealousy.
Jackton is said to have been in a relationship with Chiloba, his close friend, but “felt betrayed” after ending the relationship, Kapsaret sub-county police commander John Odhiambo told Citizen TV.
Jackton is suspected to have had the help of his two other friends in the murder, before stashing the body in a metallic box and later dumping the decomposing body along Kapsaret-Kipkenyo road.
Alex Nyamwrya, the caretaker of the house where the two lived on Kimumu estate, said Jackton called on January 4 on plans to vacate the house.
“I received a call on Jan 4 from Chiloba’s mobile phone, but it was his friend Odhiambo on the line informing me that he was vacating the house,” said Mr Nyamweya in a TV interview.
He said when he visited the house, there was a sofa set and Jackton was to clean it before being refunded the deposit. The two, he said, lived together.
Last night, Uasin Gishu DCI boss Kimulwa, however, said the suspect had not confessed yet, and that investigations were ongoing.
“The matter is under investigation and it is too early to release more details,” said Mr Kimulwa on the phone.
He said detectives were pursuing the two suspects who were still at large and the vehicle used to transport the body.
“It is a matter of time before we arrest the two suspects who were spotted by neighbours loading a metallic box into a vehicle that was later discovered to contain the body of the late Chiloba,” added Mr Kimulwa.
The sleuth said Chiloba’s family had yet to set the date on when to carry out a postmortem to establish the actual cause of his death on New Year’s Eve.
The model’s decomposing body was Tuesday evening found stashed in a metal box and dumped along the Kipenyo–Kaptinga road, in Kapsaret, Uasin Gishu County.
Human rights activists and civil society groups have condemned the horrific killing.
Yesterday, Amnesty International-Kenya Executive Director Irungu Houghton demanded quick action, even as he called for a national debate on such killings, including that of university student Phyllis Jepleting, and the gouging out of Baby Sagini’s eyes.
“Gay rights activist Edwin Chiloba has been brutally murdered. Our opinions will filter his death as a hate-crime, grim murder or another example of a state that failed to protect its own citizens. We have to go beyond arresting serious criminals. Too many of us normalise prejudice, stigma, and violence.
“Sexism, ableism, and homophobia are rooted in destroying the autonomy and independence of human beings we think are different from us. Time to disrupt the normalisation of prejudice and pain in all our spaces,” Mr Houghton said.
Chiloba’s elder sister Melvin Faith and relatives visited the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital mortuary on Friday to identify the body and narrated their last moments with him.
Her brother, she said, had come to Tamasha, a popular entertainment joint on the Eldoret-Kisumu Highway, for a New Year’s Eve party. “He told me this (2023) will be his best year yet. I did not know he would be killed. I want the government to quickly investigate this. He was a boy with dreams. He used to encourage us all,” Melvin told reporters.
A video has since surfaced of Chiloba—wearing the same clothes his body was found in— and some of his friends singing to the popular Kenyan boy band Sauti Sol’s ‘Live and die in Afrika’. Savara, a Sauti Sol band member, had yesterday revealed that Chiloba had late last year reached out to him, telling him of how he loved the team’s music. “I don’t think any human deserves that kind of sendoff. It’s crazy that you reached out to me, even the other day before the year ended. I hope the love that I gave you will stay with you forever. Rest in Peace, Edwin Chiloba,” Savara wrote on his social media pages.
Melvin had told reporters that her brother arrived at the club at around 10pm and left shortly after 1pm. “I chatted to him for about 20 minutes before bidding him goodbye and he left with a friend, whom I did not know,” she said amid sobs.
“All I can remember is that she told me bye sis, we shall meet again. I will be missing you,” said Melvin as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Detectives said Chiloba and his friend arrived at his Kimumu house at 3pm on Monday and there was a scuffle that could have led to his death.
“The neighbours heard some scuffles followed by some silence and two days later, the friend and two other people were spotted loading a metallic box into a vehicle that was later found to contain the decomposing body of Chiloba,” added Mr Kimulwa.
Last year, Chiloba survived an attack in public by unknown assailants. He was badly injured in the face. The injuries included a large cut in his lips and bruises all over his body.
University of Eldoret student leader Evans Kipchumba said Chiloba was pursuing Apparel Fashion and Design and was set to complete his studies in April this year. “We know him as a social and outgoing person. His death remains a mystery to us,” said Mr Kichumba.