How technology helped fix killers in Willie Kimani murder

Police officers accused of lawyer Willie Kimani murder

From Left: Police informant Peter Ngugi Kamau and police officers Leonard Mwangi Maina, Sylvia Wanjiku Wanjohi, Stephen Cheburet Morogo and Fredrick ole Lelliman at the High Court in 2016. Sgt Leonard Mwangi has been acquitted of the murders of lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and driver Joseph Muiruri.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Were it not for the phone data analysis technology and confession by an informant in the murder trial of lawyer Willie Kimani and two other men, the prosecution would have had it rough securing convictions.

The prosecution deployed technology, including mobile phone data records, to nail police officers Fredrick ole Leliman, Stephen Cheburet and Sylvia Wanjiku and Peter Ngugi – an informer – in the case.

The four were yesterday found guilty of killing Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda (a boda boda) and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri in Machakos county in June 2016.

Sgt Leonard Mwangi was acquitted of the three counts of murder. The court said there was no evidence to show he had anything to do with the killing though he had been told by Leliman that he was “part of the operation plan” hours before the crime.

Justice Jessie Lessit, who concluded hearing the case on February 11, said it was the longest trial she had ever handled as it lasted six years.

Seventy two prosecution and defence witnesses were called. There were more than  7,200 pages of handwritten proceedings.

Prosecutors tabled 117 pieces of exhibits.

Justice Lessit issues judgment on Willie Kimani murder case

“The accused had a common intention. I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the prosecution has established the accused persons were principal offenders and they acted in one common intention,” she said.

Justice Lessit said the evidence on analyses of the police officers’ mobile phones and communication gadgets locked them at the scene of murder in Mlolongo.

The data also demonstrated their movement on the mission to dump the bodies in River Athi, Kilimambogo, more than 100 kilometres from the murder scene.

“The prosecution relied on technology, forensic evidence, the confession and phone call data from Safaricom and Airtel. The call sites were captured in the data, handset history, geographical locations and movements,” the judge said.

Mobile phone tracking technology came in handy, as investigators were able to collaborate the movement of the police informer and his confession that he was instructed by the officers to dump the taxi in Kwa Mbira, Limuru.

Investigators also relied heavily on technology to place the accused at all points of interest, including Syokimau police post, Mavoko law courts, Soweto open field (scene of the murder), Limuru, Thika superhighway, Thika-Garissa road and River Athi in Oldonyo Sabuk.

The bodies were found stashed in sacks on July 1, 2016.

Kimani, Mwenda and Muiruri had gone missing on June 23 after being abducted outside Mavoko law courts by Leliman. It was after the mention of a traffic offence case against Mwenda by the police officer.

Ngugi was used by the police boss to track the movements of Mwenda in and outside the court. He kept the officer appraised, leading to the abductions and executions later at night.

“Ngugi confessed that when they drove the three to Soweto, the conspirators argued for three hours whether to kill them. The fact that they argued does not reduce their action to anything less than murder,” Justice Lessit said.

Ngugi said the three were strangled by the police officers separately at an open field on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway.

The bodies were stashed in bags and placed in two cars before being driven to the river on the same night.

He said the three were locked up at Syokimau police post after been abducted.

Wanjiku, a junior officer, was at the report desk.

She allowed Leliman to detain the three and failed to book them, a decision the court said made her become an offender in the murder plot. They were detained for almost six hours.

“She was on duty from 10am to 7.30pm and had the responsibility to book them. As a police officer, she knows the importance of keeping records,” the judge said, adding that obeying orders from Leliman not to book the three was no defence.

The court said Wanjiku should have known there were sinister motives the moment she was told not to book the three.

“If she dissociated herself, her role would have been different,” the judge said.