Queries linger over death of murder suspect at Parklands cell

Police spokesman Charles Owino explains how David Mwai, the main suspect in the shooting of Idriss Mukhtar, allegedly hanged himself using his jacket at Parklands Police Station, Nairobi on September 1, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • CCTV footage from the scene led to the arrest of Mr Mwai, who police believe was the man captured firing shots at Mr Mukhtar who was in a car.

  • Mr Owino said only a post-mortem will reveal what exactly killed Mr Mwai.

  • The police spokesman Charles Owino said there is no problem with the cell structure.

How no one noticed that a suspect in a cell at Parklands Police Station had removed his jacket’s lining then hanged himself on an overhead water pipe is a question still lingering in the air, even as the circumstances surrounding the shooting of a former Garissa County official continued to get murky on Saturday.

According to police spokesman Charles Owino, Mr David Mwai who was the prime suspect in the August 19 shooting of former Garissa County’s Finance minister Idriss Mukhtar hanged himself at around noon on Thursday after leaving his cell under the guise of going to relieve himself.

Mr Owino, who spoke after showing journalists around the cells, said Mr Mwai was with two other detainees.

From their cell is a corridor leading to a toilet. Just at the point where one turns to enter the toilet, a metallic pipe hanging overhead, connecting to a tank, was the pivot on which Mr Mwai tied the lining while standing on a water bucket.


But it is puzzling how someone could have hanged himself in a corridor accessible by all male detainees (as per Mr Owino’s message) and stay to a point where he was almost dead without being noticed.

Mr Mwai was spending his second day behind bars as investigations continued on the shooting of Mr Mukhtar, who was in the executive committee in former Garissa Governor Nathif Jama before he was fired in a reshuffle.

CCTV footage from the scene led to the arrest of Mr Mwai, who police believe was the man captured firing shots at Mr Mukhtar who was in a car. The victim was shot in the head and is now admitted at the Intensive Care Unit at a Nairobi hospital.

As Mr Mukhtar, 33, continues to receive medication at the hospital, which is costing his family an upwards of Sh500,000 every day, riddles abound.


From Mr Owino’s press conference, along with the Sunday Nation’s interviews with Garissa Governor Ali Korane, Mr Mukhtar’s relatives and Mr Mwai’s kin, numerous questions beg for answers.

For instance, where is Mr Mwai’s wife? Since Tuesday when she was allegedly arrested with the prime suspect, she has not been seen and no one has heard from her. The police spokesman said she is not in custody.

“When we arrest you, we arrest you openly,” he said, without explaining further.

Also, when and where will a post-mortem on Mwai’s body be conducted?

Mr Owino said only a post-mortem will reveal what exactly killed Mr Mwai — as he died after being removed from the point where he was hanging — but his family has been kept in the dark.


Not only have they been denied access to the body, a fact Mr Owino said “sounds strange”, but they have also not been informed of any scheduled autopsy.

“Police haven’t spoken to them,” said activist Boniface Mwangi, who has been advocating for Mr Mwai’s family.

Another question arises from what Mr Korane told the Sunday Nation.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), he said, had “dismantled all the investigation which has been underway” and that it would start fresh investigations from Monday.

“Something must have come to the attention of the DCI on the way this thing is being run. He must have noticed something very wrong somewhere, whatever it is,” he said in an interview. But Mr Owino said it could not be possible to halt the investigations.


“The investigations are on,” he said. “You cannot say investigations are scrapped when people are in custody. You could only say that if the people in custody were all released unconditionally.”

How did the governor, who has been questioned over his alleged involvement in the case, learn of the plan by investigators? And why does the police spokesman have a different account of events?

Mr Korane, commenting on the death of Mr Mwai in the cells, asked for extensive and transparent investigations so that the real culprits can be brought to book.

He was also categorical that he had no reason to harm Mr Mukhtar, brushing off all accusations as “cooked stories from his political enemies.”

“There could be another story. It is in the interest of every Kenyan to know who is this hitman or hitmen who shot this young man,” he said.


“Why would somebody imagine that I would be involved in harming or eliminating such a person who does not pose any immediate threat, who does not give me any immediate benefit? It doesn’t make any sense to me,” added Mr Korane.

Even with his pleas of innocence, there are questions as to why he has not been arrested, given that some witness accounts point an accusing finger at him.

Mr Owino admitted that Mr Korane is a “person of interest” but was less forthcoming on why he is not behind bars.

“He could be a person of interest but what is most important is: Would we get evidence that would link him or any other person?”

He added: “We detain depending on the evidence. If for example today, I send you to commit a crime and you refuse to mention me, that would be the end of the story, unless forensic or detailed facts link me to the crime.”


At the press conference, journalists also asked about a brother of Mr Korane’s who allegedly bought cars that are being detained as investigations continue.

“He has been questioned by the police, but from my records, he is not in custody,” said Mr Owino.

There are also questions as to whether the infrastructure at the Parklands cells — especially the metallic pipes that are within reach — can aid suspects to commit murder or hang others and thus block the course of justice.

But in the view of the police spokesman, there is no problem with the cell structure.


“The infrastructure is appropriate. We can’t stop you now from crossing the road and killing yourself, can we?” he posed, noting that there are lesser police patrols in cells at daytime compared to night.

From the defence side, questions are being asked on the interrogation methods in use. In a case filed at the High Court in Nairobi on Friday, whose papers we have in possession, a suspect named Mohamud Hussein Aden is questioning the circumstances under which a magistrate’s court allowed prosecutors to detain him for 15 days.

“The applicant is in urgent need of medical attention because of torture which has resulted into the swelling of his genitals and chest,” say pleadings by his lawyer Wilson Mwihuri.