River Yala Bodies Kin

Ben Chepkwony and Meshack Chepkwony at Yala Police Station after they identified the body of their missing brother at Yala Sub-County Hospital mortuary in Siaya County.

| Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

River Yala bodies: Families identify their kin

Two families yesterday identified their relatives from the 21 bodies retrieved from River Yala over the past three months, ending weeks of painful search for their loved ones.

According to the families, they had travelled from Nairobi but disappeared before reaching Nakuru. They were in the company of their friends.

On December 2, 2021, 37-year-old Philemon Cheruiyot Chepkwony and his best friend Peter Kio Matuku left Nairobi for Kipkelion, Kericho County.

According to Mr Ben Chepkwony, the elder brother of the deceased, they are said to have hired a saloon car driven by one Edu and were four in total during the journey.

When his phone calls went unanswered, his wife got worried and called his brothers just to confirm whether he had reached Kipkelion, but they could not reach him.

They later learnt that the vehicle their brother had used was found abandoned in Gilgil.

Desperate to find him, dead or alive, family and relatives visited all public mortuaries in Nairobi, Nakuru and Karura forest. This did not bear fruit.

They, therefore, visited Yala Sub-County Hospital mortuary as soon as media reports of the Yala River bodies emerged. They broke down, upon spotting the body. It still had his wedding ring and bracelet branded in Kenyan flag colours.

Also identified was the body of Matuku, his hands tied from behind his back. He was Philemon’s best friend in life and now in death.

Philemon has left behind three widows, one in Kericho and two in Nairobi. He owned an electronic shop in Embakasi and a supermarket on Kangundo Road. His family was still at a loss to explain what could have led to his disappearance and brutal killing.

“He never told us his life was in danger and never had a problem with anyone. I wonder why his killers tortured him; his hands were tied and he had stab wounds in the abdomen,” said Meshack, his younger brother.

The families proceeded to record statements with the police. The whereabouts of the other two had yet to be established and it is not clear whether their bodies were still in the river.

The Nation team also found Mr Shadrack Butiya Lairuka, from Lugari in Kakamega, at the waiting bay of Gem police station. He has been walking with his son Stephen Lairuka’s photos looking for him. Stephen, a casual who took up driving assignments, had left Nairobi's Kayole Estate in August 30, 2021, for Nakuru.

According to Mr Lairuka, his son was picked up by his three friends in a hired vehicle.

When the family could not reach him by phone on September 1, they got worried, especially after the vehicle they were in was traced to Kasarani area, Nairobi.

“I was forced to go to Nairobi to look for him at the City Mortuary, Kako morgue in Thika, Nairobi River and Karura Forest but never found him. When I learnt of the Yala River mystery, I decided to come and check if his body is here, but I haven’t been successful,” said Mr Lairuka.

When he went to the morgue, he was keen on a scar that was on his head and hand, but he never found a matching description.

“We are very disturbed as a family. We hope the police will help in finding my son whether alive or dead at least to give closure to Stephen’s wife and four children,” said Mr Lairuka.

Back at the Yala Sub-County Hospital, four other families were looking for their missing kin, praying they are among a pile of bodies stacked at the facility’s mortuary.

Mrs Irene Wahito Kifafa who came all the way from Kakamega in search of his missing brother- Eustus Ndirang and was able to identify his body, ending a four months’ search.

He was reported missing on September 16, 2021 while in the company of two of his friends- one from Nyeri and another from Muranga.

“I was able to identify his teeth and the legs which looked like mine. But I am waiting for the other family members to come so that I am sure and also make plans on how to transfer him from here,” said Mrs Wahito.

Meanwhile, the Yala Sub – County Hospital has issued a notice to the police informing them that their facility is overstretched and may not receive any more bodies from them.

Also missing since August 28 is a Chief Inspector at the Kenya Wildlife Services stationed at Marsabit- Mr Francis Isaac Oyaro.

He too was travelling from Marsabit to Nakuru, when the vehicle he was travelling, was intercepted at Nanyuki by a black Subaru Sedan. He was shoved in, never to be seen again.

“We came her all the way from Nakuru hoping that we will identify my husband whom we have been searching for since August,” said his wife Veronica Osore.

Two other families from Nairobi and Mombasa who visited the facility but did not want to speak to the media, did not identify their kin.

The facility’s medical superintendent Dr Bruno Okal said the remaining spaces were being preserved for regular services.

“Our facility is overstretched and is not able to receive unclaimed bodies from your end. Kindly send any unclaimed body to Siaya County Referral Hospital Morgue or any other public morgue until the current situation is contained,” Dr Okal informed the police.

This statement came even as it emerged that two more bodies had resurfaced at Ndanu Falls, in River Yala.

The decomposing bodies were still tied using ropes, between the boulders and trees to prevent them from being swept by the heavy currents flowing down stream.


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