The widow of a Thika tycoon murdered three months ago reportedly over a controversial Sh3 billion land deal has fled the country, citing fears for her life.
Ms Taruna Shah, whose husband Sudhir Shah was shot dead in March by two gunmen riding on a motorcycle in Juja, Kiambu, left Kenya three weeks ago after complaining about death threats from unknown people, her family and friends told the Nation on Thursday.
A five-bedroom bungalow that sits on half an acre in Section 9, Thika, where the couple lived for years until the tragedy shattered their lives has been put up for sale for Sh25 million.
When we visited the home on Thursday, the gate was secured with a padlock.
Even a house manager who had lived with the family for 13 years, Ms Regina Musyimi, left after Ms Shah relocated to London, United Kingdom.
She is now a casual worker at bread maker Broadways Bakery Limited in Thika.
“I have lived with the Sudhir Shah for 13 years. We were one family, until her husband was shot dead in unclear circumstances in March this year,” she said.
“Her health deteriorated and the last I heard from her before she left was that her life was in danger. She never explained from who and why but she believes the people who killed her husband are the same who want her dead for reasons she does not understand,’’ Ms Musyimi told the Daily Nation.
As a pointer to how troubling the tragedy was, Ms Musyimi said Ms Shah never liked talking about the murder of her husband.
On the fateful Saturday on March 6, Mr Shah, a father of two, had left home in the morning and told his wife he was going to the offices of a land company in the Ndarugo area of Juja, Kiambu.
Mr Shah, 68, had been one of the five directors of Ndarugo Plantation 1960 Limited for over a decade.
He had mentioned investors who were keen on buying part of the 150 acres that stretches to Thika Road to set up a factory.
This was the first time he was meeting the investors, he had said.
According to the latest land index report from real estate company HassConsult, an acre in Juja, which is close to the highway, goes for between Sh6.4 million and Sh22 million. This means the value of the 150-acre property ranges between Sh960 million and Sh3.3 billion.
That was the last time his wife would see him alive.
He was shot by a gunman riding on a motorcycle in broad daylight near the vast coffee plantation as he and his associates chatted.
Mr Shah was shot in the neck and in the back of his shoulder. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Thika Central Memorial Hospital.
Nothing was stolen from him.
At the time of the shooting, Mr Shah was with his co-director Francis Michuki, the latter’s bodyguard, Jesse Kariuki, and the five ‘potential investors’.
Mr Michuki is a son of the former powerful internal security minister John Michuki, who died in February 2012.
The family of Mr Shah believes their relative was lured to his death through the lucrative land deal.
“His death is suspect. Why him? No one else was injured during the shootout. Mr Michuki had a bodyguard and we are told he fired back when the two gunmen had left,” his nephew Jitan Shah told the Daily Nation a day after the shooting, referring to reports that a police officer assigned to one of the co-directors had engaged the attackers.
“Sudhir was the one managing the coffee farm for over 11 years after he closed down his motor vehicle spare parts shop in Thika to concentrate on the Ndarugo farm,” Ms Shah, who was with her nephew, added at the time.
When we reached out to her this week to find out why she had left Kenya, she declined to be interviewed.
“Please let me know how you got my contact,” she wrote back in response to the text messages we sent to her after our calls went answered.
‘Taruna Shah left the country three weeks ago for London after her husband was gunned down. She felt her life and that of her family were not safe. Even the property is being sold,’’ Ms Habiba Shaiya, a food vendor operating in the vicinity of the property, told the Daily Nation on Wednesday afternoon.
It emerged that Ms Shah apparently took the threats seriously because her husband’s murder was the second to rock their family.
A few years ago, Tura Shah, a brother of her husband, was also gunned down near Blue Post hotel in Thika. Nothing was stolen from him.
His killers were never found and investigations into the killing never yielded anything, even the motive.
No family member wants to comment openly on the matter either.
So frustrated is the family that Ms Shah and the family never saw the need to report the latest threats to police.
''We see no need to engage the police. In the first instance, when Sudhir Shah was gunned down, no investigations or update has revealed who killed him. Even after Sudhir was killed, the police have never revealed or told us the status of the investigations,’’ a family member told the Daily Nation.
The source asked not to be named, citing previous murder cases and his safety.
Thika DCIO Joseph Thuvi confirmed the family had not made any formal complaint to his office about threats to Ms Shah’s life.
The family believes the killings are linked to the multibillion-shilling land.
Mr Shah’s two sons have taken over the share of their father in the business.
John Gachomo, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) head of investigations, who visited the scene after the killing, confiscated the mobile phones of all the people who were with Mr Shah for a forensic data analysis.
Nothing has been revealed about the investigations.
The Daily Nation asked him about the status of the investigations last week but he had not responded by the time of publishing this story.
A post-mortem examination on the body of Mr Shah contradicted a police report that claimed he was shot numerous times.
Police had reported a fierce shootout between two gunmen riding a motorcycle and the bodyguard of one of the men who was with Mr Shah in the attack at the coffee farm near Thika Road.
“One of them was armed with a pistol and ordered everyone to lie on the ground. But the officer (Michuki’s bodyguard) defied the order after seeing one of the suspects was armed with a pistol. He took cover and started firing at them, who fired back. The suspects were overwhelmed and sped off without robbing the victims,” the police report had claimed.
The family believes this statement was the start of a police cover-up.
This is because the report from government pathologist Johansen Oduor revealed that Mr Shah was shot once at close range.
“Our findings were (that) he was shot once with a single bullet which entered the chest cavity and went out through the lower back,” the report said. The bullet also “injured the right lung with a lot of internal injuries”.
The report added: “We can say that it was an intermediate range. He was shot only once because there is only one entry and one exit. He died of a single bullet injury on the right side of the chest. From the injuries, we think (a pistol was used in the shooting).”
Kiambu is a rich and dangerous county. Murder cases emanating from business deals gone sour, love triangles, family infighting over property and alleged police executions are rampant.