Slap on the wrist for girl who killed 10 schoolmates in dorm fire

Moi Girls High School dorm fire

Some of the parents of the 10 Moi Girls High School students who died in a dormitory fire in 2017 outside the Milimani courthouse in Nairobi on February 24, 2022 after a girl who was found guilty of torching the dorm was jailed for five years.

Photo credit: Richard Munguti | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The girl was convicted for the lesser offence of manslaughter although she had been charged with murder.
  • She had denied unlawfully causing the deaths of the 10 students of Moi Girls, Nairobi.

A courtroom erupted in wailing from a convict, as well as from relatives of her victims when the former student of Moi Girls High School, Nairobi, was sentenced to serve five years in jail for killing 10 of her schoolmates in a fire five years ago.

The girl broke down and wailed loudly when the sentence was pronounced yesterday; so did the parents of the 10 girls she killed. Some of the parents collapsed – overcome by grief as memories of the charred remains of their daughters haunted them.

“We were shown charred remains of our beloved daughters. It was so tormenting then, as it is now,” a still grieving parent told the Nation at the Milimani High Court after Justice Stella Mutuku read the sentence virtually after 4pm.

Passing the sentence virtually from Kajiado High Court where she is the resident judge, Justice Mutuku said: “The court is in a dilemma which kind of sentence to impose since the convict was charged when she was a minor (then 14 years) but has now transited to adulthood and now she is 18.”

The judge said the convict faced charges for a serious offence whose impact will last eternally in the memories of the parents and relatives of the deceased students “whose future was cut abruptly by the dormitory fire”.

The judge said the offence attracts life imprisonment upon conviction, but said: “There is no penalty, however harsh or punitive, which will restore the lives of the deceased girls. I agree with the sentiments of parents that the loss is unbearable, torturing and emotionally eroding.”

However, she said, the convict pleaded for leniency and was “very remorseful and regrets her actions”. The judge added that sentences must be retributive and correctional.

“The convict should not be released to the society given the gravity of the offence she committed. The society expects courts to do justice and seen to have done justice for the victims,” said Justice Mutuku.

Big dilemma

Given the circumstances of the case, which are very precarious due to the gravity of impact statements of the parents of the victims and the probation officers reports, she was “in a big dilemma”, said the judge.

The girl was convicted for the lesser offence of manslaughter although she had been charged with murder. She had denied unlawfully causing the deaths of the 10 students of Moi Girls, Nairobi.

Justice Mutuku said although the accused, who was represented by lawyer Stanley Kang’ahi, sought a non-custodial sentence, she deserved punishment. 

State Prosecutor Gikui Gichuhi presented testimony that proved the case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, she added.

“Although the convict did not premeditate the crime initially, she caused a huge loss of lives of innocent girls,” the court observed.

Ms Gichuhi had asked the court to treat the convict as a first offender.

The judge noted that parents of the deceased students were expecting a harsh penalty to serve as a lesson to other students who torch schools with impunity and destroys lives and property indiscriminately.

“Having considered the victims’ parents impact statements and the probation officer’s report from the parents of the accused, I hereby sentence her to serve five years for each of the offences,” Justice Mutuku ordered.

She said the sentences would run concurrently from December 21, 2021 when the girl was convicted.

Parents shocked

Soon after the sentence was passed, some of the parents expressed shock that the judge was lenient with the convict. Parents and grandparents of the victims who spoke to the Nation said a five-year sentence was too lenient.

Mr William Ogolla, a grandfather of one of the victims said,” My granddaughter, who was my darling, and whom I had a lot of expectations for, just perished like that, for a cause she did not know.” 

He recalled: “She came to my house, then bid me farewell, only for me to receive the sad news on September 2, 2017, that she has died.”

Mr Ogolla said memories of her charred remains haunt him to date.

Ms Florence Agoswa and Ms Maryanne Mwangi told the Nation they will forever live with the trauma of the deaths of their daughters.

“I developed high blood pressure after receiving the sad news about my daughter in whom I had a lot of expectations,” Ms Agoswa told the Nation at the Milimani High Court.

The parents said they hope the Court of Appeal will enhance the sentence.

The convict, who wore a scarf over her head, and was in a black dress, was taken by prison warders through the back door of the court to begin her sentence at the Lang’ata Women’s Prison.