Justice at last: Willie Kimani murder case verdict
Friday July 22, 2022: High court has found three police officers guilty of murdering three men, including human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri six years ago.
Justice Jessie Lessit found police officers Fredrick Leliman, Stephen Cheburet and Sylvia Wanjiku as well as police informer Peter Ngugi guilty of murdering Kimani, the three on 23 June 2016. They will be sentenced on September 23.
A fourth police officer, Leonard Mwangi, was acquitted.
The three victims were abducted from their car as they left Mavoko law courts, where Willie,who worked with International Justice Mission, had gone to represent Mwenda.
Ngugi, the informer, confessed how in a well-planned move, he monitored Kimani and Mwenda before they took a taxi in which they were abducted.
After the case was concluded at around midday, the three were kidnapped and bundled into a waiting car and driven to Syokimau police post, where they were held for a few hours. The three made frantic efforts to catch the attention of passers-by, in vein.
They were then locked at Mlolongo police station and later taken to an open field at night, and executed one after another.
Their mutilated bodies were later found dumped at the Oldonyo Sabuk River wrapped in black gunny bags in Machakos County.
The motive: apparent revenge by police office Leliman because Kimani’s client would not give up his case of assault against him, despite death threats. Neither would Kimani.
Justice Jessie Lessit said the court has noted that Leliman never denied ever meeting Mwenda and even shooting him a year before his murder.
“I find that the first accused had a reason to silence the deceased because his job was on the line due to the case Mwenda lodged at IPOA,” she said. “I find that the first accused (Leliman) is the only one among the five accused who had a motive to kill the Mwenda.”
The court has found that the police have proven beyond all measurable doubt that the Mwenda was indeed harassed by Fredrick Leliman the first accused and he deserved action from IPOA because he couldn’t ride his Boda Boda anymore after that.
For six years,relatives said they had been waiting for justice to be served to get some semblance of closure.
The judgment offers them some solace but it does not bring back the men they loved.
Hannah Wanjiku, Kimani’s wife, and Rebecca Wanja, the wife of his client Josephat Mwenda, said they felt so much relief that the killers will not walk free. “The case has had its ups and downs in the six years and one time before the judge was promoted, we thought we would have to start the case afresh, but we were relieved she was allowed to continue,” Wanjiku said.
The 36-year-old widow has now been left with a role of not only bringing up their two sons which her six years union to Kimani begot, but also the pain of explaining to them how their father was brutally murdered.
With the judgement, Wanjiku can now explain to her sons, the youngest only 10, how their father met his death, while fighting for justice.Even for herself, the trauma has been excruciating. “I have written many letters to him about what I feel. I also go for counseling at the International Justice Mission.”
Stella Muiruri was Joseph’s sister.Her brother was young, promising and ready to start a family. He had made all the important arrangements for his wedding, six months before he met his death.
Stella went to court every day despite numerous adjournments, missing only three days when her brother took her place.
Her brother became overwhelmed and he developed high blood pressure.
“Last year, he succumbed to complications due to the blood pressure and diabetes that he developed after his brother’s death,” his sister said.
Their other brother, Stella explained, is suffering from depression and cannot stand hearing the name of his slain brother, Joseph. “Whenever Joseph’s name is mentioned, he drinks himself silly,” she told the Star, “He then goes to any police station screaming and asking the officers to kill him like they killed his brother.”
International Justice Mission country director Benson Shamala said the convictions will serve as a lesson that no one is above the law. Kimani worked for IJM. “We have seen a model of how cases against police need to be investigated. The collaboration made sure we had a solid case that gave us a conviction,” he said.
He said no one should go through what the Mavoko three went through, he hoped the case served as a deterrent to other rogue officers.
Justice Lessit has analysed a total of 117 exhibits and evidence given by 46 prosecution witnesses and 34 defence witnesses to reach her decision.
The judge had told the court that she had written more than 6,000 pages of proceedings since the trial started and it is the biggest file in her career.
Some of the crucial exhibits the judge has analysed include phone data records, mobile phone companies’ cell sites analysis and DNA samples of the accused persons.
Others are the confession statement given by Ngugi and evidence generated from CCTV cameras from the high-tech Communication Command Centre(C3) and the motor vehicle recognition technology.
In the confession that implicated Leliman and Mwangi, the police informer said Leliman was the one who was killing the victims and Mwangi alongside an unknown officer was putting the bodies in the boot.
During his defence, Ngugi made a further confession orally saying he was used by the officers to commit the crime.
He confessed that the plan to kill the victims was hatched by officers from the Mlolongo police station.
He told the court that after dumping the bodies of Kimani, Josephat Mwenda and Joseph, they were hosted by Leliman and his wife at his bar in Mlolongo.
He said Leliman’s wife, Esther Muthama, also a police officer, served them beer and 5kg of fried beef.