Murders in Kenya: The murder of Nairobi businesswoman Mary Wambui Kori last year not only shocked Kenyans, but also went down as one of the most gruesome murders in Kenya involving a love triangle. Nonetheless, it is not the first crime of passion to have been committed and left the country in utter shock. Take the murder of the late principal of Kiru Boys Secondary School.
In June 2016, Ms Jane Muthoni, mother of three and headmistress of Icaciri Secondary School in Kiambu hatched a “brutal, chilling and cold-blooded” plan, in the words of High Court judge Joel Ngugi, to kill her husband, Mr Solomon Mwangi, the principal of Kiru Boys in Kiria-ini, Murang’a.
Joseph Njuguna, alias Karis, a criminal-turned-State-witness, said in a confession that he was contacted by a woman acquaintance he only identified as Damaris for a “well-paying job”.
For the next six months, Njuguna was part of a murder squad put together by a man named Njiru.
Their first mission briefing was at Tree Shade Hotel near Ruiru on the Thika Highway.
Their assignment: to kill a girl who was an attendant at an M-Pesa shop in Kiria-ini.
The girl was having an affair with a married man, a teacher in the area – who was the principal at Kiru Boys – they were told.
Njuguna was told that the head teacher’s wife — later introduced to him only as Mwalimu — was behind the plot, and that she would make a Sh100,000 down payment.
She was to take them to Kiria-ini in Mathioya the following day.
The following day, Njuguna went to Kimbo Matatu stage near the Ruiru campus of Nairobi Institute of Business Studies, where he was picked up by Mr Njiru who was driving a Toyota Sienta.
On the passenger seat was Muthoni, aka Mwalimu. Njiru was informed that they had to wait for another passenger identified as Gikuyu. Njiru drove Muthoni to Kiambu and returned alone.
At mid-day, the three — Njuguna, Gikuyu and Njiru — parked the Sienta outside an M-Pesa shop opposite Equity Bank and adjacent to Kiria-ini Police Station.
While in the car, Njiru pointed out to them the attendant they were to kill.
“Gikuyu and the accused (who had alighted from the car) asked for sodas (at the shop) and the girl who had been pointed out to them served them. And once they finished, they left,” read the confession to the court.
They discarded the plan to kill the girl because the location was too risky, close to a police station and a bank. They all returned to Kiambu.
Two days later, Njuguna received a call from Njiru informing him that Muthoni wanted to meet them at Tree Shade Hotel.
At the meeting, they explained the difficulties they faced killing the girl and Muthoni gave Njiru Sh100,000 to share among the men.
Mwalimu told them she would work on another plan.
On November 4, at the Texas Bar in Kiria-ini, the group held another planning meeting.
The mission had since changed to the murder of the headmaster.
The new plan entailed spiking Mr Mwangi’s drink with some substance at his house at the teachers’ quarter at Kiru Boys, and once it took effect, Njuguna and Gikuyu would enter the house and strangle him with a sisal rope.
After this meeting, the court was told Njiru was left behind while Muthoni drove Njuguna and Gikuyu to her husband’s place inside the compound of Kiru Boys’.
The unsuspecting husband was walking around the school compound and the watchmen directed Muthoni to where her husband was standing.
Unknown to him, his would-be killers sat behind the tinted windows of the car his wife had driven. Muthoni chatted with her husband before the couple went to his residence.
After some time, Mwalimu returned with bad news: her attempts to drug her husband had flopped. The drugged water turned “dirty” and when she spiked his tea, as an alternative, the drug didn’t work as expected.
Having failed to drug him, Muthoni told her husband that she was driving out to “buy some food” and got a chance to take the killers to Kiria-ini town, where they picked Njiru.
They were all dropped at Othaya town in Nyeri and Muthoni returned to her husband’s house with some potato chips.
The court was told that on November 6, a Sunday, Muthoni called the killers with instructions that they meet at Urithi, near Ndarugo in Kiambu.
She had apparently picked her husband from the school that Saturday and the two had slept at her house in Kiambu.
They were to see a plot that was on sale and meet the sellers.
That night Muthoni succeeded in drugging her husband and the following day she drove the weakened man to his killers.
Mwangi was dressed in a black suit, a shirt whose colour Njuguna said he could not recall, and sports shoes.
Mwangi was dozing off and after he alighted from the car, the same Toyoya Sienta, he went back almost immediately.
Muthoni then called Njuguna, whom she scolded for being “too cowardly to finish the job”.
Njuguna replied that she should kill him herself by running him over with her car, a response that angered her and she drove off without saying a word.
She, however, returned shortly, found Njuguna at the same spot, and told him that she had already drugged her husband and she could not go back to school with him in that condition.
At this moment, Njuguna said he called Gikuyu, who arrived almost immediately.
At one point, Mr Mwangi, the drugs now wearing off, told his wife that he was running late.
Njuguna and Gikuyu boarded the car, with the former sitting behind Mr Mwangi, who was on the passenger seat at the front.
Muthoni drove them to a forest, topped, and said in Kikuyu: “Ni hau”, meaning “it’s here”.
Gikuyu took a sisal rope from under the seat and, from behind, suddenly put it round Mr Mwangi’s neck before they jointly dragged him from the car.
They left Mwalimu behind as they took their victim deep into the woods, tied up his hands, tightened the rope on his neck and hanged him on a tree.
Gikuyu wrapped the body in gunny bags. The court was told that Gikuyu removed his gumboots, hid them in the bush, took Mr Mwangi’s sports shoes and wore them.
Mwangi’s body was recovered a week later at Karakuta coffee farm in Juja, Kiambu County, after a search led by his wife.
The murder deal fell apart after Muthoni failed to pay the killers the balance of Sh300,000.
Their efforts to trace her were unsuccessful because the phone she was using when the murder-for-hire deal was being negotiated had been switched off.
Muthoni has been in custody since November 13 together with Mr Isaac Ng’ang’a.
Another suspect, Mr Nelson Njiru, who was the principal of a technical vocational institute at the Coast, is still being sought and the prosecution has successfully applied for a warrant of his arrest.
While sentencing Njuguna, the judge said the “accused participated in the scheme because of the level of profit he wished to generate from the unlawful killing of another human being”.
“He literally sold his soul for pieces of silver,” he said.
The aggravated manslaughter, the judge said, attracts a punishment that is not less than “anywhere between 10 to 15 years”, but after considering the mitigation, he settled on seven years.
Njuguna immediately broke down, even as the prosecution asked the court to send him to an undisclosed prison since he is a key witness against Ms Muthoni.
So brutal was the killing that Justice Ngugi objected to an application by the prosecution counsel Catherine Mwaniki, defence counsel John Kamau, and Mr Mwangi’s family lawyer Wokabi Mathenge to have the accused given a non-custodial sentence.
The trio had argued that Njuguna was remorseful and had helped the prosecution to unearth the murder, but the judge said although Njuguna did not directly take part in planning and executing the murder, he failed to act in order to stop a murder he was privy to.