Sarah Wairimu Cohen, the widow of the late Dutch tycoon Tob Cohen, has claimed that her husband was murdered and dumped in a septic tank at their home while she was being held in custody. In a petition challenging her prosecution over Cohen’s murder, Sarah Wairimu claimed that the businessman was murdered by people who are well known but enjoying the protection of officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. “My husband was murdered by people who wanted to grab our Sh. 500 million matrimonial home in Kitisuru. They had me arrested on August 28, 2020 then colluded with investigators to implicate me after planting his body in a septic tank while I was in custody,” she swore.
But this is a narrative that detectives are not buying. According to an investigative report that appeared in the Daily Nation, the murder case was unraveled by the DCI following a tracing of phone calls, meetings, and digging through a web of lies that was executed by Ms. Wairimu and her acquaintances.
“Evidence now with the police indicates that on the morning of July 19 — and on the day the water tank was emptied, Ms Wairimu placed a call to Peter Njoroge Karanja — the estranged husband of Gilgil MP Martha Wangari. Both Mr Karanja and Ms Wairimu were going through divorce proceedings over domestic violence at the High Court in Nairobi. They were also alleged to be lovers. Mr Karanja, who was then in Gilgil town, told police that he drove his Subaru, registration number KCF 356T, for the two-hour drive after he was summoned by Ms Wairimu. For what? “Business,” he told detectives. By using the phone tracking technology, the two forensic experts assigned to the case found that Mr Karanja then called and picked another man in Naivasha and the two drove to Nairobi together. Police are now hunting for this suspect who is on the run. At around 10am, after a series of phone calls to Ms Wairimu and which were easily tracked, the three converged at a well-known restaurant in Westlands for a breakfast meeting. They were captured on CCTV. The bill was paid by Ms Wairimu who left in a hurry. Later on, the two men had a meeting with the daughter of a late Cabinet minister from Mt Kenya region and they ate lunch together at another popular restaurant. It was paid by the woman (name withheld), who is also being sought for interrogation.” says the report on the Tob Cohen murder in the Nation that was written by Nation’s journalist John Kamau.
“Sarah Wairimu Cohen told them her home had been raided by gangsters,” an informant said. By the time the Spring Valley police arrived — their counterparts from Parklands had left and with instructions from their boss: both Cohen and Ms Wairimu should be taken to court that coming Monday, July 22, since each had a P3 form — a police chit that acts as evidence that a violent act occurred and is admissible in court as evidence. A few days earlier, Cohen had also written to the Inspector General of Police and to the Director of Public Prosecutions alleging that police officers from Parklands Police Station had failed to arrest Ms Wairimu, but instead wanted to press charges against him.
“ … Aimed not only at soiling his reputation but also having him deported from Kenya so that his properties become free and available to Sarah Wairimu Kamotho and her accomplices,” a letter from Cohen’s lawyer, Mr Danstan Omari, read.
The story had been picked by various news outlets and Ms Wairimu had sent the links to Mr Karanja on the morning of July 19. Why? Nobody knows. Mr Karanja’s version of the story is that after the morning meeting with Ms Wairimu and on his way back to Naivasha and near Limuru town, he was asked to drive back to Mr Cohen’s home since Wairimu’s life was in danger. Mr Karanja told detectives that he reached Cohen’s home at 4pm and they found a wealthy former Nairobi county government official — who had driven in a Lexus. In the compound were four policemen who had come to arrest Sarah Wairimu Cohen.
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After the Spring Valley police officers left on the afternoon of July 19, and without arresting Cohen — detectives were told that he was “very angry, annoyed and disturbed.” He entered his Mercedes car, registration number KAD 858S, and drove to Muthaiga Golf Club, where he was a member — and started drinking.
Mr Karanja told detectives that after Cohen left, he drove out with his friend and he headed back to Naivasha where he dropped off his friend at a hotel. He then drove to another Naivasha restaurant, but before he settled down, he got a call from Ms Wairimu. The time was now 8pm. “He was asked to return to Nairobi urgently,” a detective familiar with the interrogation says.
Alone, Mr Karanja reached Nairobi at around 10.30pm. But rather than drive to Cohen’s home — he told police that he drove to Parklands Sports Club, took a computer bag and walked outside to look for a taxi. Why? Nobody knows. The man, now in police custody, told detectives that upon reaching Cohen’s house at about 11.15pm — the gate was opened by an “unknown man”. He told police that he entered the house through the kitchen door and sat in the TV room, took tea with Ms Wairimu and had “a 30-minute business discussion”. It was now midnight and he asked to leave. But he had no car.
Detectives were intrigued by this story: why would a man leave Naivasha and drive 100 kilometres to Nairobi at midnight for a 30-minute talk with somebody’s wife? Why did he leave his car at Parklands Sports Club? By this time, Cohen was at the Muthaiga Golf Club, drinking and worrying. He had spoken to Mr Muiruri at about 10pm who advised him to keep safe. But inside Muthaiga Golf Club was Ms Wairimu’s best friend — a well-known socialite who kept watch on Cohen’s movements. “This woman kept in touch with Ms Wairimu that night and had called her several times from Muthaiga,” says a detective familiar with the case.
The woman, who comes from a prominent Kiambu family, is also being sought. While Mr Karanja had initially told police that he walked out of Cohen’s compound at midnight, took a matatu to city centre and a boda-boda to K1 bar in Parklands — his phone data indicated that he spent the night at Cohen’s home until the morning of July 20. Asked about these inconsistencies, Mr Karanja, in his statement to the police, said he left his two phones and the laptop bag with Sarah Wairimu Cohen but forgot to switch them off.
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“That story is not adding up,” a detective said on the Tob Cohen murder. “Phone data indicates that all night — and the early morning, Mr Karanja’s phone was in contact with other people — who are also being sought.” At K1, Mr Karanja had told police, he took Southern Comfort until 4.30am when he walked to the nearby Parklands Sports Club and slept in his car till morning. Police have not found any CCTV footage to back this claim.
Mr Karanja insisted to the police that after washing his face at Parklands, he left his car and took a matatu to Cohen’s place — to ostensibly pick his laptop bag and two phones. That morning, Ms Wairimu sent Mr Karanja some Sh10,000 — and forensic data indicates that it was sent while the two were together in the house. He further claims to have taken a matatu to Parklands, picked his vehicle and left for Gilgil. In one of the WhatsApp communication on the evening of July 20 — and now with the police — Ms Wairimu asks Mr Karanja: “How is your hand now, is it improving?” Mr Karanja replied: “It is improving.” Cohen’s workers had also told police stories that did not add up. While the two had claimed that they saw Cohen leaving the compound on the afternoon of July 20, they changed their story when police confronted them with forensic data on their phone locations at 2pm when they alleged to have been at the compound.
One of the workers, initially fired by Cohen, had been summoned from Kayole and arrived at Cohen’s house at around 3pm — while the other never worked during weekends. They told police they had been “coached” on what to say — and started spilling the beans leading to the arrest of Ms Wairimu. This also followed a detailed forensic analysis report written by detectives after analysing data on various people in touch with Ms Wairimu on the day Cohen disappeared.
But detectives had run into a major hindrance. After interrogating various people, they had not found Cohen’s body and Ms Wairimu had refused to talk. The defence had got an order that Ms Wairimu, while under arrest, should not be questioned. She also refused to give her phone’s pin number and screen pattern — thus denying forensic experts a chance to analyse her data.
On August 3, Mr Karanja was advised by Ms Wairimu to switch off his two phones — and “buy mulika mwizi” since detectives were on his trail. The “mulika mwizi” referred to a cheap phone and this message from Ms Wairimu was retrieved from Mr Karanja’s phone by the forensic team. As Ms Wairimu is taken to court to plead to murder charges, police will this morning be seeking more time to hold Mr Karanja — the man who spilled the beans on where Cohen’s body was dumped.
Police sources indicate that on Friday morning, the police had prepared charges against Mr Karanja, and just as he was about to be taken to court he asked to reveal something: the whereabouts of Cohen’s body, which was to mark the end of a lengthy search. Ever since he filed for divorce — and filed assault complaints against his wife — Cohen had expressed his fear to his only sister, Gabrielle Van Straten, and to Former MP Patrick Muiruri.
When Cohen did not call on the morning of July 20, Ms Van Straten panicked and reported the matter to Dutch police that her brother could be in danger. But by the time she was reporting that her brother was in danger, Ms Wairimu had a day earlier sent a letter to the Dutch Embassy in Nairobi dated July 18, 2019 seeking “help” and saying that Tob has “depression and a mental condition he won’t address for personal reasons”. She wanted them to intervene.
Interestingly, on July 22, Sarah Wairimu Cohen had reported Cohen as missing at Kilimani Police Station where the matter was booked in the occurrence book. She had also left the homestead and was staying in hotels. It was not until July 25, after the Nairobi embassy had received a note from Amsterdam, that they invited Sarah Wairimu Cohen seeking to know the whereabouts of her husband — and about her letter. “He said he was going to Thailand,” Ms Wairimu is alleged to have told the two Dutch embassy officials. Thereafter, she left and the two Dutch officials went to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and raised the matter.
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“They (Embassy officials) never helped me,” Ms Wairimu had told this writer before she was arrested and charged with murder. At Kiambu Road, Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti assembled a team of four detectives from both the homicide and forensic departments to help unravel the puzzle of the missing Dutch tycoon. “It was a very complex case,” says Mr Kinoti. Cohen’s two workers had separately told the police that Cohen left home on the afternoon of July 20 wearing blue jeans and with his briefcase.
They claimed that he was picked up at the gate by a white car. By the time they were being interrogated by police, Ms Wairimu was away in Nyeri — and she repeated the same story. “She was very composed,” a detective handling said. Cohen married Sarah Wairimu Cohen on May 30, 2007 after the death of his wife. But later, according to divorce papers filed in court, the marriage turned rocky, abusive and abrasive. On Friday, Cohen’s body, wrapped in a black polythene bag, with a rope around his neck and his hands tied in the front, was retrieved from the water storage tank.”