For Simon Karathe, it was a fatal attraction. He met Ms Emma Wanjiru in May 2015 and on Boxing Day of that year, he was dead. Wanjiru now awaits sentencing at the Ngong Law Courts after Justice Reuben Nyakundi found her guilty of murdering Karathe, who would have been 62 today.
Witnesses in the trial painted the picture of a troubled union and a chilling murder. By the time Karathe met Wanjiru, he had been separated from his wife of 26 years.
He was selling building equipment at Nalepo centre in Kiserian town.
They had met in a Kiserian church where both were worshipping but later lost contact when Karathe moved to a different church. They later met in Nalepo where the businessman was based.
It was a convenient arrangement for the couple as Karathe was single while Wanjiru was a single mother of a son she had had in her early 20s.
Soon, Karathe took Wanjiru to his home in Oloosurutia and they started living together. And that is where the problems started.
In his evidence before Justice Nyakundi, Karathe’s younger brother, Patrick Gitau Mungai, narrated how his brother had confided in him that his new wife had resorted to threatening him, bragging that she had murdered a white man in Mombasa and got away with it.
Such was the potency of Wanjiru’s threats that “Karathe moved out of his main house and got into a rental house,” Mr Mungai told the court.
In his testimony, the local chief narrated how Karathe went to his office to report the dispute.
According to chief Domisiano Kimiri of Oloosurutia location, Karathe said he wanted nothing to do with Wanjiru and requested she be kicked out of his compound.
Wanjiru, on her part, reportedly told the chief that she had no problem leaving Karathe’s compound if only the man could refund her some Sh35,000 he allegedly owed her.
“Part of the money, Wanjiru alleged, had been hidden in a cushion of a seat that Karathe had taken with him to the rental house,” the chief testified.
The other Sh15,000, she claimed, was money she had loaned Karathe to boost his business in Nalepo.
The chief further testified how Karathe initially disputed Wanjiru’s claims but later agreed to pay her off in order to settle the matter once and for all.
The chief then directed Wanjiru to vacate the residence, but she kept on giving excuses to delay her departure, the court heard. This was in July 2015.
Karathe, in desperation, went to Milimani Courts in Nairobi and an eviction notice for Wanjiru was issued on November 28, 2015. Unfortunately for Karathe, the lawyer who had obtained the eviction order got an emergency at his rural home and had to dash there.
The lawyer came back to Nairobi in January 2016, but by then Karathe was dead and buried. And the circumstances of the death were chilling.
Court records show Wanjiru reported the death to Kiserian Police Station on Boxing Day 2015. In her report, she claimed she heard some commotion in a neighbour’s house where two men were fighting and that one of them was almost being killed.
CAUSE OF DEATH
While she was still at the police station, members of Karathe’s family also came to report the matter. They implicated Wanjiru and she was put in police custody.
Investigations were led by Constable Jackson Bitok. Court records show when police arrived at the crime scene, they found Karathe’s body on the floor of the house he had moved into.
Police found a cup containing a white substance. There was also an empty sachet with the label “Agrinate 90” — which is a pesticide. There was foam coming out of Karathe’s mouth and visible leg injuries.
Back at the police station, Constable Bitok brought fresh water and asked Wanjiru to wash her hands. The cup, the sachet and the water Wanjiru used to wash her hands were taken to the Government Chemist for tests. Also tested was Karathe’s liver and blood samples.
When results came out on May 6, 2016, they revealed residues of the chemical were found in Karathe’s blood, liver, stomach and the water used to wash Wanjiru’s hands.
Post-mortem results indicated the cause of death was the chemical and a fracture on his head, which was a result of impact from a blunt object.
Wanjiru was charged with the murder of Karathe at the High Court in Kajiado. The first hearing was May 6, 2016. She denied the charge. The prosecution, led by Alex Akula, brought 11 witnesses who included Mr Mungai and his sister-in-law, Ms Jane Wambui.
It was Ms Wambui who placed Wanjiru at the scene of crime. Court records show on the fateful morning, Ms Wambui had sent her daughter, Anna Njoki, who is in her early 20s, to a nearby shop. It was while on her way to the shop that she heard strange noises coming out of Karathe’s house. The road is just behind the houses.
GUILTY OF MURDER
Alarmed, she dashed back to tell her mother what she had heard. Mother and daughter rushed to Karathe’s compound. It is then that Ms Wambui saw Wanjiru standing next to the latrine, about 20 metres away from where Karathe was staying. Wanjiru disappeared from the compound when she realised that Ms Wambui had seen her, according to the testimony.
The court heard that the two then rushed to Karathe’s house where they found a man identified as Anthony Maina, forcing some liquid in a cup into Karathe’s mouth.
Ms Wambui knew Maina, aka Rasta, as Wanjiru’s boyfriend. Cornered, Rasta chased the two away with a panga. He then disappeared. He has never been seen again. Mr Mungai testified that the plan was for Karathe’s death to appear like suicide.
In her defence, Wanjiru told the court that on the morning Karathe died, she had just come back from the shop to buy chicken feed. She claimed that she found Ms Wambui at Karathe’s gate and that Ms Wambui started screaming to the effect that she (Wanjiru) had killed Karathe.
She failed to give details of the shopkeeper from whom she bought chicken feed.
When he delivered his judgement on November 21 at Ngong Law Courts, Justice Nyakundi found Wanjiru guilty of murdering Karathe based on Ms Wambui’s evidence, which placed her at the scene of crime and the fact that residues of the chemical that killed Karathe were found on her hands.
Sentencing was slated for Friday, December 1, but was postponed to December 11, when the probation report will be produced in court.