Gilbert Kapule Oketch strangled his wife Caroline Mwanza Mutunga before placing a hot iron box on her face, chest and thighs, killing her six years ago. The former finance officer at a local media house murdered his wife after suspecting that she had been cheating on him.
While sentencing Oketch last month, the judge who was hearing the case challenged the government and other relevant authorities to come up with interventions to stop the rising number of deaths resulting from domestic violence. Oketch is now serving a 30-year jail term.
Justice Roselyn Korir said when a man or woman takes away the life of a partner with malicious intent, that is murder, not domestic violence. Murder is punishable by death, but judges now have the discretion of meting out an appropriate sentence after the Supreme Court ruled that the death sentence was not mandatory.
“No man or woman should have to die in the hands of their spouse or partner or lover and particularly in a manner suggestive of cold-blooded slaughter in the name of domestic violence,” she ruled.
Justice Korir said the society ought not to watch helplessly as domestic violence assumes catastrophic proportions.
“As I sign off this judgment, I must yet again make the call to the relevant State and non-State actors, including the civil society organisations, religious ones and the society in general, to design interventions to stem escalation of domestic violence that continues to cause loss of life in the home,” said Justice Korir on October 5.
The court was told that Ms Mutunga and Oketch had cohabited as husband and wife for a year, but were in the process of formalising their customary union. On the fateful day, February 2, 2012, at Nairobi’s Umoja Innercore estate, Oketch killed his wife and then sent a message to his parents-in-law asking them to collect her body. He also requested them to have him buried next to her when he dies. He claimed that he loved her very much.
His brother and brother-in-law found Ms Mutunga’s body lying on the floor of their bedroom. The body had injuries on the neck as well as the iron burns. Oketch has also tied her up with a maroon tie. On finding the body, the two alerted a caretaker and the police who took the body to Chiromo mortuary the next day. Police told the court that an iron box was near the body and that the house had blood stains.
Oketch was arrested on the Malaba border on October 31, 2012, eight months after the murder, and was first arraigned in court on November 14, 2012. The case took six years to conclude.
In his sworn statement, he admitted that he had quarrelled with his wife several times and that her mother had intervened by taking them to a witch doctor in a bid to save their union.
According to him, on the day he committed the offence, he was going for a work-related assignment in the evening, but when he returned home, he saw a man rushing out of his house. He said he rushed into his house, picked a knife to chase after the man but his wife prevented him from doing so and that was how they had ended up fighting and she died.
He told court that during the fight, Ms Mutunga fell against the wall and he realised that her neck was loose hence removed his tie and put it around it her to support it.
However, the judge dismissed his defence, saying the explanation was unbelievable as there was clear evidence from witnesses who saw the body as well as the post-mortem report.
According to the pathologist’s report presented by Dr Johansen Oduor, Ms Mutunga’s face was swollen and she had bruises on the right side of her neck and forearm. She also suffered extensive bleeding in the brain and a fractured neck. This led him to the conclusion that the cause of her death was manual strangulation.
INTENT TO KILL
Justice Korir ruled that even though it was not clear which action came first between the strangulation and the burning, she had no doubt in her mind that these actions proved beyond doubt that Oketch intended to kill Ms Mutunga.
When given a last chance to speak before he was sentenced, he said he had become a born-again Christian during his six years in custody, had undergone vocational training hence obtained eight certificates and had acquired skills which would help the society to combat crime. He also claimed to be remorseful, saying he regretted the death and that jealousy drove him to commit the crime.
But the judge ruled that the action of sending a message to his in-laws after the murder showed that he was aware of the death.
“A message must go out to people keen on treating their spouses or partners in a beastly manner that the right to life supersedes every notion of what they may consider proper or improper conduct,” said Justice Korir.