When marriage and family become a mortal peril for spouses, and children kill their parents without blinking, something of our humanity is lost and the law must be deployed and enforced to express our collective horror, revulsion and outrage.
These were the words of three Court of Appeal judges as they sent Ann Waithera, her son, sister-in-law and their workers to the gallows for the murder of David Macharia. Waithera is Macharia’s first wife.
Judges Philip Waki, Roselyne Nambuye and Patrick Kiage upheld a death sentence imposed by the High Court on Waithera, Ruth Maina, David Kimotho, Joseph Kirumbi, Eliud Mwai and Joseph Maina, saying they were rightfully convicted. Joseph is Macharia’s son.
“Perpetrators of such acts must not be allowed to breathe in the air of liberty and must never roam freely among the happy and the free who respect the lives of others and to whom filial bonds still matter,” the bench said.
“It is for such cold-hearted killers that the penalty of death was legislated and for whom the courts must declare it. The same was properly imposed and we have no reason to disturb it. We confirm and uphold it.” On June 12, 2004, Macharia woke up and went to his nearby farm as was almost the norm. He had spent the night in the house of his second wife Hannah Wambui. They lived in Kamae village, Kiambu. At the farm was the house of his first wife, Waithera.
Macharia had five children, including Joseph, with Waithera. The couple’s relationship was frosty and he never spent the nights in her house.
At the farm, Macharia milked the cows in Waithera’s compound. He then worked on the farm the rest of the day. However, he never returned home.
Wambui was alarmed. She set out to look for him. Her first stop was the home of her husband’s cousin.
Three days later they went to Waithera’s house to look for Macharia. They found her with her daughter-in-law. When they asked Waithera about Macharia, she demanded to know why they were looking for him before declaring she had not seen him.
Neighbours said Macharia had been seen fencing the shamba and tethering a cow. The matter was reported to the police. The family suspected Macharia might have been killed over disagreements with Waithera. He was often subjected to brutality.
Macharia had told his brother how Waithera used to incite the children to beat him up whenever he did not give in to their demands for property, including the shamba, cows and crops.
They would then report him to the police, who would arrest him. His sons broke his arm and his eldest cut his hand with a panga. Police searched for Macharia for long with no success.
One day, suspect Eliud Kimani Mwai volunteered to tell the truth. He had been arrested over Macharia’s ‘disappearance’. Mwai said he had been hired by Waithera’s sister Wanjiru to dispose of Macharia’s body. The six, after executing the cold-blood murder with chilling efficiency, dumped the body at the bottom of a water fall with the hope that it would forever remain hidden.
On June 24, police officers found a sack in the Wagura River. The sack was pulled out of the water and the sisal rope tied around it loosened to reveal its gory contents.
Inside was another sack with two heavy stones tied to it. Inside the second sack was a corpse wrapped in a blanket with a deep cut in the neck. It was Macharia’s body. The suspects were tried for murder and sentenced to death by the High Court, but they appealed saying there was an error.
“The case paints a picture of a dark mix of jealousy, rage, greed, impatience and pure hatred compounded to turn the marital space into a deadly trap and to convert filial fealty into a grossly cruel patricide, that rank offence that stinks to high heaven,” the Court of Appeal judges said.