Court allows police to hold seven suspects in Laikipia trader’s murder for 14 days

Thursday January 12 2017

Benson Gatitu's body is loaded onto a police

Benson Gatitu's body is loaded onto a police vehicle after it was exhumed from a farm in Umande Village, Laikipia County, on January 10, 2017. Details have emerged about how his murder was planned and executed. Seven suspects are in police custody. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By NICHOLAS KOMU
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Seven men suspected of killing a businessman and burying his body in a shallow grave on a farm in Umande, Laikipia East, will remain in custody after a Nanyuki court granted police 14 more days to finish investigations.

This comes as detectives unravelled the well-coordinated abduction and killing of Benson Gatitu by people well known to him in a case of robbery coupled with business rivalry.

His half-naked decomposing body was discovered buried in a shallow grave on the uncultivated farm of one of the suspects in Umande Location on Tuesday.

The trader, who owned several businesses including a posho mill and a hardware store in the area, is said to have gone missing on Thursday last week while in the company of one of the suspects, identified as Peter Gakang’a.

Detectives speaking to the Nation on the condition of anonymity revealed shocking details of how Mr Gatitu was lured into his death in broad daylight in the suspect’s home before his car was driven to the Kenya-Uganda boarder.

The businessman was reported to have been attending to his duties with one of his employees on Thursday afternoon before meeting Mr Gakang’a, who wanted to collect some water containers from Mr Gatitu's home.

CLOSE FRIENDS WITH SUSPECT

The businessman and the suspect are said to have been close friends and occasionally did business together.

Together they drove to Mr Gatitu's home at around 4pm, collected the containers and drove to the home of the suspect, where four other men are said to have been waiting.

“What we have gathered so far is that the men were posing as land buyers because Peter [Gakang’a] had put his land on sale. That is when we think they attacked him,” said a source who cannot be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Initial findings show that Mr Gatitu was bundled into the suspect's house, where he was likely tortured and beaten to death.

A bloody crowbar believed to be the murder weapon was found in the house on Tuesday morning.

The body of the businessman is said to have been buried later that night.

“We suspect the crowbar is the murder weapon, but we are not completely sure how it was used,” said Zacheus Ng’eno, the Laikipia East OCPD.

DUPED DECEASED'S FAMILY

Police sources also revealed how the perpetrators tried to dupe Mr Gatitu's family that he was still alive by staying in constant communication with them using his phone.

Mr Gatitu's wife is said to have tried to call her missing husband but “he” responded through text messages saying he could not speak well as he had a sore throat.

“Whoever had the phone told the wife that he was in Moyale headed to Ethiopia on business. She said she became [worried about] his well-being because he never communicated via messaging. We tracked the phone’s signal to Malaba and immediately realised something was amiss,” added the police source.

With help from detectives in Bungoma County, officers managed to track down the victim’s missing car to Malaba.

A covert operation led to the arrest of two suspects who had the car, a Toyota Probox.

One of the suspects was Mr Gakang’a and the second suspect is believed to have been helping to sell the vehicle.

JACKET FOUND IN UGANDA

A jacket that Mr Gatitu was last seen wearing was later found in a hotel room in Uganda.

The two suspects were later transported back to Nanyuki Police Station as police tracked down and apprehended five more suspects.

Mr Ng’eno said it was Mr Gatitu's wife who located the shallow grave on the suspect’s farm.

Ironically, some locals claimed that during the four-day search for the businessman, Mr Gakang’a, whom police suspect of masterminding the whole operation, would send text messages to console them, telling them that the trader would soon be found.

Mr Gakang’a is said to have a criminal record, which put him on the police watch list for robbery with violence.

He was recently released on bond in a robbery case where he is accused of stealing a lorry full of flour from his employer.

“He is known to assault and stab people in the area, so to us he is a criminal. This is not the first time [he is being suspected of involvement in crime],” said Josephat Gathuki, a resident of the area.

Residents also suspect that there could be more bodies buried on the man’s uncultivated farm.

“It will not be shocking to find more bodies buried here. We ask the authorities to bring necessary machinery and dig up the farm,” added Mr Gathuki.

The irate locals torched the suspect’s house.