On Monday, six-year-old Michelle Wangari was supposed to start her Standard One classes at Bungoma Primary School.
Her father had bought her a desk, books and uniform.
But that was not to be. On Sunday afternoon, her body was found inside a toilet at the dusty Mung’etho Bahati trading centre in Nanyuki, Laikipia County.
She had been defiled and killed, in an incident that has shocked area residents not only because of its brutality, but the profiles of both the victim and a suspect who has since been arrested.
Even after he defiled and killed the hapless girl, the heartless perpetrator unsuccessfully attempted to dump her body inside a pit latrine.
Only the legs went in, leaving the upper part of the body sticking out. He then wrapped her head in a nylon paper.
Blood was oozing from the mouth, nose and eyes, an indication that she could have been hit with a blunt object on the head.
The killer also wrapped her with a pair of trousers.
“Why did he have to kill her? Wasn’t raping her bad enough. I wish he could have let her live then we would have helped her overcome the pain,” says Michelle’s mother, Rosemary Nyambura as her husband Peter Gitonga tries to console her.
It was the second major tragedy for Nyambura, who was among victims of 2008 post-election violence in Nakuru.
At the family’s one-room timber house in Nanyuki, mourners flocked in to condole with them, each petrified by reports of the act.
A GRUESOME SCENE
Opposite Nyambura’s house is another row of houses made of iron sheets, where tenants are leaving in droves.
The exodus is because the man accused of raping her used to live there.
Mr Joseph Mwangi Muthuri, who works as a watchman at a nearby school, was saved by police from a mob bent on lynching him.
The 61-year-old man was arraigned in court on Monday but did not take a plea as police were granted 12 days to complete investigations on the matter.
“Right now, he is our main suspect and no one else has been arrested,” said Laikipia East police boss Kegode Kidiavai.
The parents’ nightmare started on Sunday morning when Michelle was taken to the salon by her mother in preparation for school on Monday.
Her father, a casual labourer, had left earlier for Nanyuki, where he was digging a latrine for a customer.
“The mother wanted her hair plaited. But the girl preferred to get a haircut and that is what she got,” recalls the salonist.
But it is after Michelle received a haircut that the details get hazy.
The salonist says Michelle left the salon and started her journey home, which is 200m away from the beauty parlour.
She never reached home. The mother noted that something was amiss at midday, when Michelle failed to return home as scheduled.
She began the search for her daughter at the trading centre.
As her search progressed, a neighbour went to use the toilet and found a body wrapped in polythene. She screamed.
A crowd gathered and one of them went for Nyambura at the trading centre. When she saw her daughter’s body, she fainted.
Police say that the suspect’s grandson brought Michelle to the house as they were classmates in nursery school.
The 10-year-old boy later left Michelle in the suspect’s house and she was not seen alive again.
At Bungoma Nursery School, where Michelle studied, teacher Joyce Maina remembers her as a bright girl who loved singing.
“She was always in the top 10 and passed the Standard One tests. She would entertain us with gospel songs during singing time,” says the teacher.
Her sentiments were shared by Michelle’s grandmother, who lives 10 kilometres away.
“She had a passion for music and animals that was quite encouraging for a girl of her age,” says Jane Wangechi, who has 15 grandchildren.
Her mother says she wanted to become a doctor.
At the main school, the desk that Mwangi had bought for her daughter lies unused.
She was to share it with two other pupils. But this will never be. Her life was snuffed out by the cruel hands of a rapist and killer.