‘Castro’ awaits ruling on role in MP’s death

Sunday February 3 2013

James Omondi odera alias Castro, right, in court. Castro is alleged to have killed former Embakasi MP Melitus Mugabe Were four years ago.

James Omondi odera alias Castro, right in court. Castro is alleged to have killed former Embakasi MP Melitus Mugabe Were four years ago. NATION

By BENSON WAMBUGU [email protected]

He employed all manner of tricks in court to sabotage his criminal trial for alleged murder, robbery with violence and rape.

But after his playful pranks were nipped in the bud, murder suspect James Omondi Odera, alias Castro, finally submitted his fate to the courts and is now awaiting the determination of a case in which he is alleged to have killed former Embakasi MP Melitus Mugabe Were four years ago.

Mr Odera is facing further multiple charges of violent robbery but has since been let off in the gang rape case involving an Australian humanitarian volunteer Charlotte Campbell and her house girl. The two were held hostage in Campbell’s house in Karen on March 31, 2006, by a gang of four.

At the hearing of the rape case, chief magistrate Gilbert Mutembei remarked: “Castro is the most difficult person I have ever encountered in my career as a magistrate.” Mr Mutembei is currently a High Court Registrar.

The magistrate made the remarks after Mr Odera declined to participate in the trial, hurled insults at him and attempted to escape from the dock on claims that he was indisposed and could not cross-examine Ms Campbell after her spine-chilling testimony of the horrendous event.

Before Mr Mutembei took over the case, Mr Odera had earlier forced another magistrate to withdraw from the case after he walked out on her, saying she was biased. His behaviour has contributed to the delay of the criminal cases in the High Court and the magistrate courts.

The suspect once protested against a court clerk and a prosecutor appearing in his case and they were removed. He then declined to attend court citing sickness until Mr Mutembei issued summons to the prisons boss compelling him to bring the suspect to answer to the charges.

He again tried to pull a fast one on Mr Mutembei but the magistrate stood his ground and said the case would continue uninterrupted. Ignoring insults and Mr Odera’s drama in the dock, the magistrate invited Ms Campbell to testify.

This is when the suspect made a futile bid to jump from the dock but was overpowered by court orderlies and prison warders.

Ms Campbell told the court four people stormed her up-market residence at 10.30 a.m. on March 31, 2006, and held her hostage for more than six hours, cooked food, drunk several tots of Whisky and other liquor, browsed using her laptop and danced to the tune of a guitar they found in one of the guestrooms.

All this time, Mr Odera and co-accused were demanding Sh300,000 and a gun they claimed she was hiding in the house. “I pleaded for my life saying I did not own a gun and I had no money in the house,” said Ms Campbell during her testimony. “Then, the gangsters started raping me and my house girl in turns.”

Hell broke loose after the magistrate asked Mr Odera to cross-examine her accuser. Instead, he started hurling insults at the magistrate saying he had been “paid” by the “mzungu” to fix him and would not participate in the trial.

Watching the court drama, lawyer Evans Ondieki, opted to give Mr Odera free legal services and succeeded in the rape case and two other counts of robbery where the suspect was discharged. He, however, could not leave custody owing to the murder charge and a string of other counts of robbery with violence.

“I knew the entire court theatrics was caused by Castro’s lack of legal representation and I had to step in and assist,” Mr Ondieki told the Sunday Nation in an interview.

Mr Ondieki poked holes in the prosecution’s evidence arguing that the suspect was arrested in August 2008, two years after the alleged crime was committed. “The charge could not sustain,” he said. Mr Odera claimed he was at home in Eldoret with his family the day the incident occurred.

The lawyer told the trial magistrate that Mr Odera had been cleared of rape charges by the government chemist and produced a letter from a Dr Zachariah Kamau who conducted a DNA test on the victims. The laboratory samples had returned negative results and therefore failed to connect the suspect with the alleged rape.