Police in Bomet on Thursday launched a manhunt for ring leaders of a group that torched four houses belonging to the family of a man suspected to have hacked his wife to death three weeks ago.
The suspect was set free by police after the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions failed to press charges against him, stating that the investigating officer had done a shoddy job.
Detectives have in the last one week been seeking in vain to re-arrest the suspect after he was released following bungled investigations which did not meet the set threshold for prosecution.
On Wednesday, hundreds of villagers stormed the home of the suspect – Joseph Kipkorir Too – and torched four semi-permanent houses and held a demonstration where they commandeered a police vehicle to escort them.
Two of the houses belonged to the murder suspect while the other two belonged to his brother.
In a daring act, several youths sat on the police vehicle’s bonnet as it was driven at a slow pace with others perched on top of it as tens of others hanged dangerously on the rear. They also stuck several twigs on the vehicle.
The protests followed the brutal murder of Norah Chepkoech Too, a mother of six, on April 9, 2019 in an incident that left locals shocked.
It is reported that the couple did not have any known disputes. The victim buried a week ago.
Villagers demanded to be told the circumstances under which the suspect was re-leased from police custody without charges being pressed against him despite the fact he had surrendered to the police after allegedly committing the offence.
The man is said to have hacked his wife on the neck using a sharp panga and she bled to death. He is then said to have called neighbours and relatives by phone and directed them to where the body was lying.
The suspect later surrendered at Chebunyo Police Station where he was held until April 18 when he was allegedly released.
“We are looking for the ring leaders who incited and led the residents into burning the houses in Makimeny village in Chepalungu Constituency on Wednesday,” said Chepalungu Sub-County Police Commander Nelson Masai on Thursday.
Mr Masai said property of unknown value was destroyed during the incident, adding that the arson suspects would be arrested and arraigned.
“Police are looking for the (murder) suspect who went underground, perhaps for fear of his life. But we are optimistic that he will be re-arrested,” said Mr Masai.
Mr Mark Nabuyumba, the assistant Director of Public Prosecutions in Bomet County, wrote to the Criminal Investigations Officer in charge of Chepalungu Sub-County stating that he was reluctant to charge the suspect due to very glaring inadequacies.
“I have perused your file and noticed there is insufficient evidence linking the suspect to the murder. There is no exhibit memo to show whether a forensic ex-hibit was ever recovered,” stated a letter from Mr Nabuyumbu dated April 18, 2019.
In the letter, Mr Nabuyumbu stated that the murder suspect had not given a statement under inquiry to explain the circumstances leading to the death of his wife.
It further stated that the people who were last with the woman had not recorded a statement neither did the investigating officer record a statement indicating, with the help of scene of crime photos and sketch maps, what investigations were done and the outcome.
“This office directs that you carry out full and proper investigations including visit [to] the scene of crime and collect samples including garments worn by the suspect on the material day for analysis,” stated Mr Nabuyumbu.
The circumstance under which the suspect was released from police custody have not been explained, with police remaining tight-lipped on the issue.
Mr Philph Rotich, a village elder, said the murder suspect lured his wife out of their homestead on the fateful morning in the pretext that they were going to harvest maize in a farm belonging to his sister in Chepalungu Forest.
“It is sad that the man has been set free due to shoddy investigations conducted by the police in the area. Police must produce the suspect and charge him in court afresh,” said Mr Rotich.