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Villagers torch houses in Embu after murder suspects freed

Thursday October 31 2019

Kithimu village, Embu County

One of the houses that was set on fire by angry residents of Kithimu village, Embu County on October 31, 2019 after a court released seven suspects accused of murdering of a young couple in cold blood. The suspects were released for lack of evidence. PHOTO | GEORGE MUNENE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GEORGE MUNENE
By GEORGE MUNENE
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Chaos has erupted as angry residents set houses on fire in Kithimu village, Embu County after a court released seven suspects in the murder of a young couple.

The Thursday unrest started immediately reports went round that the suspects had been freed due to lack of evidence linking them to the gruesome murder of Joseph Gitonga, 37, and his wife Caroline Kaari, 30.

Armed with pangas, rungus and other crude weapons, the residents moved from one house to another looking for the suspects.

TENSION

When they failed to get the suspects, the residents went on an orgy of destruction, causing tension in the village.

They doused houses belonging to the suspects and torched them.

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As the houses went up in flames, relatives of the suspects took off in panic with the mob in tow.

As tension mounted, riot police from Itabua Police Station rushed to the village and engaged the residents in running battles for the better part of Thursday afternoon.

POLICE OVERWHELMED

At one point, the officers were overwhelmed and were forced to get reinforcement from other police stations in the region to contain the hostile residents.

The case had come up at the magistrate’s court when an officer investigating it said that he did not find material evidence to connect the suspects with the murder.

This made the court to acquit the suspects, triggering violent protests from the residents.

The victims were murdered in cold blood as their children aged 10 and seven years watched in a shock.

Addressing journalists later, the residents vowed to continue rioting until the suspects are rearrested and charged afresh.

"We are not happy with what the court has done. We are demanding that the suspects who are well known in the village be seized again. Justice must be done," one of the residents, Mr James Mbogo, said.

Following the protests, traders hurriedly closed down their shops and fled in different directions, fearing the rioters would hurt them.

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