Residents of Namutenda Village in Matungu, Mumias East, were shocked after visitors thronged the home of Anthony Werimo to mourn the ‘death’ of his 10-year-old son.
Mr Werimo, a matatu tout at Ekero Shopping Centre, who was previously Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali’s bouncer during the past campaigns, faked the boy’s death on Thursday.
He sent text messages to friends and local leaders, including Mr Washiali, seeking financial support to cater for funeral expenses.
“Hi Mhesh, I have lost my son and will be burying on Friday. Kindly assist me with some money to facilitate the funeral arrangements,” read a message sent to Mr Washiali.
A similar message was sent to several of Mr Werimo’s friends in far off towns such as Kisumu, Nairobi and Kakamega.
Godfrey Lutomia, who stays in Nairobi, said he immediately sent Sh3,000 after receiving the message.
“He was a good friend of mine and when I heard that he was bereaved, I didn’t hesitate to step in,” he said.
Drama unfolded when Mr Washiali, who was in Nairobi on official duty, sent his agents to represent him at the funeral.
“The MP sent me Sh10,000 via M-Pesa and asked me and two other officials from his office to stand in for him at the funeral,” said Mr Kamau Murunga.
Mr Murunga said he became suspicious when they reached the home and found no sign of death.
“Normally, in Luhya land, where there is a funeral, friends and relatives gather even after the burial to condole the bereaved family. But in this case, we didn’t find anybody in the home of Mr Werimo nor footprints to indicate there was a group of people mourning,” Mr Murunga explained.
“The vegetables surrounding the grave had not been tampered with and there was no remnant soil around the grave to indicate it was dug and refilled during the burial.”
Mr Murunga said he became uneasy and moved to the immediate neighbours to inquire about the funeral.
The neighbours, including Mr Werimo’s mother and brothers said they have not heard of the boy’s death.
Mr Murunga went back to the house to his two friends who were praying for the family and condoling with them.
“I told them that there was no funeral and the whole act was a fraudulent hoax aimed at soliciting money out of unsuspecting friends. The man became curious and called me out of the house.
He insisted that he had lost his son and even showed us photos of him carrying a baby boy whom he said was the departed son. He demanded that we give him the money from Mheshimiwa but we refused,” said Mr Murunga.
Mr Murunga told the Nation that he then began crying and was almost wailing, but Mr Werimo asked him to keep quiet.
Mr Werimo and his wife fled when journalists arrived at his home to cover the funeral.
Neighbours and relatives had gathered in the home after getting alerts of the fake funeral.
In Mr Werimo’s two-roomed semi-permanent house hang a photo of him carrying a boy, who was purportedly dead.
A small improvised grave with red soil, seemingly from a toilet dug behind the house, was put up on the left side of the house where vegetables were also planted.
Mr Michael Watako, a cousin of Mr Werimo, said he was shocked to learn of the fake funeral and promised to pursue the matter.
He said he would report the matter to the police so that Mr Werimo is arrested for misleading the public.
“This is the second case of mystery involving Mr Werimo. In June this year, he sent messages to our relatives that I was seriously sick in hospital and he needed Sh50,000 to clear my hospital bill,” said Mr Watako.
Mr Werimo’s sister-in-law Mildred Nabwire said he had brought shame to the family.
“We know him as a hardworking man. But faking the death of his child is abnormal and shocking,” said Ms Nabwire.
Martin Sakwa, a senior village elder of Mirere Sub-Location, who represented the assistant chief, said the office of the assistant chief is mandated to produce burial permits but it was not aware of the burial at Mr Werimo’s home.
He condemned the incident and asked family members to invite religious leaders to cleanse the home.
Mr Sakwa said it was the first case of its kind in the village and invited elders to give direction on the next course of action, besides religious prayers.