The love affair between Reuben Kivuva and Judith Muendi, the woman who would later lose her limbs in an attack by the boyfriend, took a beaten path to blossom and eventually wither.
Just like many relationships that fail to last long, this one was founded on deceit and attendant suspicion.
It was chocked before it could bear fruit, with life-long consequences on both partners.
Muendi was successful in conventional standards— selling fruits and vegetables at her stall at Emali to fend for herself, her three children, her mother and siblings who stayed at their rural home at Nunguni area of Kaiti Constituency in Makueni .
“He had promised to marry me," she would tell the court while testifying a year ago.
The love birds stayed in different houses in the trading centre and, once in a while, Kivuva, alias Cameroon, would come over and stay at Muendi’s rented house— making the once discrete love affair public.
When he chopped her limbs using a machete two years ago, Kivuva’s visit to Muendi’s house had become so frequent that their neighbours considered them husband and wife.
But there was a problem: “His sisters told me that he had a legally married wife and three children that he had neglected at their rural home,” she told court a year ago.
Muendi was determined to end the relationship.
On raising the issue with him, the boyfriend rebuked her, retorting that she should go and marry the neglected woman if she wanted.
Lesbianism and lesbian marriages are not only taboo but also unheard of in Emali and the larger Makueni County.
Muendi continued living with the man who operated a butchery in the town because she feared that he would be violent if she refused to allow him into the house.
Two days before the fateful day, she earned a stern warning from Kivuva when she hesitated to open the door.
Kivuva, she said, claimed that she had delayed to let him in because she had another man, a man he could not show.
Muendi said he warned that he would kill her the day he would find her in another man’s arms.
She told the court that she could not sleep that night as she was deeply troubled by the ominous and chilly warning.
The following day, she shared her tribulations and her unwillingness to go back to the house with her confidants.
On that night, she accompanied five of her female friends to a bar in Kiunduani market, some 56 kilometres south of Emali.
Far as this seemed from their home, Kivuva unfortunately found her but did not speak to neither her nor her friends.
But this account does not mirror Kivuva's recollection of the events of the night.
He said he had tracked her to the popular bar at Kiunduani and found her in the arms of another man as her female friends danced and enjoyed themselves.
"I just told the man that I was not afraid of him because they looked like they wanted to pick a quarrel and I left them alone," he said.
He saw them leave the bar towards Emali in a car and he boarded a lorry and also headed home.
The following day, Kivuva wanted to know where she slept.
Muendi maintains that she spent that night at her friend’s place, only identified in court as Anita.
She told the magistrate that she rose at 6am to open her stall at Emali, where Kivuva found her that morning.
He requested that she accompany him to the house as he had been unable to trace the key.
He carried the woman on his motorcycle.
Witnesses and neighbours who saw the couple park the motorcycle outside their house around 7am and walk into the room— with Muendi leading— reported hearing screams from the house shortly afterwards.
They were drawn to the house by the screams but found the door locked from inside.
“Shortly afterwards, Cameroon walked out of the house blood dripping from his clothes and shoes,” their neighbours Patricia Nduku and Stephanie Mutuku told the court.
“The shoes left imprints of blood as he walked out of the plot.”
Muendi screamed the more and upon entering the room, the neighbours found her lying in a pool of blood, her body wrapped in a blanket.
A blood-stained machete that Muendi would later identify as the one her lover had used on her was also lay in the pool of blood.
She had sustained multiple deep cut wounds all over her body— both hands had been chopped off and her right leg was badly cut slightly below the knee.
Good Samaritans reported the matter to Emali Police Station and the police swiftly arrived and took her to Emali Nursing Home.
She was later transferred to Makindu Sub-County Hospital for specialised care.
But in his sworn testimony, Kivuva told the court that he was at Kiunduani and not at Emali by the time his lover was attacked— a defence the court dismissed.
“The accused alibi that he was not at Emali at the time prosecution witness 1 was attacked cannot be believed because he was seen at Emali with prosecution witness 1, by prosecution witness 4 and prosecution witness 5,” the court decision delivered on December 6 reads in part.
“It cannot be true that he was at Kiunduani at 7am on December 13, 2015.”
While sentencing the accused to life imprisonment on, Makindu Senior Resident Magistrate Gerald Mutiso noted that Kivuva was determined to kill his lover.
“In this case, I find that it has been proved that the accused had the motive to commit the offence because he was angry after the complainant threatened to end their love affair,” said Mr Mutiso.
Kivuva had rendered the woman completely dependent on her mother, Mr Mutiso noted.
Outside the courtroom on Wednesday, an expressionless Muendi told Nation that she was satisfied with the court’s sentencing.
“This attack has affected my entire family: I’m now dependent on my mother and my siblings who dependent on me for their daily upkeep, have suffered lack of provisions and therefore I’m happy the court has ordered that Kivuva should foot the cost of my medication,” she said.
Regina Mutua, her mother, echoed her sentiments, saying she felt that the court had finally served justice.
The sentence was also welcomed by Makueni Women Representatives Rose Museo who urged couples to separate in peace when relationships hit the rocks.