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Family's four-decade search for kin ends in Mombasa mortuary

Wednesday May 1 2019

Josephat Thiong’o Kuria

An undated photo of Josephat Thiong’o Kuria (right) who is said to have gone missing from his home in Kiambu almost 40 years ago. His family is in the process of identifying the body of a man lying at the Coast Provincial General Hospital in Mombasa believed to be that of Mr Kuria. PHOTO | COURTESY  

WACHIRA MWANGI
By WACHIRA MWANGI
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A family from Kiambu County is in the process of identifying the body of a man lying at the Coast Provincial General Hospital mortuary in Mombasa believed to be that of their long lost son.

Josephat Thiong’o Kuria is said to have gone missing from home about 40 years ago and all this time he was living in Changamwe, Mombasa County.

According to Ms Magdalene Wahu Ng’ang’a, who claims to be Mr Kuria’s sister, they had lost hope of finding their elder brother until she got a call from her sister-in-law.

SIMILARITIES

“I heard his news from a third party. My sister-in-law heard the news from Inooro FM news sometime last week and she informed her husband, my brother. We discussed it with him and we found the similarities existed, starting from the name. My brother got lost 37 years ago,” Ms Wahu told the Nation.

“I contacted Mr Peter Mbugua, the son of the man who stayed with my ‘brother’. We talked and he sent me photos through WhatsApp but given the years and the life he lived, I could not quite tell if he was the one. We last met with my brother when I was 20 and he was 22 years old before he got lost,” Ms Wahu added.

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DNA TEST

She said she they had to get advice from the police who advised them to do a DNA test or use fingerprints to authenticate his true identity.

“There are some small pointers that we want to verify. We have his identity card and we want to see if it is possible to use his fingerprints to get his clear identity. DNA is a bit costly but if it is the only option left, we will have to go that way,” Ms Wahu said.

She said the body has been well preserved and the fingerprints are still intact.

MENTAL ILLNESS

Ms Wahu said that her brother, who had a mental illness, escaped from Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital in Nairobi.

“When he got lost, the news was reported on KBC radio. We searched for him in mortuaries in Nairobi in vain,” she said.

Mr Kuria was sighted by a neighbour in Mombasa.

Since he knew him, he attempted to have a cup of tea with him in an effort to take him home but this did not materialise as he never turned up.

“I think he got to know what was happening and he never turned up for the tea meeting and that was the last time we heard of him,” Ms Wahu said.

Ms Wahu, who says she worked in Mombasa for some time, said that she would at times could walk in the streets looking at the street families in a bid to find her lost brother.

SO NEAR

“I used to live in Chaani, yet he was so close in Changamwe. Since I wasn’t looking for him, I am surprised to know he was just so near. I went to the place he used to stay,” she explained.

She said their parents are now dead and that she is the only one who can identify the Mr Kuria’s body.

“I am the one who can recall most of the things since the others are no more. Our only plea as a family is to get his body and bury him. The similarities are there but the name his. We are still consulting,” she said.

LIVED WITH KURIA

Mr John Wa Mwangi, who had been living with Mr Kuria, said he met him in 1982 and claimed that he came from Ikinu in Kiambu County.

Speaking to the Nation over the Easter weekend, Mr Wa Mwangi said Kuria claimed that after his employer closed down his business, he had nowhere else to go.

"People in the neighbourhood knew him as my son but I was just playing my part in his life. I have known him for close to 40 years but I have never known any of his relatives. Mr Kuria never had a phone nor identity card and had made my place his permanent home. He was very helpful to me; we worked together as carpenters and when he died, my hands were tied because I couldn’t bury him without the consent of his relatives,” Mr Wa Mwangi said.

The body has been lying at the Coast Provincial General Hospital in Mombasa since March 21 and the family is preparing for burial once identification is done.