One of Nyeri’s most wanted robbery suspects who had surrendered to police a month ago has been found dead.
The body of John Githinji alia Mrefu was found in Karia Dam outside Nyeri Town barely two weeks after he was released from police custody.
Circumstances leading to his death remain unclear but human rights groups and his relatives are pointing fingers at the police, accusing them of involvement.
Githinji had surrendered himself alongside another robbery suspect, Josephh Kang’ethe, at the Central Region’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters on October 22.
Police are said to have been pursuing Kang’ethe alias Wakinanyu and Githinji over links to violent robberies as well as links to the outlawed Mungiki sect.
The two surrendered through human rights lobby groups Informaction and Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri), claiming their lives were in danger.
They claimed that police had been out to kill them since July following the murder of Kamakwa Location Chief Kimiti Nyuguto.
Nevertheless, they admitted to having been involved in crime in the past but maintained they had reformed.
Githinji was convicted of robbery with violence in 2000 and jailed at the Nyeri GK Prison until 2006 when he was set free.
Two years later, police profiled him as a wanted man after he allegedly attempted to hijack then Nyeri Central OCS.
Detective previously linked him to a series of robberies and organised crimes in Nyeri.
The two suspects were presented in court twice where charges of robbery with violence were preferred against Kang’ethe.
Githinji was released on grounds that police did not have any evidence to prosecute him.
On Sunday night, Githinji was reported missing with reports emerging that he had been picked up by unknown people at his shop in Nyeri Town.
According to his wife, Julia Wanjiku, the family received a call that her husband had been picked up by unknown people and taken to Nyeri Police Station.
“Someone came claiming that he owed him Sh30 and they left the shop together. He never returned,” Ms Wanjiku said.
A search for him started and after failure to locate him for three days, the family decided to file a missing person’s report on Thursday at the Nyeri Police Station.
“We came to the station in the morning and reported. An officer told us that a body had been found in a dam that morning,” a dejected Ms Wanjiku said.
The disfigured body if the father of four is said to have been found stuffed in a sack and dumped in the dam.
The family later positively identified the body at Nyeri County Referral Hospital (PGH) mortuary.
Following the death, questions have emerged over whether his recent arrest, release and death are a mere coincidence or if it was a plot by police to eliminate him in an extrajudicial manner.
Muhuri have called for independent investigations and demanded the arrest of top police bosses over the death.
The lobby group accused police of using unlawful techniques to eliminate suspects who had already surrendered themselves.
“Muhuri is concerned by continuous and credible reports of unlawful killings by the alleged police officers and see these as proof of the urgent need for renewed momentum behind the Kenyan security reform. We cannot remain quiet seeing civilians killed. As an organisation, Muhuri is calling on the government and the police to come open and confirm the security of the Kenyan people,” the lobby group’s chairman Khelef Khalifa said in a statement.
Police on the other hand have distanced themselves from the death of Githinji, insisting that the report came in as that of a body recovery.
Nyeri Central Divisional police boss Paul Kuria said that they are yet to settle on murder as the cause of death until a post-mortem is conducted.
“We cannot speculate until a post-mortem is done. It will be done at the convenience of the family in their presence, then investigations will follow as per procedure,” Mr Kuria said.
As far as the police boss is concerned, there is no link so far between Githinji’s death and his criminal past.
“There was no evidence to prosecute him so there was no need to continue holding him. There was no case against him even after he was released,” Mr Kuria said.