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Careen Chepchumba's unsolved murder: What we know so far

Thursday May 09 2019
Careen

An undated photo of the late Careen Chepchumba, who was found dead in her apartment in Kilimani, Nairobi, on February 12, 2012. PHOTO | COURTESY

By BENSON MATHEKA

A year after a court ordered a fresh probe into the death of Careen Chepchumba on February 12, 2012, there is little hope that police will find the killer.

Careen, a 26-year-old employee of Kenya Power at the time, was found dead in her apartment at Santonia Court in Kilimani, Nairobi.

The inquest into her death commenced four years later and the conclusion was that she was murdered but police bungled the investigation, leaving gaps that made it difficult to find the criminal.

NO ACCIDENT

Magistrate Charles Ondieki ruled that Careen’s death was not an accident.

“The cause of Careen’s death was not suicide … it was not accidental. The cause of death cannot be said to be undetermined. The cause was strangulation. These are inevitable findings,” the court stated.

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Mr Ondieki recommended a fresh probe but former TV broadcaster Louis Otieno, a key suspect, faulted it.

Although the court recommended that Mr Otieno be subjected to fresh tests to establish whether he was, there has been little progress in the matter.

FORENSICS

Mr Otieno denied killing Ms Careen or ever having a romantic affair with her but admitted that they were friends.

But the court found that police exonerated him before the forensic analysis of his phones and Careen’s, to establish where he was at the time of her death.

The inquest found that since there was no eye-witness, “forensic evidence was the sure key to unlock criminal culpability by some known person or persons”.

“In fact, this investigation was hinged and turned on a composite of two key pieces of evidence - forensic and circumstantial,” the report stated.

Mr Otieno wants police to look at Careen’s phones even though they did not subject his to the same.

He says the details he is demanding were not presented in court during the inquest.

NAILS MIX-UP

The inquest recommended that samples of Mr Otieno’s finger nails be taken in the presence of the head of the Government Chemist.

But while pointing out that police bungled the investigation, the magistrate wondered how the nail clippings police took from Mr Otieno turned out to be Careens during analysis by experts at the Government Chemist.

The court order an investigation into the mix-up and through his lawyer Norman Magaya, Mr Otieno said he would cooperate with investigations if the Director of Public Prosecutions started a fresh probe.

In a letter dated May 30, Mr Magaya said, “We write to notify your good office that our client is agreeable and willing to cooperate with your office as may be required of him so as to unravel the truth and ensure the ends of justice are met.”

SEXUAL ABUSE

But Mr Otieno had conditions. In a letter to the DPP through Mr Magaya, he said he could only participate in the fresh investigation if Careen’s father, Mr Hosea Kili, and his son Emmanuel took a DNA test.

During the inquest, Mr Otieno claimed Careen was sexually abused by her father and that she had told him he was not her biological parent.

“She told me she had been a victim of sexual abuse by a person she thought was her biological father. She intimated to me how she lived a difficult life with her parents, especially that she was not living with her biological father. She said she would perform duties that were supposed to be done by her mother,” he said.

The court dismissed the allegations saying they could not be proved but Mr Otieno said the ruling by Mr Ondieki had procedural lapses.

EXTORTION CLAIMS

Several witnesses who testified during the inquest claimed Careen had been extorting money from people including her parents to finance Mr Otieno’s flashy lifestyle by taking care of expenses such as medical bills, rent and upkeep.

It was also alleged that Careen was a careless borrower and was highly indebted.

While giving his evidence, Mr Kili accused Mr Otieno of extorting money from his daughter, leaving her with a mountain of debts. Mr Otieno denied the extortion claims.

Mr Kili further claimed Careen resorted to stealing his money from their house, which she then gave to Mr Otieno. 

“I learnt that Careen was stealing my money. When I asked her, she admitted that she stole to pay Mr Otieno’s house rent, upkeep and hospital bills,” he said.

“The trouble with Careen started when Louis Otieno moved to a house next to ours - in Rose Park Apartments, Kilimani. My wife was the first to notice that Careen was having a relationship with Louis Otieno," he added

He narrated that he lost sums including Sh600,000, which he intended to use for an unspecified project.

SHOCKING INFORMATION

Mr Kili further said that Careen, a former student of University of Eastern Africa, Baraton, moved out of her parents' house without notifying them that she had rented her own apartment.

"I started receiving shocking information from my friends and family members - that she borrowed money from them. She had also used Sh1.2 million, meant for a business venture, to finance Mr Otieno's lifestyle,” he said.

In total, Mr Kili went on to say, Careen had borrowed Sh3,000,000 from her father's friends and close relatives.

He also claimed his daughter was found dead a day after she had revealed to the family that Mr Otieno had been blackmailing her.

GUARDS’ STATEMENTS

Mr Otieno also wants the DPP to provide original statements recorded by security guards at Santonia.

Mr Otieno says the guards confirmed he did not visit Careen on the week she was murder. But one who works at G4S told the court that Mr Otieno was a frequent visitor.

John Njoroge, the guard, testified that the former journalist sometimes spent the night at Careen’s house. He said the number of Mr Otieno’s visits increased and that Careen asked them to let him in without restrictions.

FATEFUL DAY

The visits, however, started declining in January 2012, a month before she was murdered, Mr Njoroge said, adding that two weeks before the incident, Mr Otieno drove into the compound in a Range Rover at about 11pm, and that Careen was with him. He said Mr Otieno stayed until around 1am.

Mr Njoroge said that on February 12, he reported for the night shift as usual and that between 8.30pm and 9pm, Careen was dropped at the gate by her brother.

He said he opened the gate for her and that she was in a happy mood.

Mr Njoroge said no one visited Careen that night and that at no point did he leave the gate, so it cannot be said that he did not notice someone getting into the compound.

The guard said he noticed that lights were not turned on in the apartment for the whole night and that the following day, he did not see Careen leaving the house.

He said that when he reported to work that night, he was informed that Careen’s brother and mother had found her dead at about 10am.

Mr Njoroge told the court that during Careen’s stay in the apartment, the only man who visited her at night was Mr Otieno.

DELAYS

The inquest into Careen’s death has delayed for four years because key witnesses, including her parents, have in the past not availed themselves in court.

Her father said the delays were because police did not have a suspect.

According to court records, Careen’s brother was the first person to arrive at her apartment after she was killed.

Until the Director of Public Prosecutions opens a fresh probe as directed by the court, Careen’s killer and the motive for the murder will remain a mystery.

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