Fresh details have emerged in a case in which a Catholic priest is accused of impregnating a high school student and attempting to kill her and the child.
This comes ahead of the next court appearance later this month.
Fr Japheth Mwove Kimanzi, who was in charge of Nuu Catholic Parish in Kitui County, is alleged to have taken advantage of the woman, then a 15-year-old Form One student, to defile her before attempting to murder her and the baby, a court was told.
The victim of the brutal attack, Veronica Musali Mutua, told Kitui Chief Magistrate Maryanne Murage that Fr Kimanzi enticed her using biscuits and pocket money.
Fr Kimanzi, who has since been ex-communicated from the church, has denied the two charges — attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm. He is expected in court on November 22 where he will be put on his defence. He is out on a Sh100,000 bond.
In her chilling testimony before Ms Murage on July 13 this year, Ms Mutua, 23, said the priest lured her into an illicit relationship in 2011 while she was still a Form One student at Mwambiu Mixed Secondary School in Mwingi Sub-County.
“He started by giving pocket money and I thought he meant well. I trusted him because he was our priest and he would ask me to accompany him to visit families within our area as part of his evangelical work,” she told the court.
The relationship grew and the priest began sneaking into their home and spending the night with her whenever her parents were away, according to the woman.
After a few months, Ms Mutua discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth on February 9, 2012.
“He flatly disowned the pregnancy and left me on my own and, as if that was not enough, he started threatening and intimidating me after I declined his suggestion to abort,” she told the court.
Ms Mutua further told the court that the priest bribed a nurse in charge of Mwambiu Village Dispensary where she had gone to deliver the baby, to ensure the baby did not survive.
“While I was in labour at the dispensary, the nurse in charge, who appeared drunk, refused to attend to me. My mother and the other women who had brought me to the hospital were shocked when he started insulting us and bragging that he had been paid to kill the baby,” Ms Mutua told the court before breaking down.
Ms Mutua said the nurse attempted to harm the infant by squeezing the young mother’s thighs together in the middle of the operation, prompting her mother and relatives as well as junior nurses to protest loudly.
The baby survived the ordeal but suffered serious injuries which left her crippled, blind and with a damaged brain, she told the court.
Upon learning that Ms Mutua had successfully delivered the baby, the cleric is said to have sought transfer from Nuu parish to Kwa Vonza parish where he was put in charge of Nyumbani Village, an orphanage in Kitui West run by the Catholic Church.
All along, the 46-year-old priest denied responsibility for the baby and left her to fend for herself.
“I dropped out of school in shame having let down my parents. My peers ridiculed me for coveting a priest and I’ve been struggling to raise the baby on my own since February 2012,” she said.
For more than a year, Ms Mutua did not realise that her child was blind but she started noticing signs of stunted growth when she realised the baby could neither crawl nor utter basic words.
Caught between the shame of teenage motherhood and pressures of parenting, Ms Mutua narrated how she tried to seek help from Mr Kimanzi’s colleagues in the church, only to be dismissed as a woman out to tarnish the priest’s name.
“On three occasions, I was denied access to Bishop Anthony Muheria’s (then Kitui Catholic bishop) office when I sought audience with him. None of the numerous letters I wrote explaining my troubles reached him as Fr Kimanzi had blocked all my avenues for seeking redress,” she said.
It was not until she met a nun who advised her to write directly to the bishop and drop the letter at his residence that things started moving, Ms Mutua said.
An internal investigation into the matter was commissioned and the priest was summoned and questioned.
“He still denied ever knowing me but I challenged him before the church leaders that I was ready for a DNA examination to prove the parentage dispute,” she narrated.
Finally, on January 15, 2015, blood and tissue samples of the priest, Ms Mutua and the child were received at the Government Chemist by Dr Joseph Kimani, an analyst on human genetics.
According to the DNA report dated February 24, 2015 and seen by the Sunday Nation, Dr Kimani concluded that “based on the findings, there are 99.99 per cent chances that Japheth Mwove Kimanzi is the biological father of (child’s name withheld), Veronica Musali’s daughter”.
By this time, the priest had been transferred from Nyumbani Village to Kabati Parish within the diocese. He initially refused to collect the report from the Government Chemist, fearing Ms Mutua would use it against him, the court heard.
It was not until October 27, 2015 that he finally collected it.
A week later, the priest contacted Ms Mutua, offering to start meeting the costs of raising the child who had now turned three years.
He suggested a meeting at Kabati parish offices on November 16, 2015, to discuss how the child will get specialised medical attention and asked her to carry along all the clinical reports from various hospitals.
“He called me and suggested that we meet. I travelled from Thika with my daughter as agreed but when I arrived at Kabati Holy Family Church where he used to minister, he was not in and his phone was off,” said Ms Mutua.
She said the parish guard had been instructed to keep her waiting until he returned but at around 5 pm, the priest called asking that they meet at his Tulia village home, 20km away where he claimed he was held up.
“I took a matatu and headed to his home, arriving late in the evening but he was not there either. I found his mother who chased me away forcing me to seek accommodation at a neighbour’s home,” she said.
While at the neighbour’s house, the priest called threatening to kill her for embarrassing him while his mother followed her there and demanded she be thrown out for disgracing her son.
“Cowed by the threats, my host opted to escort me to the nearby market to board a taxi back to Kabati but little did I know that after stepping out of that house, I was walking into a well laid death trap,” said Ms Mutua.
She said a man wielding a blunt object emerged from nowhere and started chasing her and the baby before hitting her on the head and the woman who was escorting her took off.
“I recognised my attacker as the priest. I shouted his name but he responded by hitting my child who was still on my back, on the head and blood started oozing from her nose,” she said.
Ms Mutua said she sustained serious head injuries but survived by feigning unconsciousness after it occurred to her that the lone attacker was determined to kill them. The aggressor fled convinced that they were dead.
Mother and child were found the following morning by villagers who alerted police.
Officers from Tulia police post took them to Muthale Mission Hospital where they were admitted, the court heard.
The priest is said to have instigated their premature discharge from the hospital run by the church even before they had recovered, she said.
Documents filed in court indicate that Ms Mutua and her baby were admitted on November 17, and discharged the following day