The shot rang out at 7.30pm on December 1, 2007. With it, one man began a slow, painful, journey to death, another was on his way to jail and two families commenced a descent into unending grief.
Albert Kubai Mbogori, who was jailed for 14 months on Thursday after he was found guilty of manslaughter, had drunk beer for four hours in the company of friends at The Legend Club in Ongata Rongai, near Nairobi.
As he approached the Bomas of Kenya junction on his way back to the city centre, he was involved in a minor accident with a car owned by the family of Mr Ben Chege, who were heading back to Nairobi after attending a wedding.
That should have been the end of the matter. But instead of taking down each other’s contacts and insurance details and heading off in their different ways, they started a heated exchange.
Both sides have different versions of what triggered the dispute. Ben and his wife, Helen say Mbogori shot out of his vehicle and started hurling insults at them. He then drove away before turning back at high speed on the wrong side of the road before drawing his gun.
But Mbogori told the court that the six people in Mr Chege’s car attacked him and wrestled him to the ground.
Despite the conflicting evidence, the judge found that Mbogori pulled out his gun; a shot went off and hit a motorist who was not involved in the scuffle.
The victim of the fatal gunshot was Mr Benjamin Edward Rahedi, a father of two who had just concluded a business meeting in Nairobi and was, in all likelihood, looking forward to an early dinner with his family.
His wife, Violet, was hosting the monthly meeting of her chama, a social group made up of five women who became friends while watching their children play tennis.
Hosting the group meant that Violet was due to receive the amount contributed by members and handed out to each on a rotational basis.
Mr Rahedi had called his wife at about 7.15pm to say he would be late because he was stuck in a traffic jam.
Thirty minutes later, another call (from Mark Kinuthia, who witnessed the shooting) came in on the landline at the Rahedi family home. It was the beginning of one long nightmare for the young family.
“The caller,” Violet told the Daily Nation this week, “asked me if I knew a Mr Rahedi and I said ‘yes, that is my husband.’ He then told me he had been involved in an accident and that I should go to Karen Hospital.”
Violet asked her daughter, Ivy, then 16, to stay at home and she hurried off to hospital together with her Chama friends.
She says a cold chill swept over her on the way to the hospital. It was a feeling of foreboding, worsened by the sight of policemen at the casualty section of the hospital.
“I was received by Mrs Gikonyo, a doctor there, and upon seeing the expression on her face, I knew something was wrong,” violet recalled.
The doctors explained that her husband had been shot in the head and that they had already taken him to the theatre.
They wanted her to sign consent forms before the operation could begin. It was too much to ask of the shaken woman. Her brother-in-law, Mr Bill Rahedi, signed the forms on her behalf.
She was then taken into the operating room to identify her husband. Little did she know that a horrific scene awaited her. Rahedi’s face looked like that of an entirely different man and there was blood all over. Nurses were undressing him in readiness for surgery.
“Mrs Gikonyo asked me to hold his hand and say something. I just held his hand and said: ‘Please God, don’t let him go’.”
At the Lang’ata Police Station, Mbogori was locked up.
A witness, Rodgers Mogusu, reported the incident to the police and recounted later in court, that he had heard a gunshot earlier that evening after which three men ran towards him shouting ‘Ameua Ameua’ (He has killed someone!).
That is when well-wishers rushed Rahedi to hospital. The precise circumstances under which Rahedi was shot would remain a subject of contention in court.
However, the legal arguments counted for little to Violet’s family, which was still trying to register what had just happened to them.
“While I was in hospital, my daughter kept calling and I told her that her dad had just been involved in a minor accident and hurt his legs,” she says.
Doctors finally advised her to go home because the surgery by one of Kenya’s few neurosurgeons, Dr P. Wanyoike, would last hours.
That was when Violet found the time to explain to her daughter that Rahedi was in a coma. She also summoned her son, Ian, then 17, and heading into the final year of high school, from a tennis tournament he was taking part in abroad.
“My children were traumatised. My daughter cried and cried. My son was trying to be the man of the family but you could see he was seething with anger inside. It was a terrible time,” she recalled.
Violet and her children would go to hospital very early in the morning and spend the day watching Rahedi and talking to doctors.
His condition worsened and doctors decided he needed a second operation.
“On Christmas day, I received a call. His kidney had failed. The surgeon was very honest with us and explained that that was bad news because when the brain begins to shut down, the organs close down one by one, with the heart coming last,” Violet said.
Kidney failure meant Rahedi needed to be put on dialysis. It also resulted in rapid loss of weight and the young family watched the man of the house waste away with each passing day.
“On January 25, we talked to the doctor because we saw the liquid discharging from the tubes attached to him had turned green. We were told he could rest (read die) any day”.
Despite the troubling verdict, the young family stayed with Rahedi all day. At night none could find sleep.
“Every time the phone rang, my daughter would say: ‘that is daddy’. At 6.40 am, the news that we had been dreading came through,” Violet said.
Death proved a cruel blow. And in the course of the trial, which ended yesterday, facts came up which made the pain of both families even more searing.
The families discovered the Rahedis and Mbogoris were not strangers to each other.
The victim, Edward Rahedi and his younger brother, Bill, attended Lenana School at the same time as Mbogori, a son of former assistant minister Nteere Mbogori.
Bill and Mbogori were year-mates and were described by mutual friends as having been good friends at school. But that would not be the last twist of fate in the saga. A few months after Mbogori was charged with murder, his father died.
The pain of the Rahedi family was unspeakable. The widow, Violet, fell into depression after several months of unsuccessfully attempting to cope with her loss.
“I was a spoilt wife. I had never even learnt how to drive because I was dropped off to work and for shopping whenever I needed it,” she recalls.
With Rahedi’s death, Violet was suddenly both a father and mother to her children. She suffered financial and emotional stress.
“I could no longer pay for my children’s tennis trips and they had to cope with the new realities,” she says.
Violet, a civil servant, gradually recovered after being counselled and taking solace from motivational books by such authors as Joel Osteen.
Her children have found it harder to cope with grief and her daughter, in particular, still hurts bitterly. She wrote a letter to Mbogori, offering forgiveness in return for an apology. The letter, according to Violet, went unanswered.
Violet had hoped for a stiff sentence against her husband’s killer. She wanted it to serve as a warning to licensed gun holders to use their firearms with restraint. The sentence of 14 months left her in tears. She did not think it was sufficient punishment.