The trial of a policeman accused of killing an MP and his companion on Thursday ended in tears of rage and disappointment for families of the victims.
Cries of anger rang out when the court reduced charges against Andrew Moeche to manslaughter and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
The former Eldoret traffic policeman had been charged with the murder of Ainamoi MP David Kimutai Too and his companion, Eunice Chepkwony, who the court established was Moeche’s lover.
The two were shot dead at West Indies Estate in Eldoret on January 31, 2008.
The killings, at the height of the post-election violence in 2008, worsened the riots in Eldoret and the South Rift, the home area of the MP.
Nakuru-based judge David Maraga convicted Moeche of manslaughter, saying his was a crime of passion, committed in self-defence and on provocation.
The prosecution had sought a conviction of murder for the former police officer.
The judge said Moeche and Ms Chepkwony, also a police officer, were betrothed. The court also found that Moeche shot both the MP and Ms Chepkwony when they confronted him with firearms — a pistol and a G3 rifle — both of which had been assigned to Ms Chepkwony, who was based at Eldoret police station.
But tearful relatives accused the judge of leniency and dismissed the sentence as “questionable”. The former MP’s brother, Mr Richard Langat, said Moeche deserved a stiffer sentence as he had deprived two young families of their breadwinners.
“It is not logical. We are not happy at all,” he told the Nation outside the court after the judgment.
Mr Too’s wife, Linah, and other close relatives were lost for words and broke into tears when the sentence was read.
Moeche’s relatives could not be traced while his lawyer, Ms Gladys Ndeda, declined to comment.
In his 24-page judgment, Mr Justice Maraga, who heard the case for almost two years, said it was clear from the evidence that Moeche acted in self-defence and without malice aforethought — the benchmark required for a murder conviction.
A person was justified to use a reasonable amount of force in self-defence if he or she believed that the danger of bodily harm was imminent and force was necessary to repel it, the judge said.
The judge said Moeche was justified in thinking that Mr Too wanted to kill him and shot the MP after he reportedly accused him of spreading lies about Ms Chepkwony, saying: “Huyu ndiyo yule mjinga amekuharibia jina?” (Is this the fool who has tarnished your reputation?)
There was no evidence that Moeche armed himself to kill or cause grievous harm to Mr Too and Ms Chepkwony.
Too much force
The judge, however, said Moeche used too much force as he could have shot to disarm, not kill them.
The court had been told that Moeche, a former police motorcycle rider, was on duty and had trailed the two before he shot them. After the incident, he sped off and handed himself over to police at Turbo, about 10km from Eldoret Town.
“Since it was the accused who followed the two and neither of them fired a single shot, he should have shot them in the arms or legs to disarm them and not thehead, chest or abdomen,” the judge said.
Mr Justice Maraga said Moeche shot the two dead because he and Ms Chepkwony were lovers and they were in proc-ess of solemnising the union.
The two had met at Kenya Police training college in Kiganjo in 2000 and fallen in love. They agreed to marry but after graduating from the college, they did not meet again until 2006 when they were posted to the same station. By then, both were married.
The court heard that after Ms Chepkwony’s husband died in 2007, the two revived their affair and in August the same year, agreed to marry.
Moeche took Ms Chepkwony to his home in Nyamira, Kisii, where he told his parents of his intention to marry a second wife. His father gave his blessings.
Turning to the guns at the scene of the shooting, the judge said there was no evidence that the MP had a gun of his own and that the rifle he armed himself with when he heard Ms Chepkwony screaming at Moeche was hers.
And although the rifle was recovered at the scene, police hid it after realising they had made a mistake in issuing her with two firearms.
“Otherwise, why would the police want to tamper with the entry in the Firearms Register relating to the date when the G3 rifle was returned?” asked the judge.
“Faced with two armed people, I find that the accused was justified in thinking that he was in imminent danger and was provoked to shoot in self-defence,” Mr Justice Maraga concluded.