Detectives investigating the brutal murder of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno are following several clues as they seek to unmask her killers and their financiers.
On Saturday, the detectives narrowed down on Ms Otieno’s final movements before she was brutally murdered, inspecting several places she visited before meeting her tragic death.
The detectives first went to Graca Hotel in Rongo, Migori County, where Ms Otieno and Nation journalist Barack Oduor last visited on the fateful Monday before they were kidnapped by unknown persons who are believed to have murdered the 26-year-old student in a thicket near Oyugis township.
The detectives also visited Samanga near Kendu Bay in Homa Bay County and inspected the spot where Mr Oduor escaped from the abductors by jumping out of a moving vehicle, and the homestead where he sought refuge.
They also visited and interrogated officers at the Kadel Police Station where Mr Oduor first reported their abduction and recorded a statement.
At Graca Hotel, the team of more than 10 special investigators from the Homicide department took with them a hard-disk for surveillance cameras (CCTV) for further investigations.
A manager at the hotel who declined to give his name had a hard time explaining to the detectives that the CCTV cameras were faulty on the day Ms Otieno and Mr Oduor visited the hotel and were kidnapped a few metres away.
He further said he was unsure whether all the 15 cameras were working on the fateful Monday.
“The detectives asked me to cooperate with them and questioned why the dates were different, pointing to a possible tampering with the CCTV,” he told Sunday Nation.
He however denied tampering with the video surveillance but revealed that they had called in a technician on Tuesday, a day after Ms Otieno’s kidnapping, to repair the cameras.
“We called in a technician though not the one who originally installed the CCTV. The cameras have been faulty for the past six months and we have tried in vain to have the original technician fix the mess,” the tall, slender, dark skinned man said.
He claimed that the new technician could have reset the dates for the video surveillance and was still unsure whether one could view the recordings.
“They carried the hard disk, so they will be able to see if the material they need is there or not,” he said.
He lamented that he had not had peace since the kidnapping of Ms Otieno and Mr Oduor because of constant questioning by detectives.
Graca Hotel is a two-storey building with about 60 rooms, a small bar and restaurant. The main building has a CCTV camera overlooking the entrance gate.
It has two gates, one for vehicles entering and the other for exiting vehicles.
From the CCTV footage, detectives hope to be able to identify the person who picked Ms Otieno and Mr Oduor from the hotel and possibly, the identities of the occupants of the vehicle used to abduct them.
They will also be able to pick the registration number of the vehicle the kidnappers used if the cameras captured anything on the evening of the kidnapping.
Police have since arrested and arraigned Mr Michael Oyamo, the personal assistant of Migori Governor Okoth Obado, in a Homa Bay court in connection with the abduction of Mr Oduor and Ms Otieno and the latter’s eventual murder.
But Mr Obado has denied any links to the matter.
On Friday, Mr Obado dispatched Nairobi lawyer Cliff Ombeta and pathologist Fredrick Otieno to represent him during the autopsy of Ms Otieno, who was stabbed eight times and may have also been raped. “We represent the interests of Governor Obado,” Mr Ombeta said.
“I do not know what time Ms Otieno and Mr Oduor entered the hotel. No one bothered because there were no boarding guests.
"We did not bother to check the vehicles that got into the hotel on Monday evening because we have many people we serve and it would not be our duty to do to that anyway,” the hotel manager said.
Waiters told Sunday Nation that Mr Oduor and Ms Otieno took Caprice, a brand of wine. They did not however take long before leaving the facility, they added.
The detectives later moved to Kadel Police Post where Mr Oduor was taken by a Good Samaritan after he escaped from his abductors.
Police at the post said that Mr Oduor had wounds on his hands and knees when he was first taken to the station to report the incident and record a statement.
He could not even stand on his feet as they were hurting, the officers said.
“Barack was surely headed to the slaughter. He is lucky to be alive,” one of the officers said.
A few metres from the police post, the detectives visited the spot where Mr Oduor escaped from the moving vehicle, sustaining he injuries.
The spot is just past Samanga stage between the police post and Nyangweso centre.
OYAMO'S PHONE CALLS
Here, Mr Gilbert Oyieka, a resident, told Sunday Nation that his cousin (name withheld for security reasons) rescued Mr Oduor.
“Mr Oduor jumped out of the vehicle and crawled to a culvert on the road at Samanga area. We saw his footsteps the following morning showing how he walked into my cousin’s home. He must have been attracted to the lights,” Mr Oyieka said.
He said that his cousin, wife and three children were relaxing in their house waiting for the 9pm news when Mr Oduor walked into the house and fell on the floor. The door into the house was open at the time.
“They were very shocked, but he immediately told them that he was being followed and after some time, they took him to Kadel police post,” Mr Oyieka said.
The detectives took measurements at the spot where Mr Oduor fell in the house.
Yesterday, it also emerged that detectives are probing Mr Oyamo’s last calls to anonymous numbers before Ms Otieno’s body was discovered in a thicket in Oyugis.
Police sources privy to the investigations yesterday disclosed that there could have been frantic attempts by Mr Oyamo to reach Ms Otieno soon after news of Mr Oduor’s narrow escape from the kidnappers emerged.
“Investigators are not taking chances and his (Oyamo’s) last calls are being reviewed to establish the owners of the anonymous numbers in a bid to apprehend them,” the officer said.
Ms Otieno’s mother Melida Auma had told Nation that one of her late daughter’s alternative mobile phones that has since been handed over to the police had received many anonymous calls on the night of her abduction and eventual death.
“Sharon’s sister had her PIN and she opened it. We found several unknown numbers had attempted to call her,” Ms Auma said.
The source privy to the ongoing probe said: “We suspect that there could have been attempts to reach out to Sharon so that she could hand over her phone to the kidnappers probably to be advised to shelve their mission after Mr Oduor escaped from their dragnet.”
Yesterday, Homa Bay County DCI boss Daniel Wachira said after the autopsy conducted on the body on Friday, the investigations were now being handled by The CID headquarters.
“The investigations are now being handled by The CID headquarters. So far, we have the sole suspect — Mr Oyamo in custody. Investigations are still on to arrest Ms Otieno’s killers,” Mr Wachira said.
He remained tight-lipped on whether or not the car used in the abduction had been recovered, only maintaining that investigations were nearing conclusion.
The detectives have also widened their hunt for the killers from the original four who kidnapped Ms Otieno and Mr Oduor to three others who they believe worked closely with the killers.