Detectives now using new test to track down suspects

Monday May 20 2019

Kastle-Meyer test

The Kastle-Meyer test gives a positive or negative reaction to the presence of blood, and can place suspects and weapons at a scene of crime. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JAMES KAHONGEH
By JAMES KAHONGEH
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With the help of a newly acquired Kastle-Meyer test kit, detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations are now able to link suspects to crimes that would have gone unresolved.

The Kastle-Meyer test gives a positive or negative reaction to the presence of blood, and can place suspects and weapons at a scene of crime.

SPECIMEN

Take the ongoing case of Benjamin Odhiambo and Vincent Owuor. The two men are suspected of brutally killing a man and badly injuring another in a remote village in Siaya County late last year.

The suspects are said to have committed the crime by crushing the victim under their vehicle on the night of November 29, 2018.

The duo then allegedly fled, assuming that justice would never catch up with them. Enter Kastler-Meyer test, and the pair now have a murder case on their hands.

Kastle-Meyer is a presumptive blood test in which a chemical indicator (reagent), phenolphthalein, is used to detect possible presence of blood component, haemoglobin, in a specimen. It has been used by detectives to bust murder criminals for more than 115 years.

Court records indicate that on the dawn of November 30, 2018, Ronald Otieno and his younger brother Rogers Ochieng’ were returning home from a routine night out, when they rode past a pickup truck on the Sigomere-Ugunja Road in Siaya County.

After overtaking the Toyota Hilux double-cabin truck, Registration number KCG 209M, the driver is said to have accelerated and hit the pair from behind. From the impact, Otieno, 26, was flung hard onto the tarmac and run over once, while his brother was hurled several metres away, where he crash-landed into a ditch.

Police statements say one of the occupants disembarked from the vehicle and walked over to the ditch. Satisfied that Ochieng’, 20, was dead (he wasn’t) he went to where Otieno lay sprawled on the tarmac, squirming in anguish. He had survived the impact.

Police believe that the driver reversed the vehicle and ran over Otieno several times, crushing him to a pulp and making sure he had quietened any shred of life in him. The vehicle then sped off from the scene.

VIOLENCE

Two ‘dead’ men. The devil’s hour. And nobody in sight. The world would never know what had happened within those few minutes of livid violence.

At 5:30am, passers-by alerted the police in Ugunja of the “accident”, which they idly marked as a hit-and-run. To them, there was nothing of interest. Whatever was left of Otieno’s body was taken to Siaya General Hospital mortuary. As such, the matter was technically closed.

This sinister event is said to have started hours earlier, on the evening of Thursday, November 29, 2018. On this night from hell, Otieno and his younger brother Ochieng’ rode on a motorbike to Ungasi shopping centre, picking along the way Otieno’s girlfriend Mercy Anyango, and later her friend Pauline Akinyi.

The quartet rode to a local club for a night out, where they drank the night away, dancing and making merry.

After partying, the group left the club at 2am. Outside the club, an exchange began between Otieno and Anyango over an unclear matter.

A few moments later, a double-cabin pickup pulled over near them. Among the four occupants of the car was a woman, Janet Akoth, who knew the two girls. She persuaded them to get into the car.

The pair obliged, after which the vehicle  drove off towards Sigomere.

It then occurred to Otieno that his girlfriend was being snatched from him by strangers in the dead of night. Not one to take the provocation without a fight, Otieno did the only logical thing in the circumstances- give chase.

His decision to pursue the vehicle would fit the last piece of the puzzle of his impending death. And die Otieno did in the most bizarre and ghastly fashion.

From their analysis of the crime scene, traffic police officers in Ugunja suspected more than a hit-and-run incident, and sought the assistance of the DCIO in Siaya to help with the investigations.

Broken parts from the motorcycle, more blood stains and marks on the tarmac were found and analysed by detectives during the reconstruction of the scene of crime. Clues from their sketch further reinforced the presumption that the victim could have been deliberately crushed.

IMPOUNDED

At this point, armed with this evidence, the detectives had a solid case. Only they did not have any suspects. Neither had any vehicle been impounded.

Meanwhile, Ronald Ochieng had survived the accident, sustaining internal back injuries and bruises. In the ditch, he had feigned death lest the assailants attacked and killed him.

Waking up moments later, he had called his family and recounted his ordeal and his brother’s cold-blooded murder, which he had witnessed from the ditch.

Ochieng’ identified the driver of the vehicle as Benjamin Odhiambo and his colleague  as Vincent Owuor. With them were three women namely Jacinta Akoth, Pauline Akinyi and Mercy Anyango.

Ochieng’s emergence meant that the detectives now had not just strong clues but a witness account. The puzzle was very nearly fitting together.

As the investigations gathered steam, the DCIO in Siaya discovered that the vehicle involved in the crush was heading to Kikuyu, and immediately alerted the OCS in Kikuyu. Odhiambo and Opondo were arrested and the vehicle impounded and taken to Kikuyu Police Station. It was the first time suspects had been arrested in connection with Otieno’s gruesome murder.

From this moment on, the fragments of the case would start to fall into place. First, the DCI was called in to inspect the vehicle.

Corporal Derrick Kiprono took over the matter and was quick to note profound dents on the vehicle’s bumper and grill. The side mudguards also suggested an unusual impact. He also noted with interest that the vehicle’s front bore faint bloodlike smudges.

His curiosity aroused, the detective decided to scrutinise the vehicle’s underbelly. It is beneath the vehicle that monumental evidence of a possible crime lay bare. Extensive spots of splattered blood and brain matter, which had fairly dried up, were discovered.

Also concealed in the glove compartment  of the vehicle were vital items including damaged parts of the motorcycle.

DETAINED

A presumptive blood test using the Kastle-Meyer kit returned positive results. According to Cpl Kiprono, there had been attempts to scrub off the bloodstains, only the accused persons had not been thorough enough — they had left blood spots, which gave them away.

His deduction was simple and rather obvious: The vehicle might have been used as an offensive weapon to commit a crime. With this discovery, the vehicle could not be released. The officer alerted Martin Nyuguto from the Homicide section of the DCI who went to the scene with other officers.

A court order was immediately obtained and the pickup truck detained. It was later taken to the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road for further examination as investigations went full throttle.

A few days later, a crime scene team would be dispatched to the scene, more than 400km deep into the heart of Siaya County.

From a rather ‘weak’ case, initially dismissed by police officers in the area as an ordinary “hit-and-run accident”, the entry of the DCI had entirely changed the landscape of the case into an active, albeit convoluted, murder investigation.

Otieno had suffered multiple head concussions, broken ribs, a severed upper limb and several body contusions. The body also had bloodied tyre imprints. These were the results of a post-mortem conducted at Siaya General Hospital nine days later, on Saturday, December 8, 2018.

PATHOLOGIST

He had bled to death, according to the pathologist who performed the autopsy in the presence crime scene and homicide section teams. This evidence fed the officers’ hypothesis that Otieno had been run over.

Meanwhile, after dropping off the other passengers, Odhiambo had proceeded home where he told his father that he had been involved in an accident, without divulging details.

His father, Mr Barrack Odhiambo, advised him to report the matter to the police. Instead, Odhiambo drove to the nearby Sigomere shopping centre the following day where the vehicle was repaired.

Odhiambo and Owuor have since been jointly charged with intentional murder, and are being held by police in Siaya after they were transferred from Kikuyu. Also named as a key witnesses in the murder case is the third man identified only as Alex and the three women who were in the men’s company on the night of the incident.