She had it all, was the face of ambition and achievement, and the young looked up to her while the old admired her.
All this could come crashing down on Thursday when Australian judge Martin Burns reads his verdict against Ms Esther Arunga, the once high-flying lawyer and journalist who founded a church and tried her hand at politics in 2010.
Ms Arunga on Monday told an Australian court that she lied to police about the circumstances that led to her three-year-old son’s death on June 18, 2014.
She did it to protect her husband Quincy Wambitta Timberlake. She also pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the murder and faces up to 25 years in jail.
At the time, the two said their son, Sinclair, was playing with his younger brother when he fell down a staircase.
They gave him paracetamol so that his cries “would not attract authorities or wild animals”, and he went to bed. However, they said, his condition got worse, prompting them to call paramedics, who pronounced the child dead.
Ms Arunga admitted to lying to police in a bid to help her husband avoid punishment. Mr Timberlake is accused of killing the boy five years ago in the family home in Kallangur, Australia.
Prosecutor Danny Boyle was quoted by the Australian Associated Press as telling the court that Ms Arunga called the emergency services saying the boy had fallen down the stairs.
According to an autopsy, the cause of death “was as a result of severe blunt force such as punching or stamping”, which was not consistent with a fall.
Mr Boyle said Ms Arunga kept up the lie, only to open up when her husband was taken for a mental evaluation.
She then said that on the fateful night, Mr Timberlake was hitting their son in the stomach and threw him against a wall. She had earlier told investigators that her husband was convinced that the boy had a devil in his stomach and he was trying to get it out.
“I was terrified of being alone and felt terrible because my husband was sick as well,” she told police.
Mr Boyle said though Ms Arunga had not interfered with evidence, she had played a part in delaying the investigations and the arrest of Mr Timberlake.
Defence lawyer Katarina Prskalo said Ms Arunga had believed her husband was unwell and had got him help in 2013.
“She had not realised how unwell he was until the night of her son’s death,” Ms Prskalo said, adding that Ms Arunga also had mental issues.
Witnesses revealed shocking information about the family that raised questions on the mental health of two as well as their treatment of the boy in his last days.
During a committal hearing at the Brisbane magistrate’s court, the two had told the Australian Immigration Department that they lived in a cave in Kenya, where they gave their son paracetamol so that his cries would not alert the authorities or attract wild animals.
Ms Christina Carroll, a friend of the family, earlier this year said she saw straight line cuts on Sinclair's forehead months earlier after a visit to Mr Timberlake in Singapore.
“It looked like he’d been cut with a razor or a knife,” she said. “It was discoloured, like it'd been healed.”
When she asked Ms Arunga what had happened, the mother said Sinclair had fallen down a staircase. She added that Ms Arunga appeared “bewitched” when she returned home and talked about “zombies invading the world and eating people”.
“She talked about voodoo and other occult stuff; it was crazy,” Ms Carroll said.
Another witness, Ms Gertrude Marutawana, said she observed scars on Sinclair’s back during a visit to the Timberlakes’. She said Ms Arunga had told her she had been accused of being a witch in Kenya, and that her son had been beaten as punishment.
Meanwhile, Ms Deborah Stanley claimed that Mr Timberlake had insulted her over the phone before he arrived in Australia after she started teaching Ms Arunga about the Bible.
“He was swearing… yelling at me, calling me names and telling me that I was turning his wife against him. He said Esther was under his control,” she said.
Ms Jennifer Pearce, a paramedic, told the court that she was shocked by how calm Mr Timberlake appeared throughout the entire ordeal.
“He didn't speak fast,” said Ms Pearce. “He wasn’t rushed in his thoughts.”
She said they tried a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the child for 25 minutes but the boy did not breathe. He died on his bedroom floor.
Ms Arunga and Mr Timberlake, who met at the Finger of God Church in Nairobi and were hastily married in 2010, courted controversy before they relocated to Australia. They claimed they were being targeted because of the political ambitions soon after they launched the Placenta Party of Kenya.