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Questions linger over double Katani murders

Friday December 06 2019
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General Service Unit Constable Anthony Kilonzo in a Nairobi court on October 31, 2019; he is accused of involvement in the murder of Ann Gatita and her daughter Purity Wanjiru, who were shot in Katani, Machakos. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By VINCENT ACHUKA

For more than a month, the gruesome murders of Ann Gatita and her daughter Purity Wanjiru, who were shot in Katani, Machakos, appeared to be a robbery gone wrong, only that they were not, according to investigations by the Saturday Nation.

It is alleged that Gatita, 60, was opening the gate for her daughter Wanjiru, 35, and her son-in-law, Mr Fredrick Mwangi, as they arrived home from work on October 27 when two gangsters riding on a motorbike struck.

She was shot on the head, and died on the spot, according to Mr Mwangi, who survived the attack.

The gunmen then turned to Wanjiru and shot her dead before a scuffle between one of them and Mr Mwangi ensued.

In the process, Mr Mwangi was shot in his hands, forcing him to rush to hospital for treatment. This is what is in the public domain.

What is not is that there was a third person in the vehicle that Mr Mwangi and Wanjiru were driving in on the night of the attack – Ms Roselyn Nyaga, who is Wanjiru’s younger sister and who was not shot during the incident.

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FAMILY FEUD

There were also three other people: Wanjiru’s maid and two children who were in the house and whose version of events contradicts what Mr Mwangi told the police.

To date, Gatita and Wanjiru have not been buried. Their bodies are lying at Chiromo Mortuary as a fight over burying them and the right to their property rages.

On one hand is Mr Mwangi, who insists he is the immediate next of kin and should therefore bury his wife Wanjiru at his rural home in Nyeri.

Gatita and Wanjiru’s family have, on the other hand, rejected this claim, saying that the two were not legally married.

The deadlock has forced Gatita’s husband, Mr Boniface Nyaga, to seek a court order to allow him to bury his wife and daughter.

The deadlock over the burial of the two victims offers a glimpse into why they were killed.

The plot to kill them may have been hatched months before, and there is a high likelihood it is linked to their growing alcohol distribution business whose network covered Mlolongo, Athi River and Kitengela.

ALCOHOL BUSINESS

General Service Unit (GSU) Constable Anthony Kilonzo was remanded for a further 21 days after he failed to take a plea for the murders two weeks ago at the High Court in Machakos.

During his initial presentation at a Nairobi court on October 31, Mr Kilonzo attempted to confess but was stopped midway and asked whether he understood the implications of his remarks.

“I recorded statements when I was at the hospital, and yesterday when I was arrested. I confessed that I was called by a friend to do the job of killing the lady,” said Mr Kilonzo before being cut short by the magistrate.

A few months before she was killed, Wanjiru went to her lawyers seeking to swear an affidavit that she was not married to Mr Mwangi.

Her lawyers told her that it was not necessary since there was no document or ceremony that made them husband and wife, despite the fact that they had two children together.

After finishing college in 2005, Wanjiru was co-opted by her mother in running “Alice Wines and Spirits”, which was in its first year of operations.

Ms Evelyne Nyaga, Wanjiru’s sister, says this was a temporary arrangement as Wanjiru searched for employment.

“For some reason things did not go as planned but the business grew so much. And since our mother was growing old, she changed the business ownership documents to Purity’s name,” she says.

TRUSTED EMPLOYEE

Apart from the shop, Gatita also changed the title to a half-acre piece of property in Katani and another piece of land in Embu to Wanjiru’s name.

It is on the Katani land that Gatita built a four-bedroom home after her business fortunes soared.

She settled in the house with her daughter-turned-business partner.

By 2012, the alcohol business had grown from a retail shop to a distributorship. And so they bought a pick-up.

But there was a problem – neither Gatita nor her daughter could drive. They also needed a driver to send on errands as the business continued to grow.

Mr Mwangi, who was at that time doing odd jobs within Kitengela, was hired as a driver.

With time, Mr Mwangi not only gained the trust of the two businesswomen but he also wormed his way into Wanjiru’s heart.

So trusted was Mr Mwangi that in 2013, just a year after being hired, he had risen to a supervisor of sorts for the business and was also sent to acquire a second vehicle for the business, which he registered in his name.

PREMEDITATED?

In 2016, after Wanjiru and Mr Mwangi got their firstborn, Gatita decided to stop participating in the day-to-day running of the business.

She transferred ownership to her daughter. Things started going wrong after Wanjiru bore their second child in 2017.

“Mr Mwangi started pressuring Wanjiru to transfer some of the properties to his name. He even pushed for the formalisation of their marriage but it did not happen,” says a family member.

We now know that on the fateful night, Gatita and her daughters left the business premises in Wanjiru’s pick-up, driven by Mr Mwangi.

Wanjiru was seated in the middle while Ms Nyaga was in the rear left seat.

According to Ms Evelyn Nyaga, they were accosted just after driving into the compound as Gatita closed the gate behind them.

Roselyn says she first heard a gunshot at the gate just as they pulled up on the driveway before she was pulled out of the vehicle by the first attacker.

It is still not clear why Roselyn was not shot but she claims that she rolled under the car immediately she was pulled out.

FAULTY DETAILS

In his statement to the police, Mr Mwangi said he stopped the car when he heard the first shot and rushed towards the gate.

He pounced on the first gunman and tried to grab the gun.

The gunman called his accomplice who was inside the compound for help and Mr Mwangi was shot in the hand in the ensuing melee.

Why two men who had AK47s failed to kill an unarmed man who was causing trouble to them even after killing his two family members is a question we still do not have an answer to.

What we know is that Mr Mwangi’s relationship with his wife had deteriorated badly in the weeks leading up to the killings.

Athi River Sub-County police boss Samuel Mukuusi says that Mr Mwangi is still a person of interest.

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