Sarah Wairimu Kamotho, the estranged wife of slain Dutch businessman Tob Cohen, is building a hotel near her rural home in Njigari village in Othaya, Nyeri County.
Her neighbours in Njigari say Ms Wairimu bought the one-acre land at an area bordering the Aberdares forest over five years ago and is in the process of putting up a hotel, whose construction seems to have stalled.
According to the villagers, the couple used to frequent the project together and would spend their nights in a semi-permanent prefabricated house in the same compound.
The neighbours say that the couple gradually stopped visiting the project together. The Dutchman would visit alone while the wife would come in company of strangers, they said.
Ms Wairimu visited in March and June while the man was last seen there around April.
In his last tour, the deceased took photos of the upcoming facility and cautioned the neighbours against talking about his visit to strangers, suggesting that the hotel could be part of a dispute the couple was locked in before Mr Cohen was murdered.
“The Mzungu (Cohen) used to be friendly and outgoing. He would engage in general talk with us. But in his April tour, he appeared cautious and did not speak much,” said one of the neighbours, Solomon Muchiri.
In March, the estranged wife reportedly visited with people in "posh cars".
The local residents say the contractor and the workers left the site the same month.
“Ms Wairimu was last here around end of June, and she was in company of another woman. They spent some time and left,” said another neighbour, David Muriithi.
The construction of the hotel appears to have been targeting people who prefer rural hideouts to unwind.
During some of the visits, neighbours say Ms Wairimu would be accompanied by armed police officers from Munyange Police Station.
Police are trying to establish the motive for the murder of Mr Cohen, whose remains were found in an septic tank in the compound of their posh home in Kitisuru, Nairobi. Before he disappeared, the couple was involved in a messy divorce case, a fight over a multimillion-shilling property, and an assault case Mr Cohen had filed against his wife.
A former East Africa CEO of Philips Electronics, Mr Cohen founded Tobs Kenya Golf Safaris in 1991 and luring thousands of golf enthusiasts to tournaments in Kenya.
Last year, Tobs Kenya Golf Safaris won Africa’s best “Golf Tour Operators’’ Award during the 2018 World Golf Tourism Award ceremony in Spain.
Former Gatundu North MP Patrick Muiruri, who says he had known Cohen for 30 years said, “Cohen was a rich man. He was a very sharp man with money.”
However, the former MP was reluctant to go into details of the properties Mr Cohen owned and what might be his net worth.
Lawyer Judy Thongori, who represented Mr Cohen in the property dispute, declined to discuss her client’s financial affairs.
Lawyer Philip Murgor Saturday insinuated at a press conference that the Dutch businessman had fallen into hard times financially and was seeking to sell family property.
“This couple married many years ago,” he said. “They bought a piece of land and agreed it should be registered in his name but also agreed it was a joint property. To protect her interests, they signed an affidavit dated May 18, 2007, to confirm that they jointly owned, in equal share, the property.
"Years later when they were no longer affectionate about each other, the late Cohen tried to sell the house claiming it was his but his wife reminded him that they jointly owned the house and that it was not for sale," Mr Murgor claimed.
He said Cohen then went to a lawyer in late December 2018 and petitioned for a divorce and within that petition, they filed an application to throw her out of the house and attribute it to her being cruel.
The lawyer said that for the last few months, he had been looking to sell the property and even gave a letter of authority to a businessman to look for a buyer.
“I suspect that those interested in this property are the ones who have a motive to frame our client. We may never get to know the truth.
Mr Murgor further challenged the notion that Cohen was a billionaire. “He might be a tycoon and he is certainly a millionaire. There is nothing in the bank. The reason why he wanted to sell that house, is because he is 72 and he wanted to spend the rest of his days having a good time. That is the hard truth about it.”
He questioned the motive of some of the people close to the late Cohen and who have been pushing investigators to unravel the mystery of what happened to him.
“There are some people who have been very loud and have been visiting the DCI day and night…Could their interest be about this property?”
Neighbours described his client Ms Wairimu, who is police custody as a suspect in her husband’s murder, as a person of few words who interacted little with the neighbours.
Sometime last year she had a confrontation with Mr Solomon Muchiri—who sold her the one-acre piece of land in Nyeri—over property boundary.
“One day my dogs preyed on one of poultry birds she had kept. The worker called and informed her about the incident. She told me that she wanted the chicken back alive failure to which I will be detained by police in Munyange,” narrated Mr Murithi.
The farmer told her off by responding that it was the bird that trespassed to his land only to find his canines, and therefore it was Ms Wairimu who should compensate him. Mr Muriithi’s response marked end of the dispute and he no longer saw the birds again.
“There were reports that she planned to buy our lands and evict us so as to expand the hotel premises,” said Mr Muriithi.