Kenya: Inquest Into Death of Ex-Nyeri Governor Gakuru Starts Again

A public inquest into the death of former Nyeri governor Wahome Gakuru, who died in a grisly road accident in November 2017, starts Tuesday at a magistrate's court.

The inquest was ordered by Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti.

It aims to find out what may have caused the horrific road crash and the circumstances under which the former county boss died.

The inquest had started in January this year and was being presided over by magistrate Pauline Maisy Chesang, who was later suspended by the Judiciary after she was linked to the death of her husband Robert Chesang in March.

CROSS-EXAMINE WITNESSES

When the file was allocated to Chief Magistrate Wendy Kagendo on March 21, an organisation called Amana Africa filed an application expressing interest to cross-examine State witnesses testifying in the inquest.

The organisation sought to have the inquest begin afresh so as to have an opportunity to question witnesses.

Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Peter Mairanyi supported the application of restarting the inquest.

Lawyer Kaari Kimathi, who is representing the late governor's parents and siblings, also did not oppose the application.

"After we adjourned in the previous hearings (on January 16, 2019), I got information on which I would like to examine the witnesses," said Mr Mairanyi, adding that the State has queued 20 witnesses in the inquest.

TESTIFIED

Already, three witnesses, led by the former governor's personal assistant Josphat Mwangi Maina and two body guards, corporals Peter Mwaniki Maigua and Samson Lekol had testified.

But the three will have to testify again for fresh cross-examination by Mr Mailanyi, Amana Africa, family lawyer and any member of the public who may have a question.

The inquest will be conducted for seven days - June 25, 27 and 28 and July 2, 4, 9 and 11.

RESCUE

The three witnesses told court in the previous hearing that ambulances and police officers failed to rescue Mr Kahiga from the wreckage of the car.

Prior to his death, the witnesses said, for the three months the governor had been in office, he would regularly change drivers and would at times drive himself for fear of his personal security.

"Sometimes he would decline to be driven and he would instruct the driver on duty to sit at the back," said the witnesses.

In that period, he had changed drivers three times from a Mr Gakinya, a senior police sergeant, another one whose name the witnesses could not recall and Mr Kinyanjui.

Mr Kinyanjui, who had driven the governor's Mercedes car for about three weeks, was initially driving a county government ambulance.

CRASH

Governor Gakuru died in the morning of November 7, 2017 in a road crash at Makenji on the Nyeri-Nairobi highway while on his way to Nairobi for an interview with a local radio station.

His driver, Samson Kinyanjui, lost control of the vehicle - a Mercedes E250 - and rammed into a guard rail which tore through the car.

The vehicle had four occupants at the time of the crash - the governor, his personal assistant Albert Gakuru, his bodyguard Ahmed Abdi and the driver.

NO DEFECTS

The late governor's family, through its spokesman Waruru Ndegwa, in an interview with Nation, had noted that the manufacturer of the Mercedes car had alluded to the fact that it had no mechanical defects.

"The family is interested with truth. Wahome had many enemies who wanted him dead mostly in the political arena. He had become paranoid and cautions," said Mr Ndegwa.

He added that Dr Gakuru was particular on who cooked for him and that he rarely ate in hotels and had stopped taking office tea.

"We are also suspecting those who looted the previous county government as Wahome had vowed to fight corruption and ensure looters are jailed," said Mr Ndegwa.

RESCUE QUESTIONED

He added that the family is also questioning the manner in which the late governor was rescued from the scene of the crash, claiming there was deliberate delay "to ensure he bled excessively".

"The rescue was done crudely. We want to know why it took nearly one hour for the rescuers and ambulances to rush to the scene considering that the scene is not far from Kenol and Thika towns. Professional rescuers who were coming to rescue him like Dr Gikonyo were misdirected to go to Thika Hospital instead of the scene. No ambulance was sent to scene of the accident," said Mr Ndegwa.

He said the late governor was finally rescued by members of the public who used axes to cut metal bars and was taken to Thika Level Five Hospital using a private vehicle owned by former Athi Water Services Board chairman Wachira Keen.

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