A court in Nyahururu has allowed detectives to hold a man suspected to be behind the murder of women and children in Laikipia and Nyandarua counties for 21 days pending conclusion of investigations.
Investigating Officer Peter Mukangai on Monday pleaded with the court saying that they believe that Jassan Kariuki Theuri, who was arrested for robbery with violence on Sunday, could be behind the series of murders.
The 27-year-old man was arrested in Nyakariang'a, Ol Joro Orok Constituency in Nyandarua after a botched robbery with violence and an attempted murder on Sunday.
Sgt Mukangai said that the suspect had dug a tunnel to access a room where a woman and her children were sleeping.
"Due to the limited time between the arrest and that of presenting the suspect in court, we were not able to record statements from either the suspect or the complainants," Mr Mukangai told Chief Magistrate Charles Obulutsa.
He added that the police are investigating a series of such incidents which have happened in Nyandarua West from December 2018 to date.
He said the police intend to press more charges against the suspect, including murder and robbery with violence, adding that they believed that there are other suspects whom Mr Theuri had been working with and who are still at large and police need to trace and arrest them.
While allowing the application by the officer, the magistrate said that investigations on the case are serious in terms of the offences and police require ample time to consolidate their case.
The magistrate directed that the suspect be detained at the Ol Joro Orok Police Station until July 13, this year when the case will be mentioned.
At his home in Nyakariang'a in Nyandarua, villagers described the suspect as a known criminal who had managed to silence residents by instilling fear.
The suspect's mother, Ann Njeri, who appeared disturbed by the incidents and her son's criminal life, declined to discuss the issue in details but said she was happy he is in police custody.
"We never knew of his whereabouts and we rarely saw him in the compound. He is a grownup and we had no business controlling his movements. But we had received the complaints about his criminal activities from neighbours," said the mother.
Like the police, neighbours suspect that he has been behind the series of murders as the incidents escalated after he left prison last year.
"Jassan Kariuki was born and brought up in this village and he was a very religious boy but his behaviour started changing while in Class Five. He terrorised the young boys and girls and was occasionally accused of theft of chickens and goats. He became worse after Class Eight, committing petty crimes, but we all thought he would change with time," said Ms Jane Macharia, a neighbour.
"We do not understand why he only targeted women and children. Police were also aware of the fact that he was a criminal. But we do not understand why they never arrested him after the murders he allegedly committed," said Mr George Kariuki, a former classmate.
Ms Phyllis Wanjiru, who narrowly escaped death on Sunday night, was still in shock as she explained what transpired.
"I had no grudge with him and I wonder why he would want to do such a thing to me. I heard some commotion like someone was digging and walking at the back of the house. But he managed to enter before I raised the alarm," said Ms Njeri.
She said that the suspect found her awake on her bed and when she called out his name, he jumped and tried to strangle her.
"I had to put up a fight as I called for help. He, however, managed to escape. My neighbours encouraged me to report the matter to the police. He had threatened to come back and kill me and my three children if I mentioned his name and the incident to anyone," said Ms Wanjiru.
The suspect lived in a small wooden house about five meters from his mother's house.
MOBILE PHONE DATA
Ol Joro Orok Sub-County Police Commander Wanyama Nyongesa said detectives are analysing data from the six mobile phones recovered from the suspect's house to establish if he operated alone or had accomplices.
"We have revised some scenes of murder and we have established that they were all committed similarly and were all committed around the end month. We also recovered some Ugandan currency meaning that we are dealing with a serious issue," said the police boss.
Among the crude weapons discovered from the suspect's house include a panga, a knife, a hacksaw, an axe, a jembe and a spade.
"It's a straight forward case, we are trying to link up the chain of murders and we are getting somewhere. The victims and residents are very cooperative; we are having a breakthrough," said Mr Nyongesa.