Kenya: CCTV Footage Tampered With, Dad Claims at Inquest Into Son's Death

Three years ago, the body of a six-year-old boy was found in a bishop's car in Mombasa. The child had attended Mass at Ushindi Baptist Church in Likoni on the morning of February 25, 2018, before he was found dead 12 hours later in the vehicle belonging to Bishop Joseph Masha.

The boy's father, Mr Richard Wanyonyi Wasike, recounting his son Emmanuel's last moments at an inquest into the death, said he had been barred by his family from visiting his village in western Kenya until he explains how the boy's body ended up in the cleric's car.

The 47-year-old man fought back tears in court as prosecutors opened the inquiry presided over by Mombasa Chief Magistrate Edna Nyaloti to unravel the mysterious death. He was the first witness to testify.

He said he had bid goodbye to his three children as they left for the Sunday school services that day.

"They left us in the house. We were preparing. They would go first and we would follow them later because Sunday school services start very early in the morning," he said.

The Sunday services for children were conducted some 30 metres from the main church, he testified.

The services went smoothly, he said, and by around 4pm he departed for home, leaving the children and their mother behind.

While two of his children arrived home by 5pm, the boy did not show up. His siblings reported that they had left him behind in the company of his friends and that he would come home later.

"Before it got dark, I sent back his siblings to pick him up because it was getting late," he said.

Search for missing child

When his siblings could not find him, Wasike said, he went back to the church to look for him but he was nowhere to be seen. The boy's mother also joined the search but their efforts were fruitless.

At about 7pm, when they could not find their son, he reported the matter at the Inuka Police Station.

The search continued the following day.

"We did not sleep that night. In the morning, we made another report of a missing child at the Likoni Police Station. We divided ourselves and decided to search separately just to ensure we covered important areas," recalled Wasike, led in testimony by State Counsel Edgar Mulamula.

At the church, security guards told the boy's parents they had not seen him, further dampening their spirits.

"We were confused but we continued searching with hopes of finding him alive," he said.

His son, he told the inquest, normally would not leave the company of his siblings to wander alone and the turn of events on the day of his disappearance surprised them.

"We thought he would return home before 5pm as usual."

On February 26, at around 11am, Wasike said, he received a call requesting him to rush to the church.

The call filled him with joy, he said, bringing a smile to his face as he was hoping his missing child had been found.

Conspiracy to defeat justice

"I breathed a sigh of relief, but there was a strange feeling, perhaps suggesting that something was not right."

When he arrived at the church, he found his wife, who had arrived earlier, and a person he only identified as Rev Maundu.

"Rev Maundu told us that the child had been found but that he was not in good health. He advised that we go to the police station where the child had been taken."

At the station, they were informed that the boy's body had been discovered inside the bishop's car and that police were investigating.

"The police opened the vehicle and I confirmed that the body was that of my son who had gone missing. The car's registration number was KBH 379N," Wasike said.

The body, he recalled, did not have any other physical injury apart from a lump on the left eye and a swollen stomach.

The inquest has been told that other worshippers attending sermons at the church also park their cars in the yard where the boy's body was discovered.

Wasike said a cat-and-mouse game between him and the police followed, with officers reluctant to release the details of their findings.

"The police told me that the CCTV footage for February 25 could not play and that the expert who installed the camera had gone to Malindi in Kilifi County. It seems the expert has not returned, because I have not been told anything," he said.

The claim that the CCTV footage could not play made him suspect that there was a conspiracy to defeat justice for his son. He said he thought everything had been tampered with.

Cause of death

"Why is it that only the CCTV footage for that day has failed to play yet those extracted for different dates are playing? What are the police hiding? All I want is justice for my son. My family has blocked me from going back home until I explain what happened to the boy."

When a postmortem exam was conducted, Wasike said, the family was only told that their son had died of suffocation and that there was fresh food in his stomach.

"That was all and the investigations ended there. The police have remained mum to date. No one has been arrested and charged over the incident," he said.

A postmortem report seen by the Nation shows that the cause of death was consistent with multiple organ failure with asphyxia, elements that are in keeping with hyperthermia heart stroke.

"Both lungs congested left more than the right. Fresh food materials in the stomach, including chapatis, observed," said part of the report.

The question that remains unanswered, Wasike said, is whether the child entered the car on his own or he was forced into it, and by whom and why.

The family believes that CCTV footage from the cameras at the parking lot, which police claimed have been recorded over, could have helped to answer this question.

But they are optimistic that with DPP taking over the matter, the mystery of the boy's death will be unravelled and that those found culpable will face the law.

The couple stopped worshipping at the Likoni church when their son died.

The hearing continues on September 8.

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