He came to Kenya to marry, but ended up fighting for his freedom
On September 4, Zimbabwean Buberry Bonnie Newman jetted into Kenya to finalise paperwork that would culminate in a wedding with his Kenyan girlfriend Susan Bwan.
But rather than a happy occasion cementing a union of love, Mr Newman ended up behind bars the next day, facing charges of defilement.
Mr Newman, 51, had no idea things would end up like this when he met Ms Bwan, from Mtwapa, Mombasa, on an online dating site five years ago.
Their relationship progressed well up until his first visit in December last year when they met in person.
The electrical engineer who lives, works in, and is a citizen of the UK, returned to Kenya last week determined to wed his girlfriend, invest in a project with her, fly back to the UK with her and continue to seek more investment opportunities as they settled into married life.
Upon landing at Moi International Airport in Mombasa, he was received by his fiancée and some children aged between 14 and 17 years.
“The reception at the airport was warm,” he says. “One of the minors gave me a long, firm hug, and we later proceeded to my fiancée’s house near Mtwapa.”
The children belonged to Ms Bwan’s friends and neighbours; they had made it the norm to visit her during the school holidays.
Mr Newman recalls that when he and Ms Bwan arrived at her one-bedroom Mtwapa house late that night, he took a shower, engaged the families quickly then went to sleep.
He adds that on that night, there were about eight people in the small house because the minors slept over, although he had earlier been assured that the children would go back to their homes.
The following morning, his fiancée woke up very early to prepare breakfast before they commenced the search for an appropriate wedding venue.
“After we were through with the day’s programme, we went to a supermarket and did some shopping. We loaded the car and returned home,” he says.
In his testimony to the court, Mr Newman says as the vehicle entered the compound, he was surrounded by about 10 armed police officers, some in civilian clothes, and informed that he was under arrest.
He says when he asked what his crime was, the officers indicated they would only tell him once they arrive at Mtwapa police station.
“I had no option but (to accompany them),” he says. “At the police station, I was told that a woman had reported that I had been defiling minors in my girlfriend’s house,” he says.
He explained to Shanzu senior resident magistrate David Odhiambo that his passport, mobile phones and other items were confiscated by the police as he was locked up in police cells.
He was told that a Ms Mutaiwua, who is a friend of his girlfriend, had alleged that he had defiled her daughter, who was among the children in his girlfriend’s house on the night he arrived.
However, police investigations later revealed Ms Mutaiwua lied to fix the foreigner and fleece him.
The police then decided to charge the woman instead, who was a state witness at the time, with false information maliciously made with intent to disadvantage the unsuspecting foreigner.
The police say that the woman is suspected of using the minor to extort cash from wealthy foreigners.
Ms Mutaiwua and her daughter are also key witnesses in another case where Turkish tycoon Elsek Osman is accused of defiling a minor and committing indecent acts with three others against their will.
In that case, the prosecution and the police have told the court the alleged defilement was never reported at any police station, and therefore had no corresponding Occurrence Book number.
In Mr Newman’s case, the charge sheet indicates that Ms Mutaiwua informed Chief Inspector Andrew Waroi that the Zimbabwean defiled her daughter, information she knew to be false.
Ms Mutaiwua is accused of committing the offence on September 4, a day after the foreigner arrived in the country.
In his defence, Mr Newman says it was impossible to defile the minor in the presence of the eight people who were in the one-bedroom house that night.
“I did not sleep close to any of the girls I am alleged to have defiled. I don’t know why the woman made such a complaint about me. I don’t know her in person. I am not aware if she has personal differences with my girlfriend,” he told the court.
Mr Newman has since cancelled the wedding.
If found guilty, Ms Mutaiwua may be liable to life imprisonment. She is currently out on bond after pleading not guilty. The hearing continues on October 22.