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How two widows reacted to sentencing of Willie Kimani murder convicts

Widows in the case of slain rights lawyer Willie Kimani and his client Josephat Mwenda on Friday welcomed the sentencing of the convicts by Justice Jesie Lessit of the High Court.

Former police officer Sergeant Fredrick Ole Leliman was sentenced to death for the murder of human rights lawyer, his client and their taxi driver  Joseph Muiruri on June 23, 2016.

Justice Lessit said Leliman was the mastermind of the “sophisticated murder”. Leliman’s fellow convicts former police officers Stephen Cheburet and Sylvia Wanjiku were sentenced to 30 and 24 years in jail respectively while police informer Peter Ngugi was jailed for 20 years.

Rebecca Mwenda, the widow of Josephat Mwenda, collapses outside the Milimani Law Courts after the sentencing of the four convicts in the Willie Kimani killings of 2016. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO

Speaking to journalists shortly after the judgement, Mr Kimani’s widow, Hannah Wanjiku, said justice had finally been done.

“We have waited for seven years for justice to be done for our husbands. Today is the day which God made to wipe our tears. We had lost hope along the way. We thought justice would never be done. But we really thank God. He is a God of justice,” Ms Wanjiku said.

Also read: Willie Kimani murder: Kenya has not carried out an execution for 35 years

The widow said her two children are doing well in school, the firstborn now in Grade 5 and the other one is in Grade 2.

“The firstborn has some recollection of his dad but lastborn was hardly nine months old when their dad died. They still can’t understand what happened, but I will explain to them what happened when they come of age,” she said.

Rebecca Mwenda, the widow of Josephat Mwenda, could not speak to journalists after she collapsed outside the courtroom. She appeared to have been overwhelmed by emotions following the judgment.

Ms Grace Kimani, a sister to the slain taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, said life has not been easy for them as a family but at last justice has finally been done.

Rebecca Mwenda, the widow of Josephat Mwenda, is assisted after she collapsed outside the Milimani Law Courts following the sentencing of the four convicts in the Willie Kimani killings of 2016. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO

The chairman of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Eric Theuri, International Justice Mission (IJM) Country Director Benson Shamalla and Amnesty International Executive Director Irungu Houghton also praised Justice Lessit for the verdict.

“A more harsh sentence should have been pronounced on the three police officers,” Mr Houghton said.

Also read: How widow got overwhelmed by sentencing of Willie Kimani murder convicts

However, he said the jail terms should serve as a lesson to rogue and trigger-happy police officers who have no respect for human life.

The accused persons were convicted after Mr Ngugi disclosed how he monitored the movements of Mr Kimani and Mr Mwenda from Mavoko Law Courts and how the two were eventually bludgeoned to death by Leliman and his colleagues at a sprawling field in Syokimau on the night of June 23/24 2016.

Slain lawyer Willie Kimani’s parents, Paul Kinuthia (right), 83, and Elizabeth Wambui, 63, outside the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi on February 3, 2023 after the sentencing of the murder convicts. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO

Mr Ngugi gave a graphic account how the victims were first removed from a container which served as a police cell at Syokimau Administration Police camp then killed one after the other in the open field under the cover of darkness. Bodies of the victims were then stuffed into gunny bags and their heads covered with paper bags.

Mr Ngugi also disclosed how they transported the bodies and dumped them at Athi River in Donyo Sabuk before returning to Mlolongo township where they threw a party for “a job well done.”

Relatives of the three victims could not hold back their tears when they recalled how the rotting bodies were fished from the river and taken to Nairobi City Mortuary for post-mortem and identification.

Also read: Ex-policeman Fredrick Leliman gets death penalty for Willie Kimani killings