Slain city lawyer left behind a ‘distress note’ at police camp
A lawyer whose body was on Friday found in a river may have left a note that detectives are using to link three Administration Police officers to his killing, sparking protests from politicians and diplomats, among other groups.
“Call this number, we are in danger,” says the note.
The message was scribbled on a tiny piece of tissue paper that was found at the Athi River Administration Police camp.
Detectives believe the lawyer, Mr Willie Kimani, had been held at the camp, and have, therefore, linked officers there to the killing.
A senior sergeant and two constables who were on duty at the camp between 6am and 6pm on June 23, the day Mr Kimani disappeared have been arrested.
The lawyer went missing together with a client, Mr Josephat Mwenda, and a taxi driver, Mr Joseph Muiruri, moments after attending a hearing at the Mavoko Law Courts.
Bodies of the other two men were also found in gunny bags at the same spot in Ol-Donyo Sabuk, Athi River, at 3.30pm on Thursday.
The number scribbled on the tissue paper is that of his wife’s mobile telephone line.
The tiny note was found inserted in an electricity socket in a cell at the police camp, according to a detective who spoke to the Nation.
Another investigator said a note was picked up by a boda boda rider within the camp’s precincts with a similar message.
It was not immediately clear if there were several notes or they were referring to the same one.
Handwriting experts at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations compared the note with the lawyer’s previous writings and concluded that the handwritings belonged to the same person.
The findings, according to the police, are a breakthrough to the mysterious disappearance of the three men.
However, there are no police records at the camp showing the lawyer, his client and the taxi driver were ever booked there.
There are also no records at any other police station showing the three were either arrested or detained.
Whitish gunny bags
The case had remained a mystery until 3.30pm on Thursday, when a Mr John Mwaniki reported having spotted two bodies floating in a river.
A report filed by the boss of the police station in the area says the man was on his farm that stretches to the river bank, when he spotted two whitish gunny bags.
“There was a visit to the scene and two decomposing bodies of well-built middle-aged African male adults, without physical injuries, were retrieved. They were moved to the City Mortuary in Nairobi awaiting identification,” says the official report.
Another detective said there were indications the three had been strangled before their bodies were dumped into the river.
There were marks on the neck and others around the ankles, an indication their legs were bound, probably with ropes.
Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro said the third body slid back into the river during retrieval efforts.
Detectives returned to the area yesterday to recover it.
Relatives and families identified the bodies at the City Mortuary.
Mr Kimani was representing Mr Mwenda in court in a case against the police.
BODIES IN BAD SHAPE
Relatives said the bodies were swollen and in bad shape.
Law Society of Kenya (LSK) advocate Dan Kinuthia, who identified the body of his colleague, said: “He had a sisal rope around his arms. The head of the other body (the taxi driver’s) had a wound. It appears he had been severely beaten.”
He said his friend, Mr Kimani, was a very good and kind man, and his death was shocking.
“He was a year ahead of me at the University of Nairobi. He was a student leader and he helped many of us get jobs. It is a big loss,” he said, fighting back tears.
Mr Muiruri’s relatives were speechless as they struggled to come to terms with the loss of their loved one, whom they described as “hardworking”.
Records at the mortuary indicate the three drowned.
The investigations are being conducted by Flying Squad officers.
It has been discovered that the killers had also planned to throw detectives off track once investigations started.
With the help of mobile telephone providers, the detectives traced the last signals of the victims to Bungoma and Kawangware.
A detective told the Nation this is a tactic used by seasoned criminals to introduce a “false trail” to evade detection.
The LSK said the discovery showed Kenyans are “at risk of elimination by police death squads”.
Its president, Mr Isaac Okero, called an emergency meeting of the council later in the day.
“The LSK will take all measures to ensure those with personal political and moral responsibility answer for these crimes. We pray for the soul of our brother Willie and for Mr Mwenda. We pray for the safety of our members on the frontline of the defence of our Constitution and of the rule of law and for our country,” he said.
In the United States, the International Justice Mission (IJM), which the lawyer worked for, also consoled the family.
“We are deeply mourning the loss of our colleague Willie and taxi driver Joseph, and strongly condemn the perpetrators of these murders and the horrific violence inflicted upon these men,” said Mr Gary Haugen, a top IJM executive.
“IJM is closely collaborating with Kenyan local and national law enforcement officials who are leading the ongoing investigations,” a statement from the group added.