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Tob Cohen murder: Everything you need to know about the inquest

By Winnie Mabel December 1st, 2022 2 min read

The case against Sarah Wairimu, the widow of Tob Cohen, could be dropped all together after the Directorate of Public Prosecution filed to withdraw the murder charges.

State Counsel Wangui Gichuhi said they opted to withdraw the charges after an officer with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, John Gachomo, withdrew earlier affidavits he filed related to the case.

Counsel Gichuhi further said they are of the view that a public inquest into the murder would be better and would serve the interests of all parties involved in the case. Judge Daniel Ogembo is set to rule on the application by the DPP on December 6, 2022, to determine if the State Counsel can withdraw their charges or not.

So what exactly is an inquest?

An inquest is a judicial investigation into the circumstances of a sudden or unexplained death of a person and is made with or without a formal court hearing. The Kenyan Criminal Procedure Code laws CAP 75, Section 385-388 states that those empowered to hold inquests on behalf of the Chief Justice are Magistrates, an officer in charge of a police station or any other officer specially empowered by the Minister.

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The Directorate of Public Prosecution may at any time direct a magistrate to hold an inquiry, in accordance with section 387, into the cause of a particular death to which the provisions of that section apply and shall in the case of missing person believed to be dead give such directions as he deems fit.

The driving forces behind instituting an inquest include if one has committed suicide, has been killed by another or by an accident, has died under circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence; or is missing and believed to be dead.

The late Cohen, a Dutch tycoon married to a Kenyan woman, went missing in July 2019 and a spirited search for him was mounted after the media caught wind of his disappearance.

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His wife, Ms Wairimu, was arrested days after his disappearance as police poked holes in the witness statements given by her and their employees regarding the late Cohen’s movements. A former chief executive officer of Philips Electronics East Africa, Cohen’s body was later found in the septic tank of his upmarket Spring Valley home.

The former head of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations said that Cohen had died a brutal death and his killers had taken their time in torturing him. Wairimu was later charged with Cohen’s murder but she has maintained her innocence for years.

In October 2019, Ms Wairimu was released from jail on a Sh2million bail and given conditions to adhere to as the late Cohen’s family continued seeking justice. Ms Wairimu was told to provide testimonials from her father, directed to not step foot in her matrimonial home, provide proof of her accommodation and not to contact any of Tob Cohen’s siblings.

Following the DPP’s filing to withdraw the murder charges, the late Cohen’s family opposed the application. Former Directorate of Public Prosecution director Keriako Tobiko was in October 2016 quoted saying that inquest system in Kenya has serious shortcomings and that it can be a waste of time.

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