Mutuku Mwangangi @PitzPitah
“It’s an experience I hate to recall.” That is how 20-year-old hair dresser Irene Mbithe sums up the events of July 30 that saw her lose her left eye, an arm and nursing injuries on her left leg following a leopard attack at the Tsavo National Park on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway.
Speaking to People Daily from her Machakos County Referral Hospital bed on Saturday, Mbithe said her misfortunes began on the night of July 29 as she left Nairobi’s Pipeline estate for Machakos after a two-day visit to her aunt.
The firstborn in a family of six, who resides at Kenya Israel village, Machakos town, says she accepted a lift from a truck driver after being stranded at the Cabanas bus stage for hours that night.
“Once in the truck, the driver gave me some bottled water and I don’t know what happened after that. When I came back to my senses, it was 3am and I was in Mombasa,” she said, adding that after quarreling with the driver for taking her to Mombasa against her wish, Mbithe managed to sneak and ask for a lift from another truck heading to Nairobi.
“At first, the driver warned me that it was risky to hitch a ride in a trucks but he and his turn boy eventually agreed to travel with me back to Nairobi after I narrated my ordeal,” she said.
Mbithe said at some point, the men demanded to have sex with her and when she turned down their advances they became violent. “I began screaming. They slowed down and pushed me out of the moving truck along the Tsavo Park area,” she said.
That is where she was attacked by a leopard but was rescued by police officers manning a nearby roadblock, who fired in the air in response to her distress call.
However, her father Felix Mulwa contradicted Mbithe’s narrative, saying she had accompanied her boyfriend to Mombasa before they disagreed and she had to find her way back to Machakos. “That’s how she landed in the hands of her tormentors, who had offered to assist her. The men attempted to rape her. We want justice for my daughter as soon as she recovers,” said Mulwa.
When People Daily visited Mbithe at the hospital on Saturday, she said she was attacked while walking towards the roadblock at 3am. “I was certain I was breathing my last. I’m lucky to be alive.”
Mbithe says she regained consciousness the following day while at Makindu Hospital in Makueni. But was later transferred to Machakos.
Her mother Veronica Kalunde appealed to the government to investigate and bring to book the suspects.
Rose Kirira, a nurse in Ward Two, said Irene has so far undergone several reconstructive surgeries and is out of danger. “We have involved all the experts in the hospital who have conclusively reviewed her case,” said Kirira.