Bernice Mbugua @BerniceMuhindi
A senior cop was yesterday condemned to die by the High Court for killing a suspect who was in police custody.
In a landmark ruling, High Court judge Stella Mutuku said the former Ruaraka Officer Commanding Station (OCS),Chief Inspector Nahashon Mutua, deserved to be hanged for torturing to death Martin Koome, a helpless suspect, a miraa trader, who had been arrested over a domestic dispute.
“After considering the painful death the deceased was subjected to and the inhumane treatment he received, even after he was fatally wounded, it is my considered view that the befitting sentence in this case is death,” she ruled. Mutua had been found guilty of murder on December 13, 2018.
According to the prosecution, Mutua hit Koome several times with a rod and forcibly immersed his head in a drum full of water for about 30 minutes after he was arrested following a domestic brawl at his home in Baba Dogo, Nairobi.
He was later taken to the Kenyatta National Hospital but died hours later. The court heard that Koome had a swollen face, deep cuts and even his wife could barely recognise him. And yesterday, Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) welcomed the ruling.
“This milestone decision reiterates IPOA’s commitment to professionalise the National Police Service through holding to account culpable officers and also exonerating those who are falsely accused,” IPOA chairperson Ann Makori said in a statement.
The authority was instrumental in bringing Mutua to book after it intervened, leading to the release of Kevin Odhiambo, the deceased’s cellmate, who had been framed for the murder.
In December last year, when the court gave the verdict that Mutua was guilty of murder, the victim’s family vowed never to forgive him and demanded the OCS faces the full force of the law.
“The father to the deceased went into depression and amnesia following the death of his son. The family cannot ever forgive the offender who brutally battered their kin to death even when he pleaded for mercy,” said lawyer, Edward Mbanya from the International Justice Mission, who represented Koome’s family.
He said the deceased’s wife had to quit her job over claims of harassment from Mutua’s cronies. “She lost her husband and does not know what to tell her daughter who was deprived of the love and care of a father at a tender age,” he said.
Initially, Odhiambo was charged with the murder of Koome but was later exonerated following investigations by the IPOA. Police had, in their report, claimed the inmate died after an alleged fight in the cells on the night of December 19, 2013.
In his defense, Mutua denied killing Koome and explained that he was on duty when he received information that the inmate had been injured.
He told the court he is the one who directed that the man be taken to hospital and called nine witnesses to testify on his behalf.
The witnesses alleged that Koome had been very drunk and on evaluating his case, the OCS suggested that he be charged in court with two counts.
Justice Mutuku while convicting him of murder, however, ruled that the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that he had caused the deceased suffering while in cells which caused his death.
In mitigation, Mutua maintained his innocence saying the deceased death was caused by cellmates at the Station. He said he, too, was a victim of the said death given the negative effect the case has had on his personal life as a career police officer and on his family.
Mutua argued the evidence presented to court in support of the case raised serious doubts as to whether he committed the offence he was tried for and sought non-custodial sentence.
The former OCS also wanted the case investigated afresh to determine whether the court had indeed tried the right offender.
However, in her ruling Justice Mutuku said the prosecution had fully investigated the case before he was charged and the court made a determination that the case had been proved to the required standards.
“It is my view as the trial court that this case has been subjected to the due process of this court and the only recourse now is to take the matter on appeal to the next court of hierarchy,” she ruled.
She said Koome’s death has deprived his family a bread winner, a husband and a father and that their lives were changed forever.
“There is little anyone can say or do to cushion the bereaved family against the pain caused by the death of their family member. It is only acceptance and time that will heal their pain,” she ruled.