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Magistrate in the dock over murder

A senior resident magistrate yesterday found herself in an unfamiliar spot — the dock — when she was taken to court linked to the killing of her lawyer husband at their matrimonial house in Athi River.

The shoe was on the other foot for Pauline Omungala, wife of slain lawyer Robert Chesang, after she was detained for nine days to allow police to complete investigations into the killing. Investigators say the suspect offered the killers Sh181,000 to execute the husband.

“One officer has confessed he pulled the trigger. They were sent by one of the suspects in custody to eliminate Chesang after being duped that he was a criminal,” said the officer, who requested anonymity.

Bond denied

“The motive was domestic violence between the deceased and his arrested wife, occasioned by fighting for property and leading to their cases appearing before courts. The wife felt that being a magistrate, she was being embarrassed by the cases being handled in courts,” a senior police officer investigating the murder said.

Omungala, stationed in Nyeri, was brought to court alongside police officers Sergeant Richard Lorunyei Moru of Riruta Police Station, Peter Mbithi of Mutuini Police Post and Lawrence Lempesi, a retired senior police officer, who was arrested in Baragoi, Samburu county.

Another suspect, Geoffery Angoria Moru, had earlier appeared in court over the killing.

A plea by Omungala’s lawyer, Assa Nyakundi, to have her released on bond were rejected by Mavoko principal magistrate Elvis Mitheka, who concurred with the police request to detain her to allow them to complete investigations.

He said the matter was sensitive and the accused might interfere with investigations, which were at an advance stage.

Detectives claim Omungala may have taken advantage of threats issued on her late husband by unnamed people with an interest in a case Chesang was handling.

An affidavit filed in court by the investigating officer said frequent fights and disputes over property ownership marred the couple’s marriage.

The detectives are trying to establish why Omungala was in frequent communication with one of the suspects implicated in the murder just days before Chesang’s murder.

According to the detectives, the couple had threatened each other and had been in domestic feuds for years, which eventually ended up in court.

Advanced stage

The detectives claim their investigations are at an advanced stage.  Their evidence is gathered from telephone conversations between Omungala and the three other suspects.

The magistrate’s arrest followed days of investigations into Chesang’s killing in Lukenya, Machakos county.  Gunmen raided his house in broad daylight on February 17 and shot him dead.

Yesterday, Omungala’s lawyer argued that her two children, aged eight and five years, had no guardian to take care of them.

He said the accused was severely asthmatic, which had further been worsened by the shock of her husband’s sudden demise and detaining her in custody would subject her to more suffering.

Nyakundi said investigating officers were holding his client’s crucial documents, including title deeds, yet they bore no relation to the ongoing case.

However, the court granted the suspect access to her house under escort to pick crucial documents of her children including medical cards and school documents.

According to one of the investigating officers, Omungala was constantly in touch with the key suspect in the murder and two others who are being sought by police.

Conflicting accounts

The two are said to have given conflicting accounts of how they know each other. A vehicle captured on CCTV footage belonging to one of the suspects in the murder has been towed to Athi River Police Station, where the suspects will be detained. The case will be mentioned on March 12.

  

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