In the small town of Nyahururu, Kenya, word gets around rather fast — even on the coldest, foggiest nights. That is probably how the crowd outside the hospital there got to be so big on the morning of Monday, May 16, 2011, the morning after the death of Olympic Marathon Champion Samuel Wanjiru.
The crowd was composed mostly of youths. Some were in the tracksuits and trainers they had slipped on as usual before heading for the Nyahururu Stadium for their morning training. If their neighbours had not whispered it, it was all over the news that Samuel Kamau Wanjiru, the precocious marathoner who lived a kilometre away, was no more.
The crowd gathered outside the Nyahururu District Hospital Mortuary wanted to see for itself the prodigy’s body as it lay cold on a stretcher, feet poking out of a blanket. In Nairobi, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told reporters — most of them international — that the 24-year-old Olympic marathon champion had committed suicide.
In Nyahururu, local police boss Jaspher Ombati said the man, known there as Kamau and to the rest of the world as Wanjiru, had died after a bad fall from the balcony of his Muthaiga house as he chased his wife, Terezah Njeri, after a quarrel.
These contradictory statements yielded questions; why did the spokesman confidently say he committed suicide? Why would the OCPD state that a fit Wanjiru had fallen off a balcony he willingly jumped off?
A week later, the police were confident no more investigations were necessary, save for the post-mortem.
Some of these questions would have been answered had the police secured the scene or been faster in retrieving recordings from Kamau’s closed circuit television system.
What was known at the time was that Ms Njeri had arrived at the one-storey house the previous night shortly after her husband who had come in from Eldoret via Nakuru. He was in the company of another woman, and a quarrel had naturally broken out. Ms Njeri left the house after locking her husband and his companion, 22-year-old bar waitress Jane Nduta, in the bedroom.
Ms Njeri said she was dropped home by their driver, took some medicine and then found her husband in bed with a woman who claimed to be his other wife. They quarrelled and things got out of hand, whereupon she locked them in and hurried out of the compound as she called the police.
“I could hear him call from the bedroom and ask for the keys but I fled for my safety to my friend’s home, having called the police on my way,” Njeri told journalists. From there, she said she learnt of her husband’s death the following morning as the police had only told her that he had fallen off the balcony and had been admitted to Nyahururu District Hospital. The circumstances of that death remain a mystery. Now, the key names in the drama:
The story would certainly have been different had Kamau not elected to pick up this 22-year-old single mother of one from Kawa Falls Restaurant. Ms Nduta was interrogated and then released by police before leaving Nyahururu to avoid the questions, stares and accusations that would have naturally come her way.
When she talked to the Nation on the phone on the Wednesday of the same week, she said she had been friends with the athlete for some time; and that it was not the first time they had shared a blanket. But her colleagues at Kawa Falls Bar and Restaurant suggested Ms Nduta was exaggerating the length and nature of her trysts with the athlete.
They said it was the first time she had left with him and was so eager to go that she had no time to change from her waitress’ uniform. According to Ms Nduta, Wanjiru had arrived at Kawa Falls at about 11p.m. that Sunday evening and had waited for her.
Wanjiru drank several bottles of Tusker Malt at Jimrock Restaurant, 500 metres away, before they headed home in the Toyota Prado he had borrowed from his agent Federico Rosa earlier that Sunday. When they got home, Wanjiru stopped the car at the gate and said he would speak to the security guard first, presumably to find out whether Terezah was present.
Word had it that he got into the compound, spoke to the guard and walked out to the vehicle, which he then drove into the compound. According to Ms Nduta, the guard opened the main door to the house and the two stepped into the sitting room. Then Wanjiru switched on his Sony flat-screen TV and the two relaxed on the seats.
Ms Njeri walked in five minutes later and the presence of the waitress sparked a confrontation between the athlete and his wife.
“They quarreled and Terezah asked what my relationship to Kamau was. I told her that Kamau was my close friend and we had been friends for a long time. I told her I could not have come to his house if that was not the case,” said Ms Nduta. Ms Njeri left the living room and locked the main door from the outside, but her husband appeared unmoved.
The wife came back into the room a second time, found them still watching television and left after a second quarrel. When she came back to the house for the third time, said Ms Nduta, the two had moved to the master bedroom on the first floor and were seated on the large bed. Furious, Ms Njeri walked in, took away the house keys and a padlock, grabbed a jug, poured the water out and attempted to hit Nduta with it, the waitress said.
There was a scuffle between Nduta and Njeri. Nduta grabbed the jug but Njeri’s quarrel with Wanjiru resumed with increased intensity.
It was then that Ms Njeri left the bedroom for the final time and locked the metal grille leading to the bedroom areas.
Ms Nduta said she sat on the bed as Wanjiru opened a door leading to the balcony from the bedroom and started beseeching his wife to open the door.
The waitress said she remained seated on the bed as the exchange between the couple continued.
“I remained seated on the bed listening to them arguing. Suddenly, I heard the watchman scream and went to the balcony to check. I asked him what was wrong and he pointed to the ground and asked me to look at who was lying there. Kamau lay there, bleeding,” said Ms Nduta.
What was the extent of her relationship with Wanjiru? Was she protecting something bigger than her dignity in making this allegation? Did she notice anybody else in the compound? Why did she not leave earlier when the quarrels started?
The athlete’s mother claimed that her son had been hit at the back of the head with a piece of metal, and that there was blood in the bedroom. But Simon Njoroge, the athlete’s brother who was among the first people at the scene, later said he had had no chance to go into the bedroom and had never returned to it. Ms Nduta said there was no blood as none had been shed in the scuffle between her and Terezah.
While there are unanswered questions about the identity of the driver who took Njeri home, the mystery of Wanjiru’s death was complicated by the failure to release the official report on the cause of his death.
Government Pathologist Moses Njue was expected to give the final word on this when he conducted the examination on May 27.
He established that day that the cause of death was “blunt force trauma” to the back of the head. A final report would be issued after toxicological tests on the brain, part of the liver, the contents of the stomach and the urine, but, perhaps most importantly, by visiting the scene.
Dr Njue would use this and the statements from the police to determine whether a fall from a height of 14 feet could cause the Y-shaped crack on the occiput that was the cause of Kamau’s death. He did this on the afternoon of June 1, spending a long time questioning the officers who had investigated the death and interviewing Nduta and Njeri and having Simon Njoroge lie on the spot in the manner in which his brother was found.
He left a puzzled man, and is yet to issue a final report. Dr Emily Rogena, a senior lecturer in Human Pathology who had been hired to witness the post-mortem and advise Hannah Wanjiru, issued her report on June 4.
Said Dr Rogena in the report Attested in Soul and Conscience : “The body demonstrates a dual pattern of injuries with features consistent with conscious landing on fours (the hands and knees) and fatal injury at the back of the head.”
The landing on all fours was accounted for by bruises to the hard muscles just below the small finger on both hands and to the knees. With the inaction and laxity on the part of the police, the contradicting statements by Nduta, Terezah and Maigua, the assertion by his mother that he was killed, inconclusive CCTV recording and the continued silence, the question remains; who killed Samuel Kamau Wanjiru?