Ms Muthoni suspected that her husband was cheating on her with a young woman running a mobile money shop.
After failing to eliminate her husband Solomon Mbuthi’s perceived lover, Jane Muthoni turned to the very men who had chickened out of killing her competitor, Margaret Kimindiri, with a new target and more money.
Ms Muthoni, who is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of killing former Kiru Boys High School Principal Solomon Mbuthi, had for long suspected that her husband was having a relationship with Ms Kimindiri.
She initially wanted Ms Kimindiri murdered. The plan, however, collapsed after her assassins claimed that the target’s shop in Kiriaini, Murang’a was too close to a police station, making it difficult to abduct her.
But unaware that she had hired amateurs to kill Ms Kimindiri, Ms Muthoni, who now wanted her husband killed, once again tasked Isaac Nganga alias Gikuyu and Joseph Kariuki alias Karis with the new job. It was a catastrophic failure which, as she would later find out, made it easy for the police to link her husband’s murder to her.
Just a regular guy
Gikuyu was just a regular guy who sold miraa from a kiosk in Gatundu. Icaciri Secondary School, where Ms Muthoni was a principal, is also located in Gatundu. Karis, on the other hand, was a tout in one of the matatus plying the Ruiru-Nairobi route. None of them had a criminal history or record with the police.
So incompetent were the would be assassins that Gikuyu was found with Mr Mbuthi’s size 10 CAT sports shoes after the Kiru Boys principal was murdered. Karis, on the other hand, cut a deal with the prosecution and spilled the beans about how the murder was planned and executed. In return, he earned a reduced sentence for manslaughter.
The initial meeting to plan Mr Mbuthi’s murder was held at Tree Shade Hotel along Thika Road sometime in June 2016. Present at the meeting was Ms Muthoni, Karis, Gikuyu and Nelson Njiru Magati. Mr Njiru, who was also Ms Muthoni’s lover, is the one who recruited Karis and Gikuyu for the job.
Karis and Gikuyu were, during the meeting, given Sh50,000 each as advance payment for the job and also to keep them interested. It would, however, take another five months for the plan to be executed “Njiru would call me occasionally to inform me that the job was still on,” Karis would later tell the court.
After months of waiting, a date was finally set for carrying out the murder. It was to take place on the Friday night of November 4, 2016. Njiru called Karis and Gikuyu informing them that they were to meet at Texas bar in Kimbo, Ruiru before proceeding to Kiriaini where Ms Muthoni would sneak them into her husband’s compound.
Once in the compound, the three — Njiru, Karis and Gikuyu— were to remain hidden in the car with a rope, waiting for a stupefying drug that Ms Muthoni was to administer to her husband to take effect. The drug was later identified by Joyce Wairimu, a government chemist who performed a toxicology on Mr Mbuthi’s body, to be xylene, a powerful sedative used in veterinary treatments.
“Once the drug took effect, Ms Muthoni was to call me and Gikuyu to come with the rope and finish the job,” Karis told the court.
A car for the job, a white Toyota Sienta registration number KCF 405R, was immediately hired for the job by Njiru from Robert Kimani. In his statement to investigators, Mr Kimani said Njiru was supposed to return it the following day.
“He kept changing the time he was to return it but he eventually brought it on Monday, November 7,” recalled Mr Kimani. After getting a car and with a plan in place, Karis, Njiru and Gikuyu left for Murang’a with Ms Muthoni on the wheel. Karis and Gikuyu were seated at the back, safely hidden by the car’s tinted windows, while Njiru sat on the front passenger seat.
Second major blunder
This was their second major blunder in the mission they were to carry out. Mistake number one was communicating several times using their mobile phones on that day before meeting at Texas bar. Then, the fact that the four of them travelled together and with their mobile phones on would later be used by investigators to easily place them at the scene of the murder.
Evidence produced by Faisal Juma, a Safaricom Law Enforcement Liaison Officer and Vincent Mbaabu from Airtel were able to place before Justice Joel Ngugi credible evidence on how the four were tracked from the time they left Ruiru to Kiriaini and back.
“Basically, in order to route calls or texts to a phone, cell towers (masts) “listen” for a signal sent from the phone and “negotiate” which tower is best able to communicate with the phone. As the phone changes location, the antenna towers monitor the signal, and the phone is “roamed” to an adjacent tower as appropriate,” explained Mr Juma.
“By identifying which cell tower a particular phone used to communicate, one is able to approximate the location of the phone,” he said.
A tracking of cell phones belonging to the four showed that they all left Ruiru shortly before 6pm and arrived in Kiriaini at around 10.30pm. This is where Njiru was dropped, leaving Karis, Gikuyu and Ms Muthoni to head to Kiru Boys High School located about 3 kilometres away.
At the gate they were let in by David Gachoka, a security guard. Since it was the principal’s wife driving in, Mr Gachoka did not bother to carry out a security check on the vehicle or check whether there was anyone else inside the car.
“She requested us not to let the security dogs lose since she would be going out again. I immediately informed the other guard on duty, Mr Peter Wachira, of the request by the principal’s wife,” Mr Gachoka told investigators.
Request for milk
Two hours later, at about 12.30am, Mr Mbuthi called Mr Gachoka requesting for some milk from the school kitchen. The security guard did as instructed but when he went to the principal’s house, he found Ms Muthoni seated on the driver’s seat of the Toyota Sienta she had driven in at the parking lot. On seeing Mr Gachoka, Ms Muthoni instructed him to leave the milk at an adjacent house.
He did as he had been told and left. What the security guard did not know was that a major crime was taking place right at that time and under his nose. Hidden behind the tinted windows of the car the principal’s wife was in were two assassins who had been brought to kill Mr Mbuthi.
As for the principal, he had already been poisoned an hour before with xylene and was probably asking for milk in order to lower the pain he was feeling. Nevertheless, the plan did not work as Mr Mbuthi did not become sufficiently stupefied for Karis and Gikuyu to be summoned to strangle him.
After the failure of the plan, Ms Muthoni drove Karis and Gikuyu to Othaya in Nyeri for them to board matatus back to their homes in Kiambu. Along the way they picked Njiru who was waiting for them in Kiriaini.
The next day (Saturday), however, Njiru called Karis informing him that the plan was still on and that he would connect him to a contact who would sell him a better stupefying drug that will be administered to Mr Mbuthi.
Meanwhile, Mr Mbuthi and Ms Muthoni had travelled from Kiriaini to Icaciri Secondary School where they arrived in the evening at about 6.30pm. Apparently, the couple was supposed to view some plots at Uriithi in Kiambu on Sunday before Mr Mbuthi travelled back to Kiriaini where he was needed to pick KCSE examination papers which were to start on Monday.
Once they arrived in Icaciri, Ms Muthoni excused herself saying that she was expecting a parcel which had not been delivered. She immediately left and drove to Muigai Inn in Juja, 31 kilometres away.
Apparently the contact person that Karis had been directed to pick the stupefying drug from by Njiru was the same one that Ms Muthoni was going to meet. Ms Muthoni arrived shortly before Njiru at the location. In fact, Karis arrived as Ms Muthoni was picking the drug.
“I saw Ms Muthoni sitting in the Toyota Sienta while a stranger opened the front door, and left. I assumed that a transaction involving the mchele (street name for stupefying drugs) had taken place between her and the stranger,” recalled Karis.
On Sunday at about noon, Njiru called Karis informing him that there was work to do and that he should proceed to Kenyatta Road. Shortly after, Ms Muthoni called Karis telling him that they should meet in Ndarugo at Uriithi plots. He proceeded there as instructed. Karis was the first to arrive. Ms Muthoni and a dazed Mr Mbuthi arrived shortly after in the Toyota Sienta.
“Maliza kazi (finish the job),” Ms Muthoni instructed. When Karis hesitated, Ms Muthoni barked, “Kwani wewe in muoga (are you a coward)” to which Karis responded, “You might as well kill your husband.”
Angered by the hesitation by Karis, Ms Muthoni got back in the car and sped off. She, however, returned shortly and told Karis that her husband was already too drugged and there is no way she was going to take him back home.
She then asked Karis to find out how far Gikuyu was. Karis called Gikuyu and it turned out that he was not very far. When Gikuyu arrived, the three of them entered the car and drove towards Karakuta coffee farm.
After driving in silence for some minutes, Ms Muthoni suddenly stopped and said in Kikuyu, “Ni hau (It’s here). As if on cue, Gikuyu, who was seated behind Mr Mbuthi according to a testimony by Karis, swung into action.
“He suddenly took the rope which was in the vehicle, put it round Mr Mbuthi’s neck and pulled it,” recalled Karis.
Dragged into thicket
They then dragged the school principal for about 100 metres into a small thicket where they instructed him to sit down. Gikuyu tied Mr Mbuthi’s hands, took some three soiled gunny bags which he had come with and used them to cover the school principal’s head, upper body and legs.
Before leaving the scene, Gikuyu took off the gum boots he was wearing. He also took Mr Mbuthi’s shoes, tried them on himself and found they fitted him well. The two walked back to where they had left Ms Muthoni but did not find her or the car.
They walked using a short-cut, to Kenyatta Road and went their separate ways. Karis and Gikuyu never saw each other again, neither did they meet Njiru or Ms Muthoni who were supposed to pay them the balance for the job.
Mr Mbuthi, who the next morning (November 8), was supposed to pick KCSE exam papers at the Murang’a County education office, failed to show up, triggering an alarm to search for his whereabouts. Naturally, media houses sent journalists to Icaciri Secondary School where they were met by a teary Ms Muthoni.
“It is not easy. I don’t know whether you want me to use Kikuyu or English but it is not easy especially for me as a mother,” Ms Muthoni told journalists.
Mr Mbuthi’s body was discovered four days later. His widow and Gikuyu were arrested eight days later.
They will be sentenced on May 18 after being found guilty of murdering Mr Mbuthi.
Meanwhile Njiru disappeared without a trace and is still missing four years later. – nation.co.ke