An inquest into the death of Keroche Breweries’ heiress Tecra Muigai has failed to start due to simmering differences between the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions.
The inquest was scheduled to start before Milimani Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku but the session aborted after the DPP said the matter should be transferred to Lamu where Tecra’s alleged murder occurred in April this year.
State Counsel Joseph Riungu said DPP Noordin Haji had directed the inquest to be transferred from Milimani, adding that the decision of the DCI to have the inquest at Milimani was inadvertent.
“The decision lies with the DPP on his mandate under article 157. Guided by the provisions of the law, the DPP took a determination on where the inquest is supposed to be heard,” said Mr Riungu.
He urged the magistrate not to entertain any submissions from the parties because the Milimani court was not the proper court to hear them.
“The inquest ought to be in Lamu before a magistrate in that jurisdiction. If there is any concern, the Lamu magistrate’s court is the appropriate place to determine and hear the concerns,” said Mr Riungu.
The court heard that DCI detectives had on September 17 lodged the inquest file at the Milimani Law Courts and they had notified Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi about the matter. However, Mr Riungu said the police decision was a mistake.
Tecra’s family opposed the transfer of the inquest from Nairobi saying most witnesses are based at the capital city.
Witnesses include medical experts, the deceased’s relatives and homicide detectives from the DCI headquarters.
“A significant amount of evidence on the death of Tecra comprises scientific, medical and post-mortem reports carried out by experienced doctors all of whom are based in Nairobi,” said Tecra’s mother Tabitha Karanja in an affidavit filed in court yesterday.
She said Tecra died at the Nairobi Hospital, and the nearest magistrate’s court to the location of the death is Milimani.
Mrs Karanja expressed fear of the family’s safety while travelling to and from Lamu for the inquest.
“The key suspect in this matter is an influential person among boat owners and operators and beach boys around Lamu Island, yet boat transport is the single most reliable form of transport for accessing Lamu Islands,” said Mrs Karanja.
She expressed fear that the family may not travel to and from Lamu Islands to attend and participate in the inquest proceedings without a significant threat to their lives and safety.
Mrs Karanja accused the DPP of making flip-flopping decisions that have frustrated the family’s desire to know the truth about the death of their kin.
“The things that have happened and the request by the DPP to withdraw the matter and transfer it to Lamu have triggered extreme and well-founded suspicions in me and the entire family of the deceased. The conduct of the DPP is inconsistent with the constitutional and statutory principles that ought to guide him in handling this matter,” said Mrs Karanja.
She said the post-mortem on Tecra’s body revealed scientific evidence that raised serious questions and doubts regarding the explanation proffered by the suspect, Mr Omar Lali.
While accusing the DPP of frustrating the family, Mrs Karanja told the court that the DPP had earlier decided to charge Mr Lali with murder but he later changed his mind and directed an inquest be carried out.
The family wrote a letter to the ODPP requesting that rather than going the inquest route, the DPP consider determining the particular loose evidentiary ends which the office regarded as requiring investigatory sealing.
Mrs Karanja said the family was of the view that the DPP should have directed the DCI to fill the same to avoid the need for an inquest. However, the DPP did not respond to the letter.
“The family of the deceased no longer has confidence in the DPP handling this matter in strict compliance with the dictates of the constitution and the law,” said Mrs Karanja.
According to her, the DPP is responding to instructions or pressure from elsewhere.
She suggested that the DPP should appoint an independent prosecutor to handle the prosecution of the case owing to the family’s loss of confidence.
The hearing of the DPP’s application will be on October 14.