In an arrangement that lasted for six months, Lilian Waswa left her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Marion Pendo, in the care of her neighbour, Alice Wanyonyi, whenever she was away at work.
She would pick up her daughter in the evening when she returned from work at 6pm, paying the guardian Sh70 a day for her services.
All seemed well, as baby Pendo seemed to be well integrated into the neighbour’s family.
But a sudden and unexpected turn of events on December 30, 2022, shattered the tranquillity of what had become a seemingly secure arrangement.
On that fateful day, things took a tragic turn when baby Pendo, who usually stayed with Wanyonyi’s family until late in the evening, met an untimely demise.
After arriving home, Waswa, a primary school teacher, went to her neighbour’s house as was her norm to pick up her daughter.
But Marion was busy playing with Wanyonyi’s husband, Joab Khayega Murunga, a boda boda driver in Nakuru’s Rhonda Estate.
The routine seemed normal until the mother realised that her daughter did not want to leave and decided to give her more time while she went home to prepare meals.
But when Waswa returned 30 minutes later to borrow a sufuria (cooking pot) from Wanyonyi’s house, she overheard Murunga standing at the door demanding that his wife be called.
Shockingly, he claimed to have killed a ghost in her house.
This startling statement sent her into a state of panic and confusion, as she was unaware of any supernatural element in the house. When she tried to enter the house, Murunga blocked her way and threatened her with violence.
Fearing for her daughter’s safety, she managed to look inside, only to see a horrific scene – her child lying on the floor in a pool of blood.
The accused, Murunga, continued to block the doorway, adding to the mother’s distress.
“I feared for my daughters’ safety when he shouted ‘ile jini imekua ikitusumbua nimeiiua leo (I’ve killed the ghost that has been haunting us)‘,” she told a Nakuru court, testifying in her daughters’ murder case before Justice Samuel Mohochi.
She said Murunga told her he had killed a ghost and not her daughter.
“Beryl, a neighbour, looked in and I also looked in and saw my child lying by the side with blood and brain matter splattered all over. The accused was still blocking the door,” Ms Waswa said.
Vivian Atieno, a neighbour who also testified in court, said she heard Murunga’s voice praying deeply.
An investigation revealed that he claimed to have killed a troubling ghost in his family.
But when another neighbour entered the house, she emerged screaming and alerted the community to the terrible truth. The neighbourhood quickly mobilised and a mob gathered to bring justice to Murunga.
But police from Rhonda Police Station intervened, rescuing him and taking custody of the child’s lifeless body.
The government pathologist, Dr Titus Ngulungu, conducted a post-mortem examination and found that the child had died of multiple head trauma, severe head injuries, extensive skull fractures and lacerations.
The examination also showed signs of extensive brain damage, with the head swollen, deformed and bruised in various places.
Murunga was charged with murder and appeared in court on January 19 this year. A psychiatric evaluation ruled out insanity and confirmed that he was fit to stand trial.
The harrowing incident shocked the community and raised questions about child safety and trust in seemingly familiar surroundings.
The hearing will continue on February 12, 2024.