Did Kitengela girl die in place of her best friend?

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021 00:00 |

The gang that kidnapped and later killed an 8-year-old girl in Kitengela, Kajiado county on Sunday could have mistook her for a daughter of a police officer, according to preliminary investigations.

Shantel Nzembi, a Grade Two, pupil went missing on Sunday from her home in Ashut, Kitengela. Her body was found at Orata Noonkopir the following day.

She had left home at around 3pm to play with a friend only identified as Sharon, the daughter of a police officer.

Her mother, Christine Ngina, and the police said she went missing an hour later.

Shantel and Sharon were close friends, were almost the same size and complexion and had a similar hairstyle. They were also schoolmates.

Their parents did not, however, know each other. 

Sharon’s mother is a police officer while Shantel’s parents work at the Export Processing Zone in Athi River.

Although Shantel’s parents are separated,  they work in the same company and close allies say they relate well.

Shantel’s mother told People Daily that the anonymous caller, who informed her of the kidnapping and demanded ransom, kept referring to her as ‘Mama Sharon’.

“We doubt if the girl was the target. So far there is no evidence that the mother has enemies,” a DCI detective told People Daily.

“The amount the kidnappers were asking was also unreasonable considering that the parents are casual labourers,” the detective added.

Deal gone sour?

Preliminary investigations reveal that on reaching the playing field, Shantel did not find Sharon and instead played with another girl. 

While they were playing, a woman called her and asked whether there was a vacant house in the area. She went missing thereafter.

Detectives said the fact that the kidnappers were demanding ransom was a possible indication of a deal gone sour and that the other party was on a revenge mission.

Ngina said her daughter had alerted her that she was going out to play but she became worried when she stayed out longer than usual.

“I went to look for her. I asked other children to direct me to Sharon’s house because I only knew the apartment she lived in but not the specific house,” she said.

But there was no one in house.

“I returned twice but still did not find anybody nor traced my daughter. No one had seen her at all,” she said.

By 5pm, the girl had not been traced nor heard from. The mother then contacted the caretaker for contacts of Sharon’s parents.

“Sharon’s mother picked the call but told me her daughter was away visiting a relative,” Ngina said.

Shortly after, Ngina received a call from a private number and a female caller asked her if she knew where her daughter was.

“The caller referred to me as Mama Sharon and asked if I was aware where the girl was. I told her my daughter was called Shantel and that she was missing,” she said.

She also told the caller that the last time her daughter was seen was when she left to play with Sharon.

Ngina said the caller later told her that she was with her daughter at Kiambu County and if she wanted to see her again, she had to part with Sh300,000.

“I was devastated and made frantic calls to neighbours and reported the matter at the Kitengela Police Station at around 7.30pm,” she said.

She said the caller made more than 50 calls, most of which she did not pick.

The following morning, detectives advised her to send some money to the caller. The caller gave her an Airtel line to which the money was to be sent.

Switched off

“I communicated with the caller the entire day and she kept insisting that I quickly send the cash,” says Ngina. 

At around 8.47am, the caller threatened that she would “do the worst.”

Later, a boda boda rider reported a body had been discovered in a gunny bag. At around 11am, the body was identified as Shantel’s.

After the recovery of the body, the unregistered mobile Airtel number that the money was to be sent to was switched off. 

“I believe I have no enemies and my daughter was just a victim of circumstances,” Ngina said.

Isinya DCI boss Jeremiah Ndubai yesterday said investigations had been launched to establish the identity and motive of the killers.

“We will get to the bottom of this. As of now, every one is a suspect. We are recording statements from many people, including children who last saw the girl,” said Ndubai.

He said the biggest challenge is tracking the unregistered number but is upbeat the murder will be unravelled. 

The officer said the kidnappers are likely to be within Kitengela.

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