Drama as Wairimu gets wish to attend husband’s autopsy

Thursday, September 19th, 2019 00:00 |
Sarah Wairimu, the wife of murdered Dutch tycoon Tob Cohen at the Chiromo mortuary last week. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA

 Zadock Angira and Kinyuru Munuhe

Drama characterised the much-awaited post-mortem examination to establish the cause of death of Dutch businessman Tob Cohen, with the main suspect and her lawyer giving various conditions that they wanted fulfilled by the prosecution.

The autopsy, which had earlier been postponed twice at the Chiromo mortuary, yesterday lasted close to six hours.

Cohen’s wife Sarah Wairimu, who is the main suspect in her husband’s murder, arrived at the morgue’s compound at around noon and was driven to the parking lot under the escort of seven prison warders, two of them armed with G3 rifles. 

Dressed in black trousers and a pink top, Wairimu, who was not handcuffed, was received by her lawyer Philip Murgor, who walked her into the morgue, with their hands tightly locked.

As the post-mortem got underway, Wairimu served a letter to Chiromo mortuary, barring the management from releasing the body to Cohen’s sister, Gabrielle van Straten. 

Property and Marriage 

“Our client demands that the remains are not released to Gabrielle Cohen as she has no legal authority or mandate to take out our client’s husband’s body, let alone bury him,” said Murgor who is representing Wairimu in the murder case.

“The sister, Gabriele Cohen, has indicated that she is in a hurry to be given the body of our client’s husband and to quickly bury him at some unknown place and thereafter leave the country. We have been instructed to object the release of the remains to her, for whatever purposes,” Murgor added.

The lawyer said Wairimu remains the lawfully married wife despite what he termed as “trumped up murder charges”. He said that though she was an accused person, that did not deprive her of the right to family property and marriage.

“We expect the Kenyan authorities to enforce her legal rights. It is not our client who must get a court order to bury her husband.

“To the contrary, it is the sister who does not live in Kenya who must get a court order. Finally, our client is fully aware of the wishes of the late husband, none of which includes being buried within the shortest time possible,” Murgor said.

Wairimu said she will foot the body preservation charges at Chiromo and demanded the burial permit be issued only to her or her lawyer.

The post-mortem was conducted by Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor assisted by Prof. Emily Rugena, who represented Cohen’s sister, and Prof. Andrew Gachie, who held brief for Wairimu. 

Autopsy exercise was also attended by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Homicide Unit and representatives from the Government Chemist. The Cohen family was represented by lawyer Danstan Omari.

It was initially scheduled for Monday but was postponed to Tuesday when the deceased’s wife said a pathologist who was to represent her was held up elsewhere.

Cohen’s sister had requested that the post-mortem be speeded up so that they could be given the body for burial before leaving the country.

The team assembled at the Chiromo mortuary on Tuesday, but Wairimu’s lawyer Murgor stopped the exercise saying their side was not comfortable with the government pathologist Peter Ndegwa, saying he was unlikely to be independent.

They claimed that Ndegwa was at the scene of crime where the body was found on the invitation of DCI boss George Kinoti. Ndegwa did not object Murgor’s reservations. 

“My colleague Dr. Johansen Oduor is on leave but he has agreed to temporarily resume work and be here tomorrow for the post-mortem examination. As you know, justice has to be seen to be done,” he said.

After it was mutually agreed that the lead pathologist would be Oduor, the defence gave another condition, with Murgor insisting that Wairimu who is remanded at the Langata Women’s Prison, must first identify the body and witness the autopsy.

The prosecution and detectives from the Homicide Unit did not object to the demand, and yesterday at 9am Murgor filed a letter in the High Court seeking to have Wairimu  presented at the mortuary ahead of the autopsy. 

Good coverage

Justice Stella Mutuku allowed the application, and issued an order allowing her to attend the postmortem. She was taken to the morgue before the exercise begun, viewed the body and remained in the room until the procedure started at 1pm.

Shortly before 5pm, Wairimu was whisked away and taken back to prison. Asked how the procedure was going, she retorted: “Very sad. Thank you for the good coverage you have been offering.”

Gabrielle, who was at the mortuary, just looked at her without uttering a word.

Earlier on Tuesday evening, the body had been transferred to the Kenyatta National Hospital for a full body X-ray to establish if there were any internal injuries.

Preliminary results indicated that Cohen had suffered fractures on the ribs, hand and skull.“X-rays are very important, they pick up things you may not be able to see like foreign objects and fractures,” Ndegwa had said.

The body of the Dutch millionaire was found in an underground water tank at his Kitisuru home on September 13, more than two months after he was reported missing. 

Elsewhere in Kiambu, the court allowed detectives to detain Wairimu’s co-accused Peter Karanja for two weeks to enable them to conclude investigations.

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