I did not kill my husband, Cohen’s widow tells court
Sarah Wairimu, the widow of slain Dutch businessman Tob Cohen, was today formally charged with the murder of her husband. She denied the charges.
Wairimu took plea after High Court judge Stella Mutuku allowed lawyer Philip Murgor to continue representing her.
Cohen’s family lawyer Cliff Ombeta had argued that Murgor should not be allowed to act for Wairimu arguing he was still a gazetted public prosecutor.
Wairimu pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, 37 days after she was arrested on claims that on July 19 and 20 in Nairobi, jointly together with others not in court, she killed Cohen.
While allowing Murgor to continue acting for Wairimu in the case, Justice Mutuku ruled that there would be no conflict of interest as the lawyer’s resignation as a public prosecutor on March 7 was sufficient.
“Murgor’s representation of Wairimu is proper before this court because one cannot be forced to work where he or she does not work,” said Justice Mutuku.
The judge said that while Murgor had been appointed a public prosecutor in January, he had since tendered his resignation to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which was accepted.
She said Murgor has interacted with the office of the DPP in other criminal matters and they have never raised any issues over his standing in the cases.
Wairimu, who appeared calm, told the court that she understood the charge and that she was not responsible for the death of her husband.
“We respect the sanctity of life. We want to assure the DPP that the person in court is not the one who killed Cohen,” she said.
The DPP, through Catherine Mwaniki, made an application to be granted five days to place key witnesses under witness protection before they can file a response to Wairimu’s bail application.
She added they need to retract the statements of all the protected witnesses since they will use some of them to argue why Wairimu should not be granted bail.
“The information we have received after the body of Cohen was recovered will demonstrate interference, relationship terms between employer and employee, Occurrence Book abstract and threats to the witnesses,” said Mwaniki.
But Murgor opposed the request, arguing the accused has been in custody for 37 days and the prosecution had enough time to contact the witness protection programme. He termed the delay of hearing the bail application a violation of her client’s rights.
“Bail is a constitutional right even when charged with the offence of murder. My client has been in custody for more than 37 days without any form of evidence. It is not fair to keep on holding her for five more days, “said Murgor.
He said he had filed and served an application for bail on September 16 and the prosecution ought to have responded.
Ombeta, representing the Cohen’s family, said they will also be opposing the release of Wairimu on bail. He added that it would be in the interest of justice if the prosecution was allowed more time to place the witnesses under protection.
But Justice Mutuku declined to detain Wairimu for five more days and instead ordered that all the parties appear before her today(Friday) at 11 am for bail hearing.
Meanwhile, another suspect, Joseph Karanja, was arraigned before the same court in connection with Cohen’s murder.
Karanja did not plea to the murder charge after the prosecution asked for more time to allow the suspect to undergo a mental assessment.
Karanja, through lawyer Ham Langat, did not object to the application by prosecution but asked to be taken to hospital for treatment saying he is diabetic.
He wanted to be allowed to be treated by his personal doctor at the Aga Khan University Hospital.
But the judge directed that Karanja undergo a mental test at Mathari Hospital on October 8.
“The officer in charge Industrial remand prison shall ensure that Karanja is escorted to Mathari for mental assessment on October 8 and at Kenyatta National Hospital for treatment and a report filed in court,” ordered Justice Mutuku.
He will plead to the charges on October 11.
At the same time an application to lift gag order against the media, DPP, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, victims and defence in the murder case has been filed and will be heard on October 15 before judge Jessie Lessit.
Justice Mutuku referred the matter to the High Court criminal division presiding judge, saying she did not have the jurisdiction to review her orders issued on September.
“l have no powers to review Justice Lessit’s orders. I direct the petitioner to serve all the parties before inter-parties hearing on October 15,” said the judge.