Mystery follows magistrate in Ng’ang’a saga to death

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Former Chief Magistrate Godfrey Hillary Oduor (right) presiding over a Mobile roadside Traffic Court session along the Nairobi-Nakuru Road. Photo/PD/FILE

Eric Wainaina and Zadock Angira

Former Chief Magistrate Godfrey Hillary Oduor’s death on Saturday in his girlfriend’s house in Nairobi is as mysterious as his rulings, some of which put him on the spot.

Oduor, whose last station was Kisumu where he served as the Chief Magistrate after serving in Nakuru and Limuru in the same capacity, not only left job but also died in unclear circumstances now subject to a probe by detectives from Makadara Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

The deceased will be remembered as the magistrate who controversially acquitted televangelist James Ng’ang’a of Neno Evangelism at Limuru courts in a case where the latter was charged with killing Mercy Njeri through dangerous driving, sparking outrage from the public, prompting the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to appeal.

The deceased was found lying in bed, facing upwards and detectives said there was no sign of struggle. An alcoholic drink was found next to his body.

“The body had no physical injuries. A bottle of 250ml vodka found in the bedroom was also collected for analysis,” a senior detective said. 

He said that an autopsy would be done today to establish the cause of death.

Looked through window

The woman is reported to have returned from work on Wednesday evening and found the house locked from inside.

On trying to look through the bedroom window, she saw Oduor seemingly asleep but with foam in his mouth.

Police officers from Madaraka Police station arrived at the scene and found the door closed from inside. When they broke in, they found the magistrate dead.

Oduor, a 45-year-old widower is said to have absconded from his duties a year ago after sinking into depression following the death of his wife about two years ago.

He moved into his girlfriend’s apartment in September this year after failing to pay his house rent in Nairobi South C estate.

Sources within the Judiciary said the magistrate’s wife died two years ago and this may have affected him.

“His bosses tried their best to help and took him for rehabilitation due to a drinking problem.

He agreed to move to Kisumu and his colleagues thought this would help him overcome whatever challenges he was going through,” added the source.

Madaraka DCI boss Henry Kiambati said police were waiting for a postmortem examination to determine their next cause of action.

The girlfriend, Njoki Muhia, told the detectives that she left the deceased in the house on the material day and came back at around 6.30pm from work.

 Njoki is said to have tried calling him in vain and later decided to report to the police who later broke the door and conducted preliminary investigations before transferring the body to City Mortuary.

Sparked public outcry

Oduor sparked outrage on May 17, 2018 when he delivered a controversial ruling that freed Ng’ang’a and three others in a case that saw former Tigoni traffic commandant Patrick Baya charged over cover up.

But Oduor, who by the time of the ruling had been transferred to Nakuru, said the trio did not have a case to answer because witnesses never put the preacher at the scene of murder, forcing Haji to file an appeal that is pending before Justice Christine Meoli in Kiambu.

The outrage was triggered by the seemingly overwhelming evidence that was produced in court and which the DDP said the magistrate ignored, and also because of the attempted cover-up during the probe where the preacher nearly went scot-free.

The outgoing Chief Justice David Maraga expressed his condolences to the bereaved family.

“We are grateful for the time he served the Judiciary and pray that God grants his family to fortitude to bear this loss.

It is with sadness that I have received the newsof the death of one of our judicial officer. Chief Magistrate Godfrey Oduor…,” he stated. 

Oduor served the judiciary in various capacitoes sine May 2001 when he joined as a District Magistrate II and started his career at Kibera Law Courts. He was later posted to various station including Keroka, Kisii, Limuru and Nakuru.

By the time of his death, he had risen through the ranks to become a Chief Magistrate.

More on News