A magistrate court at Runyejes, in Embu County, Kenya on Monday, January 16, 2023, allowed police to detain a man accused of arson attack which left seven members of the same family dead.
On the dawn of October 2, 2022, the suspect, Mr Boaz Wanjala, who was targeting his estranged wife, set ablaze a home in Ngimari village in Embu County, an attack that left grief and shock in its wake.
Those who perished were Charles Kariuki, 50 and his wife Catherine Wanjiru, 46 as well as their three children — Joel Njeru, Judy Wanjiku and Maryanne Murugi.
Maryanne was preparing to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam in November.
The couple’s two grandchildren, Tumaini Blessings and Prince Baraka, also died during the incident.
The victims were laid to rest side by side in the same grave during a sorrowful funeral, which attracted local leaders led by Governor Cecily Mbarire.
The suspect, who had been on the run since the attack, was arrested last Friday, as it emerged that he burnt down the wrong house. He had intended to kill his estranged wife.
It is believed that the suspect had disagreed with his wife who fled her matrimonial home and later got married to another man from Embu County.
The couple had two children together before they separated.
After learning that the woman had remarried, the suspect allegedly sent a text message, threatening to set her house on fire.
However, he is said to have mistakenly set a neighbour’s house ablaze, killing the seven family members.
The magistrate ordered that the suspect be locked up at Itabua Police Station until January 27 when the case will be mentioned.
According to residents, the victims were sleeping when the worst happened to them. They narrated how they heard screams and rushed to the scene, only to find the house engulfed in fiery flames.
The residents described the victims as honest and Godly people who didn’t deserve to die such a painful death.
“The victims were born-again Christians and gave generously towards the service of God but, sadly, they died in a very cruel manner,” lamented pastor Ronald Kariuki of Jesus True Vine Chapel Church during the burial.
A relative, Dr Oliver Kariuki, said the victims were peace-loving people who had no quarrel with anyone and that their deaths shook the entire village.
“We hate forgiven those who wiped out our relatives but the pain will remain in our hearts forever,” said Dr Kariuki.
Embu East Deputy Commissioner Jane Waruinge said justice would be served after the suspect in the gruesome murders was seized.
“We lost the entire family during the attack and detectives have done a good job. Appropriate legal action will be taken against the prime suspect,” she said and thanked relatives and residents for remaining calm throughout the investigation process.
Meanwhile, the 25-year-old ex-wife of the suspect has called on the national government to come to her aid and help get her two daughters who she claimed Wanjala had taken away without her knowledge.
The lady added that now that Wanjala had been apprehended after the arson attack, her children were no longer safe alone.
“I will be a key witness in the gruesome murders. I want to see to it that justice is done. Now that Wanjala has been arrested, I feel my children are not safe,” Nation Africa.
She recounted Wanjala’s first response after learning that he had killed an innocent family after confusing the houses.
Wanja, not her name stated that Wanjala was stunned after knowing she was alive.
“Kumbe huja kufa shetani hii (So you are not dead you Satan),” she quoted him from a text.
She sympathised with the family of seven killed during the attack adding that it was a miracle to have survived.
“I escaped death by a whisker. It was a miracle from God. However, I empathised with relatives who lost their beloved ones in the attack,” she said.