A public inquest into the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old form four student in Tsavo West National park in 2019 has begun.
The inquest led by Makindu Resident Magistrate Benson Ireri seeks to establish if there is enough evidence to prosecute three Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) officers who were on duty when the killing happened.
Benedict Kyule, then a form four candidate at Kiuani Secondary school, Kibwezi Sub County died in the park at Komboyoo area, on the morning of September 18, 2019 under unclear circumstances. Some 17 witnesses have been lined up to testify in the public inquest.
Three witnesses including the boy’s father Francis Kioko Muli and two KWS officers; Ibrahim Godana and George Otieno gave their account of what transpired on that fateful day.
Muli told the court that he received a distress call from his son on the fateful at around 4:45am and told him he had been shot and that he required immediate help.The son however, didn’t disclose where the shooting had occurred. “He told me he had been shot by KWS officers on his leg and hand and wanted me to assist him,” Muli told the court.
Muli said upon receiving the call from the son, he headed to Mtito-Andei police station and reported the incident at around 6am. “When I went to the police station KWS had not made any reports of a shooting incident. Police officers from the station proceeded to the park and I was left waiting at the main entrance into the park for hours,” he narrated.
At around 10am, he said a vehicle emerged carrying the body of his son. He said he enquired what had transpired and was directed to check the body and he positively identified it as that of his son. He said the body had another gunshot wound on the chest.
The two KWS officers who testified disputed a statement that they had recorded at Mtito-Andei police station following the killing. The report indicated that rangers were on routine patrols when they encountered two armed suspected poachers.
The statements further stated the poachers shot at the rangers who returned fire, killing one while another escaped with gunshot wounds. They claimed the statement had been changed.
In their new submissions, the officers said they heard gunshots directed to them and they reacted by shooting randomly in that direction.
Two officers are said to have fired 30 rounds of ammunition; 17 and 13 respectively. They however failed to present to the court the spent cartridges, but instead produced about four spent cartridges from a 303 rifle, a homemade gun allegedly from the poachers who shot at them.
The two said on that day they had a G3 rifle and an Armcom AK14 ‘punisher’ gun.The officers couldn’t directly link the gun in question to the deceased boy.
“The gun recovered was not held by the boy but it was near where his body of lay,’’ said one of them. There was no evidence also to prove if the gun was used on that day and if it was from the student.
The boy was buried in 2019, days later after a postmortem was done. Results of the autopsy at Makindu Sub-county Hospital mortuary showed he died of excessive bleeding linked to two gunshot wounds on the chest that destroyed the lungs.
A medical report by the hospital’s medical superintendent Dr. David Kasanga showed the velocity of the bullets that went through the chest resulted to lungs damage.
The boy had been hit by four bullets and none of them were found inside the body. The first bullet went through the right lower limb, leaving a fracture of 12 centimeters above the knee while another hit the left limb.
The report from Dr. Kasanga also showed the victim was most likely shot from the back and on the sides by either three people or one person who was changing positions.
The inquest will resume on September 23, where more witnesses, among them a KWS ranger, police officers, a pathologist, and crime scene investigators will testify.
By Patrick Nyakundi