The smile on Diana Wanjiku’s face wanes the minute the name of her deceased daughter, Esther Nyaguthii is mentioned.
Overwhelmed by emotions, Wanjiku admits she is yet to come to terms with her daughter’s death.
For the past two years, her life has oscillated around finding answers to the actual cause of the death of her fifth born child and efforts to bring her remains to her rural home in Tambaya village, Mukurwe-ini Sub County for burial.
And even before she could unravel the puzzle, Wanjiku was recently confounded with a new and bigger dilemma following the discovery that the remains of her kin were buried in a mass grave in Kiambu County as her family was beginning to plan for her burial.
“When I presented myself at the General Kago mortuary in November this year, they told me that they had already buried my daughter’s remains. They offered to show me the exact place they buried her on condition that I first pay the mortuary fee that had accrued as well as the cost of exhuming her remains,” says Wanjiku.
Her troubles started on June 19 2020, when Nyaguthii left her rented house in Skuta area in Nyeri for a weekend visit to her then boyfriend, Daniel Nderitu who was working in Thika.
Wanjiku says that her daughter was expected back in Nyeri on June 22 but she decided to extend her visit.
Things would take a twist for the worst when on June 23 evening, two of her children paid her a visit at her home in Tambaya bearing sad news; Nyaguthii had died that morning.
“When we got to Thika on June 25 Nderitu told us that my daughter had been fine in the morning before he left for work. In fact, he said she had sent him some airtime but upon getting to work, his attempts to reach her were unsuccessful as her mobile phone went unanswered.
Alarmed by the unusual development, Nderitu sought the intervention of his neighbour in trying to find out the whereabouts of his girlfriend,” says Wanjiku.
The mother of nine says that it was Nderitu’s neighbours who discovered Nyaguthii’s body inside his bedsitter after peeping through the window.
The door had been locked from inside and upon breaking in they found Nyaguthii’s body lying face down with half of the body being under the bed while the legs were under a table.
Police from Thika Police Station were then called and took the body to General Kago Mortuary located in Thika Town for preservation and post-mortem examination.
Wanjiku says that a post-mortem conducted six days after her daughter’s death revealed that she had died owing to complications from inflamed lungs.
Discontented by the explanation and the coroner’s results, Wanjiku and her family sought a second post-mortem by filing an inquest at the Thika Police Station.
“From the word go, I had suspected foul play in the circumstances leading to her death. My daughter was not suffering from any ailment when she left Nyeri. Also, we had been given instructions that three family members from each family would witness the post-mortem but on the material day, we were all asked to leave the morgue moments after identifying my daughter’s body,” she says, adding that the second postmodern never took place.
Wanjiku says that she would soon realize that the day the post-mortem was conducted would also be the last day she would see her daughter’s body.
It also marked the beginning of a protracted battle over the custody of the body that would later see Nyaguthii’s body remain preserved for more than two years.
“At one-point Nderitu and his family laid a claim to the body on grounds that he was married to my daughter but I was opposed to that arrangement because Nyaguthii was not married at the time of her death and thus could not be buried by her boyfriend’s family. On their part, the mortuary had been instructed by the police not to release the body until the cause of her death had been established. Unfortunately, no investigations were conducted,” she says.
However, in May 2021 Wanjiku would write to the mortuary requesting for the body to be released for burial.
In the letter dated May 5, 2021 and written by her lawyers CM King’ori and Company advocates Wanjiku says; “We now have present instructions that our client has no further complaint in respect of release of the deceased remains for burial. Kindly therefore treat the complaint as withdrawn.”
While the gesture was expected to ease her woes, Wanjiku was not out of the woods yet as the mortuary fee would become her next nightmare.
By May 13, 2021 when the mortuary received Wanjiku’s letter, Nyaguthii’s body had accumulated a Sh225,400 bill prompting Wanjiku and her family to reach out to well-wishers to help them raise the funds.
“My hopes were pegged on the good will from well-wishers to come to my rescue. I have spent most of the money I had making trips to Thika in search of justice but I am still hopeful,” she says.
Wanjiku, who lost her husband last year, says the new development has exacerbated her problems.
She had hoped that the Thika Police Station would have reached her before giving the green light for the burial.
She is now staring at a Sh700, 000-mortuary fee which she is seeking help to raise.
“It is a difficult quest and I am hopeful that I will get help. As a parent, all I want is for me to bury my child here in Mukurwe-ini,” she says.
As an explanation, the mortuary handed Wanjiku a letter stating that her daughter’s remains were buried in April this year. Further, the institution said that they were given permission by Police in Thika to bury the body.
Additionally, the morgue stated that they issued a public notice for disposal of Nyaguthii’s body together with others that were laying unclaimed at the facility.
“Due to the long period the family and the police took to complete pending matters around the body and in accordance with the public health regulations, the hospital notified the Police Service of the intention to dispose of the body, who subsequently gave us a go ahead,” reads the letter.
By Wangari Mwangi and Samuel Maina