Last Saturday, eight-year-old Shantel Nzembi left their Kitengela rental home after lunch to play with a friend in an adjacent plot.
But when she failed to return two hours later, her parents were alarmed, plunging the family into a frantic search for the Grade Two pupil.
That marked the start of their 40-hour agony that ended in grief yesterday when the body of the little girl was found stashed in a gunny bag and dumped by the roadside near their Ashut home.
The gunny bag was spotted at Orata area by a boda boda rider in the morning, who alerted the village elder and residents.
According to witnesses, Shantel’s naked body was wrapped with wet bedsheets. It had signs of torture.
Before the shocking find, the minor’s mother Christine Ngina, 37, had been tormented by endless calls from anonymous numbers demanding ransom.
It had all started at 5pm on Saturday, just an hour into their search for Shantel. She received a phone call from a private number asking her if she was Sharon’s mother. She replied she wasn’t.
Kitengela Police Station
Sharon was the friend Shantel had gone to play with in the adjacent plot, according to Ms Ngina, an employee of Export Processing Zone in Athi River.
The Nation yesterday established that Sharon’s mother is a police officer attached to Kitengela Police Station.
“I began shivering as the female voice on the other side prodded me. I said I was not Sharon’s mother before she disconnected the line,” said Ms Ngina as tears rolled down her cheeks.
One hour later, she received the second call from yet another private number.
On the other end was a gruffly voice, with the speaker saying she was holding Shantel Nzembi and wanted Sh300,000 ransom within 24 hours to set the girl free.
“She claimed she was in Kiambu County and she preferred the ransom in cash. I was warned not to involve police officers,” added the distraught mother.
She dashed to Kitengela Police Station and recorded a statement with detectives who advised her to keep on engaging the abductors.
On Saturday night, between 8pm and 6am, the abductor had attempted to reach Ms Ngina 51 times, according to her phone records.
On Sunday, the abductors repeated the demand for the ransom amid threats.
At some point, Ms Ngina and her husband decided to play along and agreed to pay the money.
“We decided to play along, buying time for detectives to locate the caller. At some point, we were kept waiting for a new number to send the ransom. We knew we could not afford the money but time was of essence,” she narrated.
“My last hope to find my daughter alive was on police officers,” Ms Ngina said tearfully.
On Sunday night, phone calls from the kidnappers were minimal and their last communication was yesterday at 8.47am, two hours before Shantel’s body was discovered.
It is suspected the girl was defiled before being killed by the unknown assailants.
Yesterday, detectives were yet to make any breakthrough in their battle to track the private numbers used to demand ransom from the family.
A detective privy to the investigations said they were still trying to identify the mobile lines and their locations.
Isinya Sub County Police Commander Ben Changulo said investigations were ongoing.
The killing of the minor left residents in shock as fear gripped Kitengela town and its environs.
Tearful women wailed uncontrollably as locals called for urgent investigations into the murder.
“Some blood was spotted oozing from the gunny bag abandoned by a feeder road parallel to a seasonal river in Kitengela town. This is a murder most foul,” said Ms Alice Naserian, who claimed security in the area is wanting.
Shantel’s parents want investigations rushed and justice delivered for their daughter.
The body was moved to Shalom community mortuary awaiting post-mortem.
The killing of the minor comes barely a week after a 10-year-old girl was abducted, defiled, killed and her body dumped in a thicket at Kisaju area near Isinya town.
Still in Kitengela, four men were abducted on April 19 only for two bodies to be recovered in Murang’a and Thika, with the whereabouts of the other two still unknown.