The recovery of two mobile phones belonging to murdered Nairobi businesswoman Caroline Wanjiku Maina has led investigators to believe that they are on the cusp of a major breakthrough in the case, almost a month after her body was discovered in a thicket in Kajiado County.
Two suspects, out of the original four who were arrested, have now spent 22 days in police custody without any charges being preferred against them. Mr Edwin Otieno Odiwuor and Mr Samuel Okoth Adinda will, for the third time, be presented before a magistrate at the Kibera Law Courts.
Detectives from the Crime Research and Intelligence Bureau and the Special Service Unit at DCI headquarters have been tracking down the phones.
Ms Maina’s decomposing body was found by herders in a thicket in Paranai, Kajiado County on February 15, three days after she went missing. A post-mortem exam revealed that she died of blunt force trauma on both her forehead and back.
Four suspects — Mr Odiwuor, Mr Adinda, Stevenson Oduor Ouma and Mercy Gitiri Mongo — were arrested on suspicion of taking part in the murder of their former business partner. The two phones; an Oppo and a Samsung Galaxy A20S, were sold in the black market shortly after Ms Maina disappeared and her SIM cards removed and thrown away.
The phones were then factory reset and sold to new owners. Detectives have managed to track the two phones using their international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) numbers to a village in Suneka, Kisii.
An IMEI is a unique certificate contained in every phone that tracks it to the nearest cell phone tower and is used by the police to search for stolen phones.
“The first phone, a Samsung Galaxy A20S, was traced to a matatu tout with Safeline Sacco in Kibera, Nairobi, one Justus Nyamete Manyura alias Dennis Ongingo,” said DCI George Kinoti. “A 17-year-old male student at St Lawrence Nyabieyo Secondary School was arrested with the second phone, make Oppo, which had also paired a third SIM card registered under the names Jonah Munyao Gato,” said the DCI.
The discovery of both phones which were previously registered to Safaricom lines registered under Ms Maina’s particulars are crucial in cracking up the case as they were being used to carry out the victim’s financial transactions.
With the finding of the two phones, the next step for the police is to forensically analyse them in order to retrieve any messages and their call logs which had been deleted when they were factory reset before being sold to new owners.
The immediate step however is to establish how Mr Manyura and the 17-year-old student got ownership of mobile phones stolen from a person who was murdered.
Curiously, both of them were arrested in the same village and more than 300 kilometres from where Ms Maina’s body was found.
If at all Mr Manyura and the 17-year-old student did buy those two mobile phones they will have to explain to detectives where they bought them.
Detectives hope that the two new suspects will help them break new ground that will eventually assist the DCI to recreate Ms Maina’s final moments alive.
Under the Doctrine of Recent Possession, anyone found with property stolen from a person who has been murdered has to provide a reasonable explanation as to how they acquired the goods or be placed at the murder scene circumstantially.
“It is risky and dangerous to buy any electronic device from suspicious outlets. Being found with suspected stolen property, you suffer immediate consequences of the actual criminal, which may escalate to death sentences,” warned the DCI.
“When detectives forensically investigate and find you in possession of such said devices, by the time it is established that you were not involved in the crime, you may have suffered immensely,” he warned.
The case will come up for hearing today (Monday).