A Nyeri woman who killed her adopted mother by stabbing her 42 times will now spend 12 years in prison after the Court of Appeal reduced her jail term from 30 years.
Benedict Njoki Gachinga, 38, attacked her adopted mother, Esther Wangari Kanuri, 64, at Kihuyo village in Nyeri County after she grew bitter when she discovered that she was not Wangari’s biological daughter.
Njoki was found guilty of killing Wangari on February 23, 2014.
Evidence adduced in court showed that she stabbed Wangari 42 times on her chest, neck, head and stomach. Njoki had been adopted when she was three years old after her birth mother abandoned her.
In a judgment rendered by appellant judges Jamila Mohammed, Luka Kimaru and Aggrey Muchelule, the court reduced Njoki’s sentence saying the initial one was harsh and excessive.
“We reduce it to twelve years’ imprisonment from the date of conviction,” they ruled.
The judges considered the circumstances under which Njoki committed the offence, noting that when she learnt of her adoption she became angry that she had been kept in the dark all along.
“She ran away from home to go and look for her birth mother. It is not known whether she found her before she returned home. She is a girl who changed secondary school four times. She was a discipline case. She was into drugs and alcohol. She was on and off in counselling sessions. She tried salvation. She was angry and restless,” said the judges.
The, however dismissed Njoki’s argument that High Court Judge Abigael Mshilla — who found her guilty of the murder — erred in law when she relied on circumstantial evidence to convict her of the murder.
Instead, the three judges found Justice Mshilla properly convicted Njoki after the prosecution proved the case beyond reasonable doubt.
“Her conduct before and after the death, her messages to Pastor George Mwangi Gichure, her previous confessions that she hated the deceased, and the fact that she used a knife 42 times to stab the deceased in vital areas of the body, would together point to acute motive and ill intention against the deceased,” they said.
“She wanted the deceased dead. There was malice aforethought. We do not at all fault the trial Judge Abigael Mshilla’s finding on the question of conviction.”
Njoki had claimed that no one saw her kill Wangari and that the prosecution had relied on circumstantial evidence.
However, the trial judge convicted her on grounds that the prosecution had proved its case, especially taking into account the testimony of two key witnesses.
“Their testimonies squarely put the accused at the scene of the crime consider-ing the incident happened between 6 and 6.30pm and no intruder had accessed the home,” Mshilla said in her ruling, which the Court of Appeal upheld on Friday.
According to her, malice had also been proved.
“The fact that Njoki targeted soft tissues of the body, is a clear demonstration of her intention to kill Wangari,” Mshilla had said.
“The nature of the injuries and body parts targeted paint a picture of a well calculated plan by the accused to kill her foster mother.”
The court had also heard that Njoki was addicted to drugs and was abusing alcohol. She was said to have been an undisciplined girl since her school days.
While defending herself, Njoki said she discovered Wangari was not her biological mother after snooping into a cabinet that was always locked, and found documents that confirmed her fears.
“It was while going to join Form One while aged 14 that, while I was going through dad Kanuri’s documents that I discovered that I was an adopted child. I had a brother who was also adopted. I am the one who broke the news to him,” Njoki.