Ex-wife of German tycoon, Kenyan woman, niece in fight over Sh100m inheritance
By Wanja Waweru
The legal dispute between two Kenyans—a woman and her niece—over the Sh100 million fortune he left behind has taken on a new dimension, following the revelation that German tycoon Joseph Leitmann had a second woman in his life.
New information made available to the Nakuru High Court shows that Mr. Leitmann was previously married to Jessie Spooner, a white woman, before beginning a relationship with the two relatives who have been at odds for 20 years over the Sh 100 million estate.
Ms. Susan Nyambura, 74, and her niece Lucy Wanjiku, 53, have been fighting in court to establish their relationship with the businessman.
While Wanjiku has insisted that she is the tycoon’s legal wife and that Ms. Nyambura’s aunt was only a housekeeper, Ms. Nyambura has claimed that she was married to the tycoon in the 1960s under Kikuyu customary marriage before her niece abducted him and forced her out of her matrimonial home.
Leitmann had married Ms Spooner, a US citizen, in 1957 before becoming connected with Ms Nyambura and Ms Wanjiku, the court learned from the statements made on Friday.
Attorney Muchiri Gathecha testified before Justice Hillary Chemitei that Leitmann and Ms. Spooner were wed for seven years before their separation in 1964.
He displayed a marriage license as proof of Mr. Leitmann and Ms. Spooner’s union. Mr. Leitmann was 31 years old at the time.
“The children Leitmann had with Ms Spooner are in the US and they also are entitled to their father’s estate,” said lawyer Gatheca.
The claims were supported by witnesses including Nyambura’s relative Gideon Mwangi who in a written statement, said Mr Leitmann had a ‘mzungu’ wife before he married Ms Nyambura.
While acknowledging that she was aware of Mr. Leitmann and Ms. Spooner’s marriage, Ms. Nyambura insisted that he wed him after they split up.
Ms. Nyambura said in her evidence before the court on July 29, 2022, that Ms. Wanjiku had betrayed her by stealing Mr. Leitmann from her.
She testified before the court that she adopted Wanjiku when she was a kid, reared her, and paid for her education—only for Wanjiku to turn on Nyambura when she was an adult and betray her.
“My niece had an affair with my late husband even after I took her in my house and raised her as my own,” said Nyambura.
She said due to the affair, Leitmann divorced her, married Wanjiku, and had two children with her.
Ms Wanjiku on the other hand denied the claims and produced a marriage certificate to prove her marriage to Mr Leitmann who was 69 years on June 30, 1995. She was 28 years old then.
She informed the court that Ms. Spooner had passed away and that she had named her children as beneficiaries in the 2001 succession lawsuit she had filed.
At the age of 75, Mr. Leitmann passed away on August 3, 2001, without leaving a will.
He left a variety of assets behind, including a residence at Lanet, rental homes, a 5,178-acre plot of land in Subukia, a hotel, a business dealing in automobiles, boreholes, and machinery, as well as 2000 shares of Ukingoni Farm Limited.
In 2001, the total worth of all of his properties was Sh100 million.
Ms. Wanjiku, who requested letters of administration, asserts in her paperwork that she is the tycoon’s only legitimate wife and that Ms. Nyambura, her aunt, was simply a housekeeper.