PROPERTY DISPUTE

Tob Cohen's will the new battlefront

Wairimu's lawyer Philip Murgor has objected to a planned Will reading meeting, but Gabrielle's lawyer insist it will continue

In Summary

• Murgor says widow  Sarah Wairimu doubted the authenticity of the will.

•The parties had agreed to have Cohen buried on Monday at a Jewish ceremony, to be attended by Wairimu and Cohen's sister. 

Lawyers Philip Murgor and Cliff Ombeta at a press conference on Thursday September 19 about the burial of Tob Cohen.
LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT? Lawyers Philip Murgor and Cliff Ombeta at a press conference on Thursday September 19 about the burial of Tob Cohen.
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

The evolving drama surrounding the murder of Dutch tycoon Tob Cohen now focusses on his will, said to be in the possession of his sister.

On Thursday, the day started with lawyers in the conflict — Cliff Ombeta for Cohen's family and Philip Murgor for widow Sarah Wairimu — announcing to the press settlement of the feud over who gets the body and how it should be handled.

They said that they had agreed to have both Cohen's widow and his sister Gabrielle van Straten attend the family-only private burial ceremony at the Jewish cemetery on Wangari Maathai Road in Nairobi on Monday next week.

 

But the melodrama took another turn barely hours after this announcement that had initially suggested that compromise and reason had prevailed.  

A letter signed by Kirundi & Co Advocates had emerged hours after the truce, inviting Bernard Cohen, the surviving brother to Tob Cohen and alongside Cohen's sister Gabrielle and their lawyers to the reading of the will on Friday/today.

It also invited the widow's lawyer Philip Murgor to the reading at Kirundi Advocates' offices on the ninth floor of Bruce House on Standard Street in the CBD.

Lawyer Danstan Omari, said to be acting for slain Cohen, also got the invitation, which Murgor questioned without explaining.

In a matter of minutes, Murgor rejected the invitation, citing instructions from his client, the widow.

Murgor said his client doubts the motive of the planned will reading because the confidentiality of the document had been impugned after the Star, citing a Dutch newspaper, published its contents on September 16. 

"It is evidence that the confidential nature of the will you claim to possess or any others for that matter has been severely compromised, to the extent that our client has instructed us to inform you that she does not wish to participate in any related process," the letter read

 

The Star had reported that Cohen, at the time estranged from his wife, had given his sister his Sh400 million Kitisuru villa.

Algemeen Dagblad (AD), the Dutch newspaper on whose reporting the Star relied on, quoted Cohen’s sister Gabrielle as saying they have planned to take possession of the villa of their murdered brother in a matter of weeks.

Cohen’s two companies — Kenya Golf Safaris,  a golfing trips and tournaments organizer, and Lotus Care Travel for medical travel — were also reported to be part of the property claims.

"We note that the contents of the publication [The Star] have not been denied or retracted and therefore presumed to be correct," Murgor said in the letter, citing part of the grounds for his objection. 

He said that his client wants the document's authenticity and legality confirmed through a judicial process in the High Court before it can be accepted.

But reached for comment, Gabrielle Cohen's lawyer Ombeta was adamant that the planned will-reading organised by lawyer Chege Kirundi would go on.

"We do not care [about the objections by Murgor]. We are serving those who are available. That woman is in jail for [allegedly] killing her husband and the law says those with such charges do not have any claims on the estates of the deceased," he said.

"We will attend and it will go on as planned," Ombeta said.

Murgor told the Star, however, that if the will is read without their presence, his client has numerous avenues of recourse, including challenging the will in the High Court.

"The will in itself is a statement of intent. It does not give anyone anything and it is challengeable," he said.

Murgor also took issue with a tweet by the Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti on September 18 quoting Section 96(1) of the Law of Succession Act, to the effect that a person who murders another does not qualify to benefit from the estate of the victim. 

“.....a person who, while sane, murders another person shall not be entitled directly or indirectly to any share in the estate of the murdered person, and the persons beneficially entitled to shares in the estate of the murdered person shall be ascertained as though the murderer had died immediately before the murdered person,” reads the section of law.

Kinoti had highlighted the same section to the Dutch newspaper, which Murgor said was inappropriate.

"We both agree with Kinoti that a convicted murderer must not benefit from the estate. The thing is, it is not their place to determine the guilt or otherwise," Murgor told the Star. 

Sarah is accused of murdering her husband and is due for psychiatric assessment before she pleads to the charge on September 26. 

(Edited by V. Graham)