Mistress, worker or stepmum? Court blocks burial

Woman lived on property for 20 years, family wants her buried there, owner says no

In Summary

•The man says after his father died he agreed to allow the woman to live on his land and manage it for him.

• Court halts burial or funeral from taking place pending determination of the case.


The High Court in Nairobi.
BURIAL DISPUTE: The High Court in Nairobi.
Image: FILE:

Was she his father's mistress, the landowner's stepmother or a worker allowed to live on and help manage his Dagoretti property for 20 years?

Whatever her status, her family wants Sarah Nyawira Gathayo to be buried on the estate. They say she was the stepmother of the UK-based owner.

Landowner Raoul Muchene disputes any family relationship and refuses to have her buried there. She died on May 14.


A magistrate's court has barred any burial or funeral rites pending hearing and determination of the case.

The woman was allegedly living on the estate as a worker for more than 20 years. However, when she died her family said she was a stepmother of the landowner and should be buried there.

Muchene told the court he allowed Nyawira to stay on the estate to help manage it after his father died and cites an agreement in 2018, which she did not contest.

His lawyer Danstan Omari said the woman's family could be trespassing if they are allowed to bury her there.


Muchene’s father, who was also based in the UK, had left the land to his son who entered into an agreement with Nyawira allowing her to stay in the three-bedroom house and help manage the property.

Senior resident magistrate I. Orenge issued temporary orders barring her family from burying her there. 

The order reads: "Pending determination of this application, orders are issued restraining Area Chief Uthiru, their employees, agents or any other person from issuing a burial permit ... for the body of Sarah Nyawira Gathayo in the applicant's property number Dagoretti/Uthiru/884 located in Uthiru."


OCS Uthiru police station was directed to enforce the orders.

The case will be heard on Monday, May 25.

Lawyer Omari argued his client "out of sheer kindness and compassion" continued to support and maintain Nyawira after his father died because she was working for him.

“Despite the deceased’s stay on applicant's property for the two decades, the deceased never made any claim over the same,” the court papers read.

Muchene further said Nyawira may have cohabited with his father for some time but they had no children.

Omari said his client and Nyawira entered into an agreement on July 24, 2018, whereby she would continue staying on the property and Muchene would continue maintaining her during her lifetime.

The agreement, court papers say, stipulated that as the owner the land and properties, Muchene allowed Nyawira to live in the house before his father died.

“Further, from the rental proceeds to be collected monthly from the tenants, you shall pay yourself Sh38,000 and deposit the balance into the bank accounts as advised by me. You will also pay taxes to KRA as you have always done before,” the agreement reads.

Nyawira signed the agreement, saying she was under no duress and agreed to the statement as being satisfactory and fair, court papers say.

(Edited by V. Graham)