Murdered in cold blood by slippery axeman

Terrified residents demand police end the crime wave, they say they're doing their best

In Summary

• Eleven cases in six months, including murders, torture, rape and sodomy.

• Best known are the two tunnelling murders in which killers dug holes in houses and emerged to kill women and children. 

Ol Joro Orok in Nyandarua county has made headlines for two bizarre tunnelling murders in which killers dug holes or tunnels in houses and emerged inside to kill women and children.

Those are just a few of the sensational murders, rapes and other attacks over six months in which there have been no arrests. Police say they are doing their best on 11 cases in six months, not the ones cited here.

Here are a few cases: Gwa Kahii shopping centre was busy when Peris Kihara alighted from a matatu one November evening last year.


As Kihara, 80, picked her luggage, she noticed two men emerge from behind the shops and stand near a floodlight. She ignored them.

She started walking the short distance to her home. The men followed her. Suddenly a blow landed on the back of her head and she collapsed near her kei apple fence.

The assailants started squeezing her through the fence.

Alice Wanjiru
Alice Wanjiru

At home, Kihara’s son Ngatia wondered why she was late. He started his motorcycle and was going to look for her.

The roar of the bike saved his mother. The attackers fled after stealing Sh4,200 and personal documents. Unconscious and bleeding, she was rushed to hospital.

The attackers left behind a jungle hat and black gumboots. Police picked them and told the family to report any suspects. Nothing has happened.

“You are the first person to ask me questions. My hope is restored. The police silence makes me feel more people will be attacked,” Kihara told the Star.


While she survived to tell her story, several other women and children from Ol Joro Orok have been killed in a crime wave.

A number of victims are raped, tortured and then killed. Some murder patterns are similar, as in the tunnelling murders.

Survivors suffer trauma, headaches and memory lapses. Worse is the fear the killers might strike again.

Benson Gaitara
Benson Gaitara

Ol Joro Orok boasts significant investment.

Famous tourist lodges, Kichakani Cabins and Samawati on the shores of Lake Ol Bolo Osat, the Lake Ol Bolo Sat Resort Lodge near Ol Joro Orok town, the Dream Motel, among others, are major sources of jobs and revenue.

The subcounty produces maize, potatoes and other vegetables, flowers and milk from dairy farms.

But a cloud of crime, including unsolved murders and other offences, hangs ominously over it.


Purity Wanjiru’s grave is still fresh, surrounded by partly burnt candles.

Her grandmother Grace Waweru shuffles to the grave and squats near the wooden cross where a red rosary hangs. She whispers a prayer.

Wanjiru, 8, left home in Gichaka village, Simba location, at 6.30am on February 26 for Uhuru Primary School, 800 metres away.

She did not return at 3pm as usual. At 4pm, a classmate told her grandmother she had not been to school.

The next afternoon, Wanjiru’s mutilated body was found in a field near Gichaka shopping centre.

“She had multiple stab wounds. Her pelvic bone was split. She had been seared with a hot object all over the body and her eyes had been stabbed,” Waweru says.

Her school bag lay next to her. There were ashes on her feet and the bag. She was naked from the waist down, her clothes and shoes were missing.

Waweru suspected neighbours. Police have made no arrests.

She is perplexed by events after her granddaughter's death.

Waweru says soon after the body was discovered and before police were called, bhang was uprooted nearby.

Eunice Muthoni
Eunice Muthoni

She said assistant chief Stanley Wachanga told mourners not to contribute to the funeral as the government would foot the bill. She didn’t get a shilling.

She said she was also asked to frame a man for the crime so he could be lynched. She refused.

“I feel pain because the killers are known but are yet to be arrested. I fear for my life and that of my daughter in Form 2 because if they know I am still pursuing the matter they can do anything to stop me,” she told the Star.

Assistant chief Wachanga told the Star the case is complicated and the DCI is investigating.

He said, however, he cannot vouch for newcomers in the village.


Until recently, Dishon Nderi, 27, worked at Primrose Flower Farm in Nyandarua. A devout Catholic, he was well-liked and never linked to trouble.

He managed to earn a living despite having left school after Standard 8.

Evans Chege, a community policing secretary in Weru, said he would vouch for Nderi’s good character in court. Nderi went to school with Chege’s children.

He became a prime murder suspect, however, when 57-year-old Mary Macharia was raped, tortured and murdered on December 17 last year.

Her daughter, Mary Wanjiku, says she did not return from her hotel job in Ol Joro Orok town on the night she died.

Her naked body was found in a field near a cattle dip, 200 metres from her home.

She had been hit at the back of the head and cut across the forehead. Her body was covered in blood. They family identified her clothes. Her undergarments had been dumped nearby.

Nderi’s phone had allegedly been used to call Macharia on the day she died.

James Mbugua Kinyanjui
James Mbugua Kinyanjui

He denied making the call. He said a friend at Primrose Flower Farm had used his phone to call “his wife”.

He only learnt days later his phone had been identified in Macharia’s call data when DCI detectives came for him.

The friend was never questioned, Nderi says.

Wanjiku says a short man suspected to have participated in the crime has never been arrested. He attended her mother’s funeral and is known to the Ol Joro Orok police, she says.

“Our prayer is her killers will be found. The police should expedite investigations  and stop insinuating they emanate from land disputes and love because that is not true,” Wanjiku says.

After questioning over Macharia’s death Nderi was told to report to Ol Joro Orok police station weekly and he has done so.


Before Macharia’s case could be fully  investigated, Nderi was later suspected of involvement in the murder of Alice Wanjiru at Gatumbiro village.

The 23-year-old mother of one was murdered on the morning of March 25 by a man or men who dug a hole into the house where she was sleeping.

Wanjiru was hit on the head with a blunt object. She and her Form 2 sister, a brother and three-year-old daughter were asleep during the attack.

The family suspects a sedative was sprayed to put everyone to sleep as he or they dug the metre-long hole at the base of the wooden house.

Linnet Njeri
Linnet Njeri

The killer smashed Wanjiru’s head before attempting to carry her away. He dropped her at the gate when her sister started screaming, following him.

Naomi Wairimu, Wanjiru’s mother, says her daughter told her in January that Nderi warned her that her ex-husband was planning to kill her.

Wairimu also alleges Nderi convinced Wanjiru to return to Ol Joro Orok after she had relocated to Naivasha to work on a flower farm.

Nderi denies ever warning Wanjiru of impending violence and said he never gave her money as her mother alleged.

Wanjiru’s ex-husband could not be reached for comment.

Wairimu says Nderi was among residents who condoled with the family. She claimed he kept following the children who had shared the bed with Wanjiru when the children went outdoors.

“My daughter told me, ‘Mum, that is the man who attacked Wanjiru’,” she quotes her daughter as saying.

The child would later identify Nderi in an identification parade conducted by DCI officers, her mother said.

Her mother says on the night she was killed, Wanjiru had a long romantic talk with a boda boda operator based at Ol Joro Orok town.


Kiago Ndung’u, the boda boda rider, said he and Wanjiru were planning to marry.

Ndung’u says on the night of her death, he and Wanjiru chatted past 10pm. His last text at 10.18pm read, “Alice, I’m out of credit let’s chat tomorrow.” At 10.22 she replied, “I love you.”

Mary Nyambura Macharia
Mary Nyambura Macharia

At 7.15am the following day she didn’t answer her phone. A friend told him of her death and DCI officers questioned him.

Wanjiru died in hospital. She had been six months’ pregnant.


Nderi’s misfortunes did not end with Wanjiru’s death.

Another burrowing killing occurred on the night of April 22 in Chekareli village, not far from Gatumbiro.

The attacker or attackers tunnelled through a wall and murdered 30-year-old Eunice Muthoni and her five-year-old daughter Linnet Njeri.

Another daughter, aged 13, and a niece, 17, were seriously injured.

Muthoni’s mother, Lucy Muturi, says her daughter was found naked in bed face down. She was struck on the back of the head and had three stab wounds to the back.

Her five-year-old daughter lay across her.

The injured 13-year-old granddaughter attempted to flee. She collapsed outside the house.

Muthoni and the youngest child died of head injuries in hospital.

The other girls were hospitalised with head and mouth injuries, the elder girl was in ICU for two weeks. She cannot remember, speak, feed and take care of herself. A blood-stained metal bar was found in the house. The family had been using it to secure the door.

As in other cases, nothing was stolen but the attacker or attackers scattered clothes all over, as if they were looking for something.

Mary Wairimu
Mary Wairimu

Muturi, the mother, lived in a nearby house with another daughter. Someone tried to break in but failed.

Nothing was heard from the other house where her other daughter and children slept.

After 20 minutes, she opened the door and saw the door to the other house was open and a hole had been dug a metre from the door.

She saw the child who had collapsed outside. She found the others in bed, soaked with blood.

Thirty minutes later, Ol Joro Orok police rushed the four to Nyahururu County Referral Hospital where the mother and little girl were pronounced dead. The other girls were referred to Nakuru.

A day after the burial, Muturi said she discovered a red jacket with black and white patches and a kitchen knife with a green, partly burnt handle in a bush.

Nderi says the investigators again sought to connect him with these killings. He pleads innocence.

He has continued to report to Ol Joro Orok police weekly since December last year when Mary Macharia was killed.

On Monday, May 4, DCI officers asked his wife to confirm if the jacket found at the scene belonged to Nderi and if the knife was hers. She said no.

Chege, the community policing officer, recently accompanied Nderi to DCI offices to help clear his name.

Nderi has called for protection, saying he is being framed and his life is in danger.

Mercy Wambui Magu
Mercy Wambui Magu


Men have also been killed on Ol Joro Orok.

Purity Nyokabi from Kianjata village in Gatimu ward says her son was killed on the night of July 17 last year.

Benson Gaitara, 31, suffered 70 knife stabs. His private parts had been chopped off.

Another man, James Kinyanjui, 35, was sodomised and killed at Charagita ward, a short distance from Charagita Township on December 10 last year.

The attack occured near the Holiness and Repentance Church where he was probably sheltering from the rain.

The family did not pursue the killing as they did not suspect anyone.

His mother Margaret Njeri said, “We left it to God.”

His father, John Kinyanjui, says they did have a postmortem as it would have been “a cumbersome process and we didn’t suspect anyone. Police would have required facilitation.”


Nyandarua West subcounty police boss Isaac Ruto defends police against accusations they are doing nothing to end the crime wave.

Pauline Rono
Pauline Rono

Asked by the Star for details and the status of each case, Ruto says all information has been submitted to seniors. Nyandarua Senator Mwangi Githiomi sought a ministerial statement regarding the wave of unresolved murders in Ol Joro Orok constituency.

Ruto says for the last six months 11 incidents have been reported and acted on. He said seven cases are pending in court, three have been referred to the DPP.

The murder of the eight-year-old at Gichaka in February has been handed over to homicide officers. He did not mention other cases cited here.

“It is ridiculous when someone writes you are doing nothing. That is very humiliating because we have done everything to the best of our ability,” Ruto says.

He dismissed claims about a serial killer or gangs, saying only the two burrowing murders at Gatumbiro and Chekareli appear similar.

He said the real cause of the murders are land disputes dating back to the 1990s, love triangles and robberies gone wrong.

He cites the case of Alice Wanjiru killed at Gatumbiro in March as a clear case of a love triangle or quadrangle. He says Wanjiru had been married to four men.

In the murder of a 30-year-old woman and daughter by a burrowing, Ruto said the family has a land dispute dating back to the 1990s.

“They subdivided the land the day after the murder. What does that tell you?” he asks.

Edited by Otieno Owino

Purity Mukami
Purity Mukami
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