Why there is still hope JM, Ouko killings will be solved

Kibaki, Moi vows yet to be fulfilled, but cold cases abroad inspire hope

In Summary

• Cold cases from as far back as the 1950s are being solved in America

Image: OZONE

Today marks the 49th anniversary of the murder of JM Kariuki. It comes two weeks after the 34th anniversary of the grisly murder of Dr Robert Ouko on February 13, 1990.

A decade ago, I said in this column that neither murder has ever been solved to the satisfaction of Kenyans despite promises by politicians, which we now know to have been pure rhetoric.

In 1975, when he was the only member of President Jomo Kenyatta’s Cabinet to attend JM’s burial, the then Finance minister Mwai Kibaki swore “even if it takes 100 years, Kenyans will know who killed JM and why”.

We still have 51 years to go, and so I suppose if you are one to hold on to empty political promises, there might still be hope of the truth coming out. However, with most of the central players in the matter now safely six feet under, it is doubtful that the full truth will ever emerge.

Just 15 years later at the funeral of slain Foreign Minister Dr Robert Ouko, President Moi, who arrived by Air Force helicopter escorted by a couple of paramilitary police platoons, armed to the teeth in case of trouble, faced angry mourners who were shouting “no cover-up”.

The President, who was not used to facing volatile crowds and having to maintain humility, as ordinarily he would have lashed out, turned the other cheek and said meekly: "We shall leave no stone unturned to find the murderer of my friend and brother." 

Clearly there remains a whole quarry of unturned stones as we still cannot say convincingly who killed Ouko and why.

The trails have gone cold in both cases, and only a very determined investigator would dare take them on. And even if such a person existed, it would seem to be an exercise in futility to most other people.

That said, there must always be a glimmer of hope, no matter how faint and flickering it may seem in the distance.

After all, these two are not the coldest unsolved cases in the world.  I recently read of the case of an American woman, Irene Garza, that took 57 years to solve.

Garza was a beauty pageant contestant from the town of McAllen in Texas. According to the oldest.org website:

“Garza was last seen alive on April 16, 1960. She was reported missing the following morning after she failed to return home after going to confession at church. A large volunteer search was immediately launched and Garza’s body was found a few days later on April 21.

“Fr John Feit was the priest who heard Garza’s confession and was the only identified suspect in her death. However, there was never enough evidence to convict Feit, and the case went unsolved for decades. In 2002, two clergymen, Dale Tacheny and Joseph O’Brien, said Feit had confessed to murdering a woman back in the 1960s.

“Despite the new information, it took over a decade for Garza’s case to be reopened, and Feit was not convicted until 2017. Feit died of natural causes on February 12, 2020, while being incarcerated.”

Meanwhile, according to a report in a Montana newspaper, Great Falls Tribune, “Residents in a 1956 Montana town came across two gruesome discoveries in 24 hours. A group of teens found 18-year-old Lloyd Bogle with his hands bound by his own belt, dead from a gunshot wound to the head. 

“The next day, a county road worker found 16-year-old Patricia Kalitzke's body north of the area where Bogle was discovered, sexually assaulted, and shot.” 

It would later turn out that the two had visited what the Americans call a "lover's lane" area together. And, according to a report on NPR (National Public Radio), it took more than 60 years for police to determine, via forensic genealogy, that a man named Kenneth Gould was responsible for the deaths. Unfortunately, the discovery came in 2019, a whole 12 years after Gould's death.

So I guess we must forever live in hope.

Follow me on X @MwangiGithahu

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