Police have murdered a 22-year-old youth in Kwale after they savagely battered his head using a wooden club during coronavirus curfew.

Erick Ng’ethe’s corpse is lying at Kwale mortuary awaiting an autopsy, before the family and MUHURI press charges against culpable officers.

The murder occurred at 9 pm on April 1, 2020, at the Nile Pub and Restaurant, Diani, where Ng’ethe was working as an accountant.

Police, numbering over 20, were involved in the violence.

Revellers had locked selves inside the pub.

Ng’ethe had to be on duty to make an income – he had spent six days without a daily wage because of the coronavirus curfew. Bills were accruing, the landlord was on his neck, and he could not feed.

“He would not have been paid, clear bills, or eat without going to work. His shift was at night – the curfew time,” Patrick Munene, his eldest brother, told MUHURI.

The murder occurred at 9 pm on April 1, 2020, at the Nile Pub and Restaurant, Diani, where Ng’ethe was working as an accountant. Photo: © 2020 Ernest Cornel.

Death rattle

About 12 revellers were inside the pub when police violence erupted some minutes past 9 pm, resulting in the murder of Ng’ethe – a fifteenth born in his family.

Since the pub’s main door was locked from inside, police destroyed part of the roof to gain access. They lobbed teargas canisters that forced Ng’ethe to open the door. As revellers scampered out, police hit them using gunstocks, batons, punches, lashes, and kicks.

Since the pub’s main door was locked from inside, police destroyed part of the roof to gain access. Photo: © 2020 Ernest Cornel.

Ng’ethe was choking on the teargas smoke and crawling, and when he lifted his head, police smashed it with a club. He fell and started to show signs of a death rattle.

Ng’ethe shook his limbs rapidly and had difficulties in breathing, one witness said.

“Police poured water on him, and he ceased moving,” another witness said.

Police, who thought Ng’ethe was still alive, removed him from the crime scene. They intended to book him at Diani police station. But 30 minutes later, they returned the body to the pub.

“They wanted to leave him inside the club, but they found the owner had locked it,” another witness, who feared for his life and requested anonymity, told MUHURI.

“They told us not to expose them, and asked us to tell their bosses that they did not round up or beat anyone.”

Police had nowhere to place the corpse and took it to Kwale morgue.

Oozing blood

When MUHURI and Ng’ethe’s family checked at the mortuary, they found his body inside a refrigerator. Blood was still oozing out of Ng’ethe’s mouth, ears, and nose, eight hours after police booked him as an “unknown body”. Police claimed they picked him “alongside the road”.

Ng’ethe’s head had injury marks caused by what appeared as a heavy hit by a blunt object. There was a great impact that caused a depression in the back of the head. Blood was still flowing out of this part. Ng’ethe’s clothes were on, hands folded, and eyes closed.

Deceased father, Daniel Ng’ang’a, MUHURI Rapid Response Officer Francis Auma, and the late’s brother, Patrick Munene, and cousin, Lydia Wanjiru at Kwale morgue. Photo: © 2020 Ernest Cornel.

Police arrested many who witnessed Ng’ethe’s murder, and are trying to block anyone from contacting them.

One witness whom MUHURI managed to speak to, feared for her life – she was visibly trembling.

Some witnesses are at Diani police station, where police have mounted high security. They don’t know when police will arraign them since Chief Justice David Maraga suspended most sittings.

Beasts in police regalia

Ng’ethe’s cousin, Lydia Wanjiru, passed out after viewing the body at Kwale morgue — she could not bear the pain of losing a close relative.

Ng’ethe’s cousin, Lydia Wanjiru, passed out after viewing the body. Photo: © 2020 Ernest Cornel.

The deceased father, Daniel Ng’ang’a, and his brother, Munene, wailed uncontrollably after seeing their kin lying dead in a cold slab.

The murderers will not have peace, Ng’ang’a said.

“They are beasts in police uniform who deserve to rote in jail,” he said.

The deceased father, Daniel Ng’ang’a. Photo: © 2020 Ernest Cornel.

Ng’ang’a said his son did not deserve such a cruel death.

“It’s better to die from coronavirus than being murdered by a fellow human being, in this case, police,” the father said.

Witnesses’ accounts and MUHURI’s preliminary probe exposed police’s intent to coverup the murder by claiming they found the body “alongside the road”. Police tried to return the corpse to the crime scene, after picking it. And have since told the media revellers are the one who destroyed the pub’s roof, yet overwhelming evidence points to the contrary.

MUHURI has since recorded the murder at Diani police station under OB number 2/2/4/2020.

More deaths from police violence

The toll of an accompanying police crackdown during Covid-19 curfew has ticked up to four – two in Nairobi and Western, and two at the Coast – more than three, the figure coronavirus has killed, as of April 2, 2020.

Rage is mounting and Kwale residents are threatening self-defence in future police attacks.

Coronavirus curfew started March 27, 2020, and requires people to stay in their homes from dusk-to-dawn, the most stringent limitation, and has led to a wave of police violence.

The government said the restriction will limit the spread of coronavirus that has infected at least 100 Kenyans. But police brutality, which has resulted in murders and grave injuries, has put locals’ lives at grave risk.

When police violence erupted on the first day of curfew, spokesperson Charles Ownino justified the assault, saying officers can use batons against civilians “if they are provoked”. There is no sign Ng’ethe provoked officers who murdered him.

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