One of the most publicised murder trials in the country came to an end Thursday, when High Court Judge Roselyn Korir handed former journalist Moses Otieno Dola a 10-year sentence for killing his wife.
Ever since Mr Dola was charged with killing NTV reporter Sarah Wambui Kabiru, her parents- Mombasa-based Major (rtd) John Kabiru Gitahi and Agnes Njoki, have religiously attended nearly all sessions, eagerly awaiting justice for their daughter who died at the hands of her partner on May 1, 2011.
On a number of occasions, the couple broke down during court sessions, leaving many wondering whether emotional healing will ever visit their home.
Ms Njoki’s pain has seen her admitted in hospital on many occasions, after collapsing from the shock of her daughter’s untimely demise.
On TV, Ms Kabiru was a rising star — but that had been dimmed violently by the man she loved.
But tears were not however limited to the victim’s parents, as Mr Dola also constantly broke down during the trial, at times forcing Justice Korir to adjourn proceedings for a few minutes to allow the accused to regain composure.
Seven and half years after they lost their daughter, Ms Kabiru’s family is still gravely bitter with their former son-in-law: not just for taking their daughter’s life but also for failing to reconcile as provided for by the Kenyan law.
This left Justice Korir puzzled too, as she noted that Mr Dola was apologetic for his actions.
“The accused wept his way through the trial. He begged the deceased’s relatives to forgive him and asked to be allowed to play the role of a father. It is however not clear why parties did not take advantage of the law to attempt reconciliation,” Justice Korir said as she read out her sentence.
Mr Dola’s family was present. They sat tightly tucked next to each other on one bench, staring into oblivion after Justice Korir ruled that their son deserved 10 years in jail — a lenient punishment considering the maximum term for the crime of murder is life in jail.
Shortly after Justice Korir read out her sentence, the towering ex-journalist who covered crime and courts for the defunct Nairobi Metro, went into shock.
The judge asked him to take a seat but Mr Dola stood motionless in the dock, his eyes locked at the judge.
Dola did not notice that Justice Korir had asked him to sit down after reading out the sentence.
It took the efforts of a police officer seated nearby to tap Mr Dola several times before he could get back to reality.
He took his seat as another conviction was being read out, but was whisked away by prison officers to start a new chapter in his life — as a convict at the Kamiti Maximum Prison.
“He is a lucky man. If he behaves well in prison he may not have to serve all 10 years,” a lawyer waiting for another case said as the judge closed Mr Dola’s file.
A pre-sentence report handed over to court early this month recommended that Mr Dola be considered for a non-custodial sentence.
The report, which was filed in court on November 6, indicated that Mr Dola had serious anger issues as well as frustration because he is jobless. He is described as ‘medium risk’.
“If considered for non-custodial sentence, the probation department will strive to address his issues for purposes of positive behaviour change, I therefore recommend that he be considered for probation sentence,” probation officer P. Alambo said.
The report also indicated that his family feared to meet the family of the deceased earlier on but were willing to negotiate with them in the event they will allow them to help in enhancing their relationship for the sake of the couple’s nine-year old son.
They asked the court for leniency towards their fifth-born son, saying that they did not anticipate such an act from him because he had a “loving relationship” with his wife.
However, the Kabiru’s said that they were still in pain and anguish inasmuch as they have tried to come into terms with their daughter’s death.
They said that they had greatly invested in her socially, morally and academically; that her death dashed their hopes, expectations and dreams since she was such a lovable as well as dependable person.
They also said they feel for their child who will never see his mother and that they do not intend to give Mr Dola his son back even if he was to be freed.
For the Kabiru’s, they have not yet forgiven him since no amount of effort or compensation can bring their daughter back to life or replace her hence they are not ready for any talks on reconciliation and forgiveness.
Ms Kabiru was killed on May 1, 2011 at the couple’s house in Nairobi’s Umoja estate and her lifeless body was found locked in their bedroom carefully tucked in bed. She was 28 and her husband is now 36.
On the fateful day, the accused left his dead wife in their house and went on a drinking spree with the deceased’s brother while pretending that all was well.
It is the deceased’s brother and neighbours who later found her body in the locked bedroom while Mr Dola is said to have gone into hiding for a few days before surrendering to the police in Naivasha.
In his defence, Mr Dola told the court that Ms Kabiru almost hit her with a pair of scissors and that as he struggled to snatch it from her, they both fell on the bed and Ms Kabiru got hurt.
The murder trial started in 2011 but had to kick off afresh on February 10, 2014 after the mother of the deceased screamed when the court was told that the hearing would be postponed because the presiding judge was not present.
Justice Nicholas Ombija, who was hearing the case, had at the time appealed against a decision by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, which found him unfit to serve as a High Court judge.
Three witnesses had already testified before him. Prosecution presented a total of 16 witnesses for the fresh trial.
In October, Justice Korir found Dola guilty of manslaughter even though he had been charged with murder.
They described the man as “violent, drunkard”, hence not capable of taking care of their grandchild.
“Our prayer to court is for justice to prevail as the offender needs to be seriously punished in order to serve as a lesson to him and others, above all we leave it to God and the court to decide,” the Kabiru’s said in the report.
It was the probation officer’s conclusion that while the offender’s family was willing to get into a reconciliation, the victim’s side was still bitter and in pain hence preferred justice to prevail.
According to the judge, the trial was punctuated with free flow of emotions all through.
She also pointed out that there are many jobless Kenyans hence pardoning him would set a bad precedent.
“Joblessness cannot provide violence as a solution. Court takes notice that there is a vast number of jobless Kenyans out there hence court would be setting a dangerous precedent if his sentiments are accepted,” Justice Korir ruled.