Panic gripped residents of Mukurwe-Ini area in Nyeri, when they woke up to find a body of a five-month-old brutally bruised and dumped at her father’s doorstep.
The main suspect? The mother.
Grace Wambui is accused of killing her five-month old daughter, while she at the same time had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for neglecting the same child.
The 27-year-old was handed a two-year non-custodial sentence by a Mukurwe-Ini court after admitting to dumping the five-month-old child at her husband’s doorstep multiple times, and in the middle of the night, following a squabble.
And now, barely two weeks after being convicted of child neglect and malicious damage to property, police are pursuing her for the murder of the child, her second born, and torching her matrimonial home in Gikondi.
Mukurwe-Ini Sub-county Police Commander Jesse Mwakaria said on Tuesday, “She was recently convicted and was serving a non-custodial sentence. Now we are pursuing her because we believe she was involved in the arson at her matrimonial home a week ago and in the murder of the child.”
Trouble began in April when Ms Wambui reportedly had a disagreement with her husband, Joseph Mwangi, over plans to meet her parents for dowry negotiations.
Neighbours claim the woman called off the event on suspicion that her husband was having an affair with her sister.
Mr Mwangi said, “We had planned to travel to her home in Mathioya but we had a disagreement a few days before the event. She got angry and complained that I hired a taxi for her sister yet I never accorded her the same treatment.”
The couple who had been together for a year got separated as a result of the disagreement.
Multiple efforts to reconcile the two reportedly bore no fruit as the woman would take the baby away only to leave her at the door later in the night.
This prompted the involvement of police who arrested her for leaving the child out in the cold and damaging her estranged husband’s property.
Following her conviction and sentencing on April 23, however, Ms Wambui was given full custody of the child and asked to report to her probation officer.
In an unprecedented turn of events, however, Ms Wambui is said to have sneaked into her in-law’s home the same night and left the child at the doorstep again.
“We searched for her that night and gave the baby back to her at around 1am. She agreed to stay with the child but at 3am we found the child at the door again. This time we decided to keep the baby because she was being tortured for no reason,” the husband said.
Things took an ugly turn later that week – on the morning of April 27, neighbours were woken by screams as the couple’s home was on fire.
Police believe the woman was behind the arson attack as she had called Mr Mwangi several times threatening to kill the baby.
After this incident, police advised the family to give the baby to Ms Wambui’s mother for her safety.
Matters worsened on Monday as the body of the five-month old was found dumped at the doorstep of the house belonging to the woman’s in-laws, wrapped in a sack and shawls.
The body found at 5am had deep cuts in the head, neck and abdomen.
On Tuesday, police sought orders to detain the suspect’s mother, Ms Jane Wacera, as she had been housing the child before she was killed.
“She was arrested in Mathioya by locals and we are still detaining her. She will be helping us with investigations,” Mr Mwakaria said.
The motive for the killing is yet to be established and more puzzling is the allegation that the woman orchestrated a series of gruesome night attacks that befell Gikondi in April.
Detectives suspect the child was killed elsewhere and the body cleaned and transported to the location where it was found.
They also believe Ms Wambui worked with accomplices so more suspects will likely be arrested.
Once investigations are concluded, the woman could be charged with infanticide or murder as well as arson.
“The DPP will also guide us on whether to prefer any charges with regard to abandoning the child the same day she was convicted,” Mr Mwakaria said.