Nyaruri, a reporter for the privately owned Weekly Citizen, who wrote under the name Mong’are Mokua, went missing from his home on January 16, 2009, according to a 2015 court ruling on the case and a June 2013 report filed by Kenya’s Ministry of Information to UNESCO, both of which cite Nyaruri’s wife, Josephine Kwamboka. His decapitated body was found on January 29, in the Kodera Forest in western Nyanza province. His hands were bound, and marks were found on his back. His wife identified him at Kisii Hospital.
Nyaruri had left his residence in Nyamira County, in western Kenya, at about 7:30 a.m. on January 16 to travel about 20 miles (30 kilometers) to Kisii to purchase construction materials, local journalists reported. Kwamboka told reporters that she spoke with her husband at around 11 a.m. that day, but did not hear from him again.
A taxi driver, Evans Mose Bosire, later told police that he had driven Nyaruri along with two police officers and two members of the sungusungu criminal gang to the home of a local Kisii Town councilor, Samuel Omwando, who had promised the journalist “a big story,” according to police documents reviewed by CPJ for a 2012 report on Nyaruri’s case.
Bosire told police that the officers and gang members beat Nyaruri and later drove him to Kodera Forest where they killed him, according to the 2012 CPJ report. The taxi driver drove the officers back to Kisii.
Bosire recorded a statement with police in March 2009, was subsequently detained by police without charge, and disappeared in May 2009 when he was granted leave from pretrial detention to visit his family, according to the CPJ’s 2012 report.
Prior to his death, Nyaruri had been investigating a story in about local officials’ alleged mismanagement of construction materials meant for a police housing project, according to CPJ’s report and the 2013 report to UNESCO.
That story was published on January 19, 2009, after the journalist had gone missing; prior to his disappearance, Nyaruri had spoken about his investigation on local radio, and implicated Lawrence Njoroge Mwaura, who was then the officer commanding the Nyamira police division, according to family lawyer Andrew Mandi, who spoke to CPJ for the 2012 report.
Mandi told CPJ that he had witnessed the Mwaura confront the journalist in January 2009. Nyaruri’s father, Peter Nyaruri Tari, told CPJ that police officials had threatened his son following a 2008 report alleging that Mwaura had used police vehicles to transport sex workers.
In June 2009, following the journalist’s death, Attorney General Amos Wako wrote a letter directing the investigating officer in the case to look into Mwaura, saying that from “[Mwaura’s] conduct, it is clear he must have participated in the crime in one way or another,” according to CPJ’s 2012 report. Wako also wrote that “there is strong suspicion that police officers could have executed [Nyaruri].”
In 2011, Mwaura, who had been transferred out of Nyamira, told CPJ that he had no knowledge of why the journalist was killed and had borne him no ill will.
The officer who originally investigated Nyaruri’s murder, Robert Natwoli, was later transferred out of Nyamira following threats to his life from police and Sungusungu gang members, and he later quit the force, according to CPJ’s 2012 report. At the time, CPJ found that successive officers handling the case were transferred.
Two other investigating officers, Nicholas Mutisya and Julius Musoga, testified in court that they had received threats in connection to the investigation into Nyaruri’s murder, according to the 2015 court documents. Musoga, who withdrew from the case due to these alleged threats, said in court that the “security team at Nyamira was compromised,” particularly the officer commanding the Nyamira Police Division.
Two suspects, Japheth Mangera Nyainda and Wilfred Nyambati Nyakundi were arrested in 2009 and 2010 respectively, but local journalists told CPJ at the time that they did not believe the men to be involved in the murder or were likely part of a larger conspiracy.
The prosecution failed to make its case against either man, and both were acquitted on September 30, 2015, according to the copy of the ruling archived online by Kenya’s National Council for Law Reporting.
In that ruling, high court judge H.K. Chemitei said that the matter had been “poorly investigated” and that police had failed to link the accused to the death of Nyaruri or to follow key leads, including answering questions on the role of the officer commanding the Nyamira police division, who is not named in the ruling, or the taxi driver, Evans Mose Bosire. The judge questioned why both these individuals never recorded any statements with the police.
In August 2020, Kwamboka told CPJ that she was aware that the case had been concluded but had not been in court when acquittal was delivered, and had not seen a copy of the ruling. She told CPJ that she was not aware of any new investigations or developments in Nyaruri’s case.