Daniel Mwangi Wang’ondu was killed on New Year’s Eve by hit men allegedly hired by his father Stephen Wang’ondu. TV47Digital visited Wendiga village in Mweiga, Nyeri County, home of the deceased, to unfurl the mystery and intrigues surrounding the murder that has shocked the nation.
In PART ONE of a TWO-PART series, a farm-hand who has been with the family for 30 years reveals that Mwangi asked him for a short chain on the evening before he died. What was the chain for?
On December 31, 2020, Daniel Mwangi Wang’ondu visited his father’s stone crushing factory in the outskirts of Mweiga town. It had rained heavily that day, and the earth was fresh and sticky.
Mwangi was accompanied by a friend who runs a wielding shop in Mweiga town. “He looked agitated, his mind seemingly unable to concentrate on one thing at a time,” Charles Ndung’u who has been a farm hand-cum-watchman at the family’s vast estate for nearly 30 years told TV47Digital in an interview last Friday. “He asked me for a nyororo (chain link). I asked him what it was for but he didn’t tell me.” Mwangi returned to his car, a red VW Golf, and motored towards Mweiga town.
Mweiga is small agricultural town 29 kilometres northwest of Nyeri town. It was last in national news in March 2019, when Mary Wambui –another murder victim- and wife of businessman Joseph Kori, was interred here.
Land is mostly hereditary. With a population of only 3,609 (as per last census), it is one of the least populated towns not only in Kieni Constituency but also in Kenya. Residents here own huge tracts of land….10 acres, 15 acres…on which they grow potatoes, maize and other crops. No one however, upended Stephen Wang’ondu.
His land, some five or so kilometres from the town, is a setting of “Home on the Range”, the unofficial anthem of the American West. A shoulder-high Kei-apple fence runs the length of the farm, pockmarked with grevillea trees. There is a dam – which villagers call “lake” (it has fish and a boat, after all), where another of Wang’ondu’s sons Emmanuel Thuita was found dead in 1995.
At the entrance of the farm, there are two swing gates some 20 or so metres apart. They were locked. You cannot see the homestead from here, but one of Wendiga village’s undulating hills accorded us a bird’s eye view.
The waters of the Lake shimmered in the mid-day sun, the house obscured by mature trees. The sprawling farm is set against the backdrop of a concerto of Aberdare mountain ranges. But it is Tormenta en el paraíso – storm over paradise- , particularly the scene of the murder only 300 metres away.
A large sign board advertises Endarasha Boys High School at the tarmac exit towards the Wang’ondus. It’s a rocky road, with deep galleys in some sections. One cannot possibly fathom how the murdered Mwangi used to navigate with his sissy VW Golf. But navigating he did, a square peg in a round hole.
“If he bumped into you, he would give you a lift,” says James Wanjohi, who hails from the same village. “Mwangi was generous to a fault. Even in Mweiga town, you could find him in the backstreets whiling time away with youth. You could hardly tell he hailed from a family of means.”
Wanjohi, who is a boda boda rider in Mweiga, points out the array of Wang’ondu family properties in the town: “This petrol station… that building over there..the truck…see that red pub, ‘BarCode’, used to be Mwangi’s.”
Reportedly schooled at USIU, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Marketing, Mwangi was married to Fridah Njeri. They had two children, Immaculate Wacuka, 5, and Jasmine Wanjiru, 1.
“He was a loving father, very devoted to his daughters,” says Ndung’u, the farm hand.
Mwangi’s other passion was in his pack of 12 dogs – fierce bulldogs and Rottweilers. Ndung’u says late Mwangi scoured the villages looking for a “sick cow”, which he could purchase and slaughter for the dogs. We found the compound littered with shoulder blades, femurs, tibias and ribs, a feast of yester-days. The dogs, known for their ferocity, were quiet, subdued behind an obscure tin door, sadly missing their master.
Mwangi and Fridah’s home is an old-style 1990s bungalow with rusty iron sheet roofing. It is set in a large, tree-lined compound. A brick perimeter fence rings part of the compound, whose main entrance is a black metal gate. It is here that Mwangi met his end at 1am on January 1st this year.
“He was celebrating New Year with friends in Mweiga town,” recounts Ndung’u, who after working for the family for a long time, had developed a unique friendship with Mwangi.
The area is largely crime-free, and as Mwangi negotiated the rock road in darkness, he had little to fear. Meanwhile, the killers had scaled the perimeter fence and waylaid him at the wall’s curved edges.
“Mwangi opened the gate, drove in and exited the vehicle in order to close the gate behind him.” It was at this moment that the killers pounced.
“He was hit with a blunt object on the forehead and stabbed on the jugular,” says Ndung’u holding his neck to illustrate the spot on Mwangi’s neck that bore a stab wound. The killers had no mercy. They were out to finish him.”
Mwangi’s body was found slumped beside his car, the driver’s door still opened. His legs were crossed, which, Ndung’u says, is unsure how it happened. “His phone was collected there (he points, about four metres away). No one knows how it got there.”
Nothing was stolen from Mwangi.
So, who wanted Mwangi dead and what was the chain for? “I asked him to call John, (one of the drivers at the stone-crush factory) to ask for one but I am not sure he did. That was the last time I saw him alive,” says Ndung’u.
“Towards the end of November (2020),” a lawyer who spoke to TV47 at Nyeri Law Courts on condition of anonymity said, “Mwangi had an argument with his wife. When Mwangi left for work, his wife called her father-in-law (Stephen Wang’ondu), who went and locked the house with two padlocks.”
It is alleged that there’s a possibility of a romantic relationship between Mwangi’s wife and her father-in-law. Enough motivation for filicide? Only a court of law will decide; the fresh mould of earth under which Mwangi lies is too quiet to tell tales. Dead men tell none.
Detectives are also pursuing the possibility that Mwangi’s murder was motivated by the desire to claim life insurance money. After Emmanuel was found floating on the dam, his father reportedly received millions of shillings in compensation.
When Mwangi was buried on Wednesday January, 6, his father reportedly made a claim for life insurance only 12 days later.
“They killed you but your have left indelible mark in the lives you interacted with,” said Kieni MP Kanini Kega during the funeral. “We shall pursue all those who conceived and executed that cowardly and heinous act and bring them to account for their action. Fare Thee well.”