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April 16, 2012
The Mercurial Life and Mysterious Death of Sammy Wanjiru
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April 16, 2012

To Run In Kenya, To Run In The World

The Mercurial Life and Mysterious Death of Sammy Wanjiru

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Everyone who knew Sammy Wanjiru understands that he was killed by his own gun. It took his life without ever firing a bullet. If not for the gun charge, he would never have been in Nyahururu on the night of May 15.

He was dry and getting back into shape in Eldoret while living with Berardelli, who demanded that he be home for dinner each night. Wanjiru just had to go to Nyahururu for one day to pay his lawyer to settle the gun case. (Rosa had transferred money to Wanjiru's account because he was out of cash.) Then he would be free to move to the U.S.

Berardelli let Wanjiru borrow a Toyota Prado and sent Gatheru along with him. But on the way to Nyahururu that day Wanjiru's old habits returned. To Gatheru's dismay, Wanjiru wanted to make multiple stops. A last hurrah, perhaps. The first was at the Tas Hotel bar in Nakuru, where Wanjiru had drinks with friends. They left around 3:30 p.m., and Wanjiru then rendezvoused with one of his girlfriends, Judy Wambui, while Gatheru waited.

They arrived in Nyahururu after 7 p.m., and Wanjiru had drinks with dinner at the Waterfalls Resort. He made plans with Gatheru for training the following day, and then Gatheru left to go to sleep. But Wanjiru kept drinking with a cousin and an employee. He was so drunk by the time he left Waterfalls that he got into a dispute over the bill and ran his car into a gate in the parking lot.

Around 10 p.m. he went from Waterfalls to another bar, Kawa Falls. A man who was working the counter there says that Wanjiru was visibly drunk and that he left with Jane Nduta, a waitress at Kawa Falls who later said, "I knew my life will never be the same again if I got married to him. I would never have to work for anybody." Wanjiru and Nduta stopped for another drink at Jimrock before heading back to Wanjiru's house around 11 p.m.

Three people who saw security footage from Wanjiru's compound that night say that about 15 minutes after Wanjiru arrived, Njeri showed up. According to statements given to the police by Njeri, Nduta and Wanjiru's watchman, the women argued, and Njeri stormed out of the house—but not before putting a padlock on a metal security gate, locking Wanjiru and Nduta in the bedroom. The current police theory, supported by Nduta's statements to the police and the media, is that Wanjiru became enraged upon finding himself locked inside and ran out to the balcony to yell for the key. He may then have tried to jump down from the balcony to chase his wife, who left the compound, but in his drunken state he misjudged the descent and fell to the ground.

Nobody saw him go down, but the watchman saw him lying there and called people to come get him. When Gatheru arrived, he found his friend unconscious, with blood coming from the back of his head and his mouth and nose. He was taking deep, gurgling breaths.

Within 15 minutes of arriving at Nyahururu District Hospital, which has no intensive care unit, Wanjiru took one more deep breath, stretched his arms stiffly to his side and never breathed again.

When the tape recorder is off, most of the people who were close to Wanjiru say they believe he was murdered. The investigation was a disaster. After hastily calling the death a suicide, the police failed to secure the crime scene, and any hope for pristine forensic evidence was lost when the house was cleaned.

In Nyahururu there is widespread sentiment that the police were unhappy with Wanjiru after he claimed he was framed on the gun charge, and many citizens think the police wanted his money. Three people independently told SI that they were at the police station the morning of May 16 and heard officers threaten to throw Wanjiru's brother, Simon, in jail if he did not turn over Sammy's identity and ATM cards. Simon reluctantly confirmed that account.

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