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After Five Years, Murder Trial of IJM Colleague, IJM Client and Trusted Driver Progresses To Next Phase

The High Court has placed four police officers and a civilian on their defense for the murder of International Justice Mission lawyer Willie Kimani, client Josephat Mwenda and driver Joseph Muiruri on June 23, 2016.

Lady Justice Jessie Lessit in her ruling said she was convinced by the Prosecution case that police officers Fredrick Leliman, Stephen Cheburet, Sylvia Wanjiku, Leonard Mwangi and civilian Peter Ngugi have a case to answer in the murder of the three.

“After considering the evidence, I have come to a conclusion that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against all of the accused, and therefore place all them on their defense,” Justice Jessie Lessit ruled.

The prosecution put a strong case on how the five abducted Willie, Josephat, and Joseph on June 23, 2016, after the trio left Mavoko Law Courts where they had attended a case hearing involving one of the accused.

After a week-long tedious search, their bodies were discovered in River Athi in Ol Donyo Sabuk in Machakos County.

The trial began in 2016 and the Prosecution closed its case last week after calling 46 witnesses. Among those who were called to give evidence include: police officers, Kimani's former colleagues, witnesses who discovered bodies floating at the river, a boda boda rider who the prosecution said was the last person Kimani talked to and who picked a distress note allegedly wrote by the lawyer on a tissue paper.

The prosecution also adduced a confession statement given by the fifth accused, Peter Ngugi, allegedly detailing how a scheme to kill the three was hatched and executed. The prosecution, in its bid to prove its case against the accused, also used technology including cell-site analysis to map geographic area, DNA sampling, and phone call data.

“Placing the five accused person on their defense is a positive move in realizing justice for Willie, Joseph and Josephat. We want to commend all the investigating agencies from the Kenya Police Service, DCI, IPOA and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for putting together a strong case that has convinced the court that the accused persons have a case to answer,” said Benson Shamala, IJM Kenya Country Director.

Shamala said five years is a long time for a case to reach this stage and urged actors in the public justice system to work together to reduce time taken in determining cases in court.

“We are encouraged that the Chief Justice has promised to reduce time taken in court to a maximum of three years. This will help Kenyans have faith in our justice system and ensure speedy justice for both the victims and the accused persons,” Shamala said.

The defense hearing will start on Monday, September 27, 2021.

About International Justice Mission

International Justice Mission is a global organization that protects people in poverty from violence. IJM partners with local authorities in 24 program offices in 14 countries to combat slavery, violence against women and children, and other forms of abuse against people who are poor. IJM works to rescue and restore victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and help strengthen public justice systems. Learn more at

For media inquiries contact:

Caroline Mwaura, IJM Kenya

+254 701807713 (m)

Maggie Cutrell, IJM North America

+1 478-955-4666 (m)

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