For six months, Mr Kevin Odhiambo faced his accusers in court, with the probability of spending the rest of his life in jail were he to be found guilty of murder.
He was charged with killing Mr Martin Koome Manyara, a cellmate who died of injuries inflicted on him while in detention at Ruaraka Police Station in Nairobi on December 19, 2013.
The offence attracts a mandatory death sentence but, since no convict has been lawfully executed in Kenya since 1986, Mr Odhiambo stared at a life sentence at Kamiti, Kenya’s maximum security prison.
His accuser was the State, courtesy of an “investigation” conducted by police.
But away from the gallery, wananchi were conducting a parallel investigation, albeit through the civilian policing oversight body — Independent Policing Oversight Authority — which was formed in 2012 at the height of police excesses, with a cardinal mandate of ensuring that police are held accountable for their actions.
As the case against Mr Odhiambo proceeded, with cellmates and police officers lined up as witnesses, IPOA presented a counter file to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
IPOA explained that the man in the dock was the wrong one, and recommended that the officer in charge of Ruaraka Police Station, Mr Nahashon Mutua, be charged with the murder.
The Chief Inspector of Police was on Thursday found guilty of killing Mr Manyara.
The matter started on December 19, 2013, when Mr Manyara was taken into custody. At the station, he was beaten to a pulp and he died at Kenyatta National Hospital two days later. The victim’s family filed a complaint with IPOA on February 3, 2014.
Furthermore, the civilian oversight body received a complaint on the same case through the International Justice Mission on May 30, 2014.
On the fateful day, a report was received at Ruaraka Police Station at around 10pm, according to police constable Jonathan Chivatsi, who was manning the report office. The report stated that a man was threatening to kill his child at Baba Dogo estate, Nairobi.
Corporal Boniface Otieno, the duty officer at the station, and two other officers, left the station in response to the distress call.
They returned to the station after arresting Mr Manyara.
But Mr Manyara refused to enter the cells, prompting the officers to inform the OCS, who at the time was at the police canteen situated within the station.
The Ruaraka police station report desk was busy that day; Mr Victor Kioko was brought in on allegations that he had refused to settle a bill for drinks taken at Lexx Bar, also in Ruaraka.
The court heard that Mr Kioko was escorted to the station by two staff members of the bar, identified as Doreen and Abu.
At the report desk, he found the OCS, armed with a metal rod, landing blows on a helpless Manyara.
He identified the OCS because he knew him from past engagements and called out his name.
On hearing his name called out, the police boss made a swift turn, punched Mr Kioko in the face and, using the metal rod, landed several strikes on him.
Mr Kioko fell to the floor. On the orders of the OCS, he was dragged into the cells.
Meanwhile, the OCS resumed beating Mr Manyara and, at some point, lifted him and immersed his head in a drum of water, nearly drowning him.
Eventually, the victim was dragged into the cell, where he lay flat, unable to move a limb for the entire night.
Lying on the cold floor with wet clothes, his face was swollen and blood was streaming from parts of his torso.
There were other detainees in the cell. They told IPOA investigators that Mr Manyara was left in the cell, snoring but motionless, as they walked out to have breakfast the following day.
Later, at around 11am, a police vehicle arrived from Kariobangi Police Station and was used to transport Mr Manyara to Kenyatta National Hospital.
Mr Kioko, who too was hurting from injuries inflicted on him the previous night, was taken by police to Neema Hospital in Kasarani, but not before the OCS ordered all detainees to wash the cell, and in particular, wipe out the blood on the floor.
Mr John Karanja, one of the inmates, corroborated the account of events.
Later, the OCS approached Mr Kioko, apologised for having assaulted him and even paid his hospital bill, a claim that was corroborated by Mr Jackson Mativo.
Mr Kioko was discharged from hospital but Mr Manyara died of the injuries at 6.15pm on December, 20, 2013, at KNH.
A postmortem examination was conducted by Dr Midia Bernard at the hospital’s mortuary on December 22, 2013.
In court, the judge heard how police orchestrated a cover-up to protect the OCS until IPOA investigators brought in counter evidence.
Mr Odhiambo, who initially was charged with the killing in January 2014, was set free and the case against him withdrawn following the new revelations by IPOA.
In the faulty case, the police had lined up 21 witnesses, including detainees and police officers.
One of them, Constable Kennedy Simiyu, had testified that his boss, the OCS, was not at Ruaraka Police Station when the incident took place.
It is not the first time police have been involved in cover-up. Last month, the High Court in Nairobi convicted two police officers of murder, following another investigation by IPOA.
Constables Benjamin Kahindi Changawa and Stanley Okoti were found to have unlawfully killed Mr Geoffrey Nyabuto Mogoi, Mr Amos Okenye Makori and Administration Police Constable Joseph Obongo Onchuru at a bar in Kangemi, Nairobi, on October 7, 2014.