He packed his belongings on October 24, 2010 and left her as she cried and begged him to allow her to pray for him one more time.
She knew he was leaving her for another woman, but still asked him never to forget how far they had come together.
Grace Wanjiku Kariuki would next see her husband nine years later; not physically, but on TV screens.
He was behind the well of a court, wan and haggard, and, to make matters worse, accused of murder.
As Joseph Kori Karue bowed his head in shame before a Kiambu court on Tuesday this week, standing next to a woman believed to be his latest mistress, Grace was inside her small house in Kayole, watching the man she once loved soak in the police accusations of conspiring with his mistress to kill the woman he left Grace for.
“I was shocked beyond words,” she said yesterday. “I was called by one of my aunts who asked me if I had heard what had happened to my estranged husband. I saw the video clips of him in court, wiping his tears next to a woman I knew nothing about, accused of the worst crime under the sun.”
She had reached out to him last week, asking him to send money to pay school fees for their 11-year-old daughter.
He did not respond to her message, but she was sure he would do so later, like he always did.
Theirs was love brewed in Kayole, where the two first lived as they struggled to make ends meet.
Kori was a rice trader while Grace ran a small clothes business. She told of a man who knows how to love and could not stand to see someone get hurt.
“We met through a mutual friend and immediately fell in love, and after some time we decided to move in together. Our first rented home was a single room where we paid Sh1,500 in monthly rent. We later moved to another house where we paid Sh1,800 per month,” she said.
Because of the kind of business he was in, Kori used to travel to Mwea regularly and moved from retail shop to retail shop marketing it.
She discontinued her business to join her husband in the rice trade, which she felt was more promising.
“Later, an uncle who lives in Nakuru invited us for a visit, and during our stay there, Kori’s aunt introduced us to timber business. We had some savings, including Sh100,000 in my bank account, and we contributed to start the timber business.”
Soon the business grew, says Grace, forcing them to employ casuals as they still lived in Nairobi. Their plan was to open another timber yard in the city.
Within no time, Kori was swimming in money as furniture companies started sourcing timber from him, but the icing on the cake was when he won a tender to supply electricity power line poles to the Rural Electrification Authority.
“With the newfound money, we moved to a two-bedroom house and even employed a maid because I was expecting our first child — a boy I later lost to still birth,” Grace said. “We even bought our first car, a Toyota Premio.”
In 2008, and with the future looking up, Kori formally asked Grace’s parents, who also lived in Kayole, for her hand in marriage.
“Like any other couple, we had downtimes in our marriage, but we dealt with them amicably. He used to encourage me to work hard and assured me that he would never leave me because we had struggled together and managed to upgrade our lives,” Grace said.
Her husband, she said, started drifting away after she gave birth to their daughter.
He started being cagey, always receiving calls she suspected were from a woman, switching off the mobile phone whenever he was home, and generally being moody and almost unapproachable.
“He would go to Nakuru and spend days without coming home like he used to. He generally just changed his character, but denied every time I asked him if he was having an affair.
“One day I received a text message from a woman who identified herself as Mary Wambui Kamangara. She told me that she wanted to confirm to me that she was the woman in my husband’s life,” Grace said.
“I called her and told her to stop dating my husband, and informed her we had a daughter together. She called my husband, who asked me to apologise to her, telling me that she was the one who had given us the timber contracts. I did so.”
She said their affair grew from bad to worse when, one day, Kori drove to Nakuru straight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi soon after arriving in the country from a foreign trip, ignoring Grace and their daughter.
“Later, I met his friend in Nairobi and he asked me why I had not attended our house-warming party in Nakuru.
“I discovered that my husband had secretly bought a house and Mary had moved in. When I asked him, he denied that Mary was living in the house and told me that he was furnishing it and we would move in soon,” Grace said.
In the meantime, Mary kept calling Grace, coolly confirming to her that she was already living with Kori and claiming they were already married.
“I was hurt. I did not know what to do. When I tried to protest, she asked me to go to Nakuru so that we could parade ourselves and let Kori choose whom he wants.
“I used to cry day and night until neighbours and friends nicknamed me ‘Mama wa Kulia’. I went into depression. My daughter and I were all alone.
“On October 24, 2010, I lost him completely. He came to the house and packed all his stuff, including documents, and left. I tried everything to make him stay, but he had made up his mind.
“He was in a hurry, but after a long period of persuasion, I grabbed his hands, put them together between my palms, and prayed for him. I knew he was leaving me for another woman, but I told him I would always pray for him,” Grace said from her Kayole shop on Thursday.
Kori, she added, never visited her and their daughter again, but he would send a cheque to the child’s school for fees.
“My daughter has been asking about her father but I have always lied to her that he went to the US.
“One day, she said she would not eat because she was fasting for her father to return from America. She stares at our pictures and says she misses her father, even though she was only three when he left us,” she said.
She said that after Kori left, she spent most of her time in church, praying that she would forgive her estranged husband and Mary.
Five years ago she finally decided to let go, to move on with her life and stop fighting to get his love back, but requested him to help with school fees and books.
Their communication, she said, started revolving around their daughter’s fees, books, uniform and medication, although Mary would send her provoking pictures and messages.
“I blocked all avenues of trying to dig into how Mary and Kori lived. I just did not want to hear anything about their affair. I only heard about Mary’s murder and about the other woman on Monday. I am still in shock.”
Since the news about the murder broke, she said, many questions have crossed her mind. What if I was in his life?
Would I have been the one murdered? What will happen to his children now? What exactly happened, and who is this other woman?
“It has been a mixture of emotions. I have always prayed to God to fight for me, but never in my wildest imagination did I wish death on Mary.
“She may have abused me several times, but I have never wanted her dead. I am a mother and she bore a child whose veins carry the same blood as my daughter’s. Her son is my daughter’s brother,” she said.
Grace said she will stand with her husband now that he needs her the most, because she still loves him and, even though he left, she forgave him.
“The court will decide whether he is guilty or innocent, but I will stand by him. He is the father of my child and he taught me love after I experienced animosity from an abusive stepfather. He is still the only man I love. When I saw him in court, I saw a man overwhelmed by circumstances.”