By: JOHN NGIRACHU
A second flamboyant preacher driving a Range Rover was involved in a fatal accident but police terminated the case, the Nation has learnt.
Bishop Thomas Wahome Njuguna of Helicopter Ministries, driving vehicle registration number KBX 377D, knocked down Godfrey Mwaniki at about 6pm on June 24.
Mr Mwaniki died on the spot in an accident that took place at the top of a small hill near Kihuri Village, Othaya, Nyeri County.
Pastor James Ng’ang’a of Neno Evangelism Centre, has been in the news over an accident in which Ms Mercy Njeri died in June. Witnesses said Pastor Ng’ang’a was driving at the time of the accident but police, in an elaborate cover-up, appear to have charged a different person.
More than 1,700 people, many of them pedestrians, have been killed on the road so far this year. Drivers are rarely punished in these cases. For those who can afford to bribe the police, impunity has become almost institutionalised.
In the Bishop Wahome case, police investigated and took statements from witnesses, but dropped the case, apparently at the request of Mr Mwaniki’s family. The family met Bishop Wahome on June 29, subsequent to which the decision not to pursue the case appears to have been taken.
NOT DRIVING FAST
The Bishop’s defence, supported by the passengers in his car, was that Mr Mwaniki unexpectedly and without exercising due care, walked onto the road.
According to law enforcement officials familiar with the evidence, the bishop also said he was not driving fast.
Mr Mwaniki had also been to a bar and had a drink. The position of the police appears to have been that he was drunk and staggered onto the road.
The evidence of witnesses who were with Mr Mwaniki was that he was not drunk at all, that he had only taken half a bottle of Allsops beer. They also claimed that the Range Rover was being driven fast.
While there is no suggestion that Bishop Wahome was at fault, law enforcement officials are concerned that the police allowed the matter to end quietly without a formal acquittal by a judge or magistrate.
The police decided that the pedestrian was at fault and recommended an inquest be held into his death, but the decision to refer a death to an inquest is usually taken by the court or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, not the investigator.
Besides, where a person has been killed, the complainant is not the family but the State and it is up to the DPP to decide whether the person who caused the death is to be charged and what offence he or she would be accused of.
If found liable, the charge would have been causing death, as per the Traffic Act, which upon conviction would result in a prison term of a maximum 10 years.
The judge or magistrate also has powers to cancel the driver’s licence and to declare the offender disqualified from having a licence for three years.
Last evening, Bishop Wahome told the Nation that he was not at fault in the matter and it was true he made an arrangement with the family.
“I went and told them that nobody would want to kill another that way. This is a normal accident. They also agreed and said their brother had said he was going to have his last drink. I assisted them during the funeral arrangements,” he said.
He said the fact that he did not try to get away was evidence of his good will on the matter.
Contacted, Traffic Commandant Charlton Murithi yesterday said the Director of Public Prosecutions will advise on the way forward once they hand over the case file.
Bishop Wahome has been in the news lately after two former members of his church claimed they had been expelled after they refused to part with Sh200 so that they can be told whether their names are in a book of those who will go to heaven.
He has also been involved in court battles with an ex-wife.
A police officer conversant with the case said Mr Wahome did not deny knocking down Mr Mwaniki.
In a statement, the pastor described the accident, stating that Mr Mwaniki was crossing the road from the right to the left side and had finished crossing.
But he then saw him falling on the bonnet and braked. He said he was not speeding because the vehicle was going uphill and had just finished the climb.
But Simon Kiragu Manjane, who witnessed the accident, said he saw Mr Mwaniki fly into the air after being hit and that before he landed, he was hit again.
Mr Wahome’s Range Rover was taken to Nyeri for inspection and released.