What started as an alarm by some villagers that cattle thieves had been spotted in Mwanche village in Migori County led to the lynching of three innocent men by a mob on the night of August 12, 2013.
And now, almost four years later, a court has ruled that 10 men who were part of the mob be sent to the hangman for murder.
The events of that dark night claimed the lives of Elkana Gondi Syong’oh, a chief accountant in the Department of Defence, his driver Moses Magiri Amek and his farmhand Simon Gombe.
The three were seen at 8pm that night, mistaken for cattle rustlers and beaten up before they were set ablaze in Mr Syongoh’s vehicle.
Two were burnt beyond recognition.
Twelve people were arrested and charged following the attack. Two absconded trial and the rest were found to have played a role in the brutal killings.
David Ochieng Ajwang, Nicholas Otunga Otieno, Daniel Owino Oganyo, Julius Makambo Obade, Kennedy Kisa Omweri, Julius Otieno Deya, Janes Ogalo Oketch Olendo, Joseph Odhiambo Majiwa, Joseph Keya Omweri and Paul Koi Odeko killed the three innocent men.
Some of the suspects were found with items stolen from the slain men, according to a judgement by Justice David Majanja.
The judgement was delivered in Migori on April 5 and published by the Kenya Law Reports on Tuesday.
The verdict brings to a close a case that arose from the cruel killing of three innocent men, including Mr Syong’oh, an industrious farmer who had travelled to the area to buy quail.
Justice Majanja, after considering the evidence of 23 witnesses, concluded that there was no doubt that the 10 were at the scene of the incident and that they took part in the killings.
“The savage way the accused inflicted the injuries on the deceased leave no doubt that they were inflicted with intent to cause grievous harm or death,” the judge states.
Ajwang, for instance, was seen cutting the left hand of the driver with a panga.
“The driver nevertheless continued driving until he stopped the car at the junction of the main road headed to Migori.
"After the car stopped, Joseph Odhiambo began pulling the driver and passengers out of car with the help of Nicholas Otunga,” states Justice Majanja in his judgement.
The court was told that Paul Koi was spotted by villagers tying up Mr Syongoh’s farmhand with a rope before dragging him to the scene, where the others were being beaten. The farmhand had tried to escape from the scene.
Ajwang was also seen striking Mr Syong’oh on the back with a panga.
Moreover, Keya was found with two jackets stolen from the slain men days after the gruesome killings. A Chloride Exide battery that had been stolen from Mr Syong’oh’s car was also found in the home of Kennedy Kisa.
Nerbert Lubanga, the man who had sold quail to Mr Syong’oh and his two companions before they drove off only to be accosted by villagers shortly afterwards, told the court that he had escorted the men to their car and returned home.
Mr Lubanga testified that when he tried to go to the scene where the three had been waylaid to tell the residents that they were not thieves, he was beaten up.
“As someone was trying to force him to sit down, another person pushed him and he fell and rolled into the nearby bushes whereupon he fled the scene,” Justice Majanja wrote of Mr Lubanga’s testimony.
Police investigated the killings and arrested several suspects. The case opened at the High Court in Kisii before being transferred to Migori.
Because the events happened at night, the accused argued in court that no one could recognise them and pin them down as the perpetrators.
But Justice Majanja thought otherwise.
“The witnesses and accused knew each other as they were from the same village. During the incident, the witnesses had the opportunity to interact with the accused closely because they knew each other,” said the judge.