Priest a prime suspect in colleague’s brutal murder

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 08:54 | By

 By Zadock Angira and Brian Musyoka

The body of Father Michael Maingi Kyengo, a Catholic priest in Thatha Parish, Machakos County, who was kidnapped on October 8, was yesterday found buried on the bed of a seasonal river in Mashamba Makima, Embu County. 

Ironically, another priest, who is the deceased’s former colleague, is one of the suspects in the murder, stealing from the his bank account and secretly burying his body. 

Police sources told People Daily detectives were following leads that point the killing to a possible dispute over “money and a woman.”

“This could turn out to be a murder that could shock the church to its core as it may implicate one of their own in the killing,” said a source privy to the investigations.

Michael Mutunga, who is a mutual friend to Kyengo and the suspect, has been arrested after he was found with the deceased’s car, mobile phone and documents. Mutunga, 25, is suspected to have planned the murder. 


Mutunga was yesterday afternoon taken to witness the exhumation and angry members of the public attempted to attack him.

The exhumation was overseen by the Director of Operations at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters Danson Diru and Government pathologist Dorothy Njeru.

According to them, the priest was strangled and his throat slit. The body, which was wrapped in a polythene paper and put in a sack, also sustained deep cuts.

“Because of the condition of the body, we will also carry out a DNA analysis to confirm that the body belongs to the priest,” Diru said. 

Kyengo, 43, who was an assistant priest at the parish, was last seen on October 8 at Kaewa market in Masinga while driving his grey Toyota Axio registration number KCQ 665S. 

He had dropped off a man who had earlier been fencing his Tala home before he proceeded to Masinga Resort for supper. It is suspected he was kidnapped on his way from the resort.

The same day, his phone went off and police say the killers drove his car to Malindi and then back to Nairobi. In Malindi, they withdrew Sh1 million from the priest’s account.

Among the red herrings in the case was the deceased’s phone which at one point was located in Lamu, over 400km away from the scene, where it would be switched on and off. It was, however, not immediately established if this was deliberate, to throw detectives off the trail. 

It was further established that the kidnappers withdrew money several times from the priest’s Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) account. On October 9, just a day after he went missing, Sh100,000 was withdrawn from the account. On October 10, two withdrawals of Sh70,000 each were made.

On October 11, a total of Sh240,000, in three transactions of Sh100,000, Sh70,000 and Sh70,000, was withdrawn.

Detectives say a total of about Sh1 million was withdrawn from Kyengo’s account in four days, either by using his ATM card or mobile transfers, before the account was frozen after his brother Boniface Kingoo reported to the bank.

The disappearance had been reported by Kingoo at the Taka Police Post on October 11.

A team of detectives from the Special Crimes Prevention Unit (SCPU) left for Lamu but on reaching Makindu, they found Mutunga driving the priest’s car.

He was arrested, and upon interrogation, he confessed knowing about the murder plot and the people behind it. He also revealed that the body had secretly been buried at a location that he was willing to disclose.

American priest

A preliminary report from analysis of his  his phone revealed he had been in constant communication with a Catholic priest, who is  now one of the  prime suspects. Text messages retrieved from his phone indicated they discussed details of the killing. 

After the killing, they went back to their daily lives, a scene reminiscent of the case of the US Catholic priest Fr Hans Schmidt, who in September 1913 slashed his lover’s throat, drank her blood, raped her as she bled to death, dismembered her body, and threw the pieces into a river. He then went back to St Joseph’s Church where he offered Mass and administered Holy Communion.

Detectives are investigating reports that the two priests could have differed over money and a woman.

Other reports said the deceased had planned to visit Makima in Mbeere South to pray for a woman who was alleged to have been possessed by demons, but he had not been cleared but the leaders of both counties.

Father Josphat Kyambuu who is in charge of Thatha Parish, said he had worked harmoniously with Kyengo, who he described as hardworking. 

“Father Kyengo was a hardworking priest who knew his job and we worked together in spreading the gospel in Thatha Parish,’’ he recalls.

His body has been moved to Montezuma Funeral Home in Machakos awaiting a post-mortem.

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