“I’m almost divorced, widowed, thrown out of my house and being dispossessed yet grieving, all at the same time.”
Those were the words of Sarah Wairimu, the wife of the late Dutch businessman Tob Cohen during an exclusive interview with the Star.
At 3.30pm last Monday at Jewish cemetery along Wangari Maathai road in Pangani, Nairobi, Wairimu was on one of her many trips to the tomb of her husband whose death last year generated a lot of public interest and remains controversial. She had the grave plastered and a tombstone erected on it recently.
Cohen disappeared in July 2019 after a sharp marital dispute with Wairimu that put their marriage on the brink, with each filing and counter-filing for divorce.
His decomposing body was found in an underground water tank within their Kitisuru home after two months of frantic search.
With the history of the marital acrimony contained in a litany of police reports they had variously made against each other in various police stations, Wairimu became the prime suspect in the disappearance and murder of Cohen.
She was supposed to be a mourning widow but Wairimu got detained at Lang’ata Women’s Prison. She fought her way through the courts to be allowed to witness the postmortem on the body of her husband. She was also allowed to participate in the September 23 burial spirited resistance from Cohen’s family. Her murder trial is set for July 6 to 20.
But away from the intricacies of her legal battle, how has life been like for the mother one?
Wairimu alights from the car of her lawyer Philip Murgor to meet this writer. “Thank you for the interest to talk to me,” she says as we take a stroll to the grave.
“Life has been rough for me,” she says. “I have not had time to mourn my husband even after we lived for 29 years as man and wife. This is sheer pain have been and I am still going through,” she says.
The 52-year-old Wairimu explains that the death of her husband and the circumstances surrounding it put her in a precarious situation as she has had to fight “for myself, him and for us.”
“He left me with no one to protect me. As I continue grieving, my constant question is, why did you have to do this Simba?”
Wairimu says she has had to maintain a strong public posture even as she deals with her loss.
“I’m being disinherited, have been thrown out of our matrimonial home. I am yet to mourn properly and find closure.
“My mourning is really accumulated because I also lost a brother in 2017 and I am still grieving. The death of Tob doubled the grief, made it even worse,” she says.
Wairimu says she initially treated information about the disappearance of her husband as a rumour “given that some people had attempted to intrude into our marriage.
“Tob left home saying he was going for a medical checkup and with this, I immediately believed he was going to Thailand. It was normal for him to leave home and be back later, without necessarily saying where he went,” she says.
She says her 71-year-old husband had developed a mental problem and that people whom he spent most of his time with tried to take advantage of him, alluding to her ongoing battles over their property.
“I repeatedly raised my grave concern over his health with his siblings but they ignored me. No one would listen to me,” she says.
“I’m not bothered about the property issue. What God has given you no one can take a way. We are a country of laws and I’m sure my rights will not be violated.”