Man charged with faking Kenya fire claim

July 27, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 27 – A man who allegedly lied that he had lost a child in the Nakumatt fire tragedy and even got paid Sh100, 000 shillings for burial expenses has been arrested and charged before a Nairobi Court.

Yusuf Hassan Mwarari was arrested at the weekend after a close member of his family tipped the police at the Central Police Station. He was presented before Nairobi Chief Magistrate Gilbert Mutembei where he denied obtaining money by false pretence and was released on a cash bail of Sh50,000 pending his trial on August 20.

The man had presented himself to forensics experts at the time who declared that his DNA samples matched those of human remains collected from the fire site.

Mr Mwarari had presented a claim for his “late son” Hassan Kijonga.

The DNA was carried out by Biotech Forensics Ltd, a private firm which was contracted by Nakumatt Holdings to help in the identification process.

The firm’s Managing Director Lynn Farah told Capital News they carried out DNA tests on the man and had positive results.

“The man is among the Nakumatt customers who presented himself and his samples did match that of one of the body remains. I am not aware of this latest development,” Ms Farah said when reached on telephone on Monday.

And even as she defended the outcome of their firm’s DNA report, a senior police officer at the Central Police station told Capital News they had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the man had lied at the time.

Questions were being raised on how DNA samples from remains of the Nakumatt fire tragedy matched those collected from the man who went to claim the death of his son yet he did not die there.

Police launched investigations into the matter when the man’s relative went to them last week and sought to clarify that the son they had reported burnt to death during the Nakumatt fire tragedy, had actually died of ailment some five years ago.

“We are in possession of a death certificate and medical receipts and it shows the said son died five years ago,” a senior police officer who requested to remain anonymous said.

“Investigations are going on and the man is expected to appear in court later on Monday,” he added.

The man was likely to face charges of giving false information but our source said: “That is just the initial one, more charges would be preferred.”

Alfred Ng’ang’a, the Group Account Manager for Ogilvy Public Relations which coordinates communications for Nakumatt Holdings told Capital News: “The man was among customers who received Sh100,000 which was paid to families whose relatives were burnt to death in January inferno.”

“According to my records, Mr Yusuf Hassan Mwarari reported the death of his son Hassan Kijonga in the Downtown tragedy. He duly followed the processes including DNA testing,” he said in response to an e-mail from Capital News.
Mr Ng’ang’a said Mr Mwarari qualified to receive the Sh100,000 for funeral expenses: “Upon filing the requisite documents with the Ministry of Special Programmes.”

He has clarified that the Sh100,000 paid to the Nakumatt customers was not compensation but just “a donation towards funeral expenses.”

Compensation to be paid to the families by the Insurer but it is not clear if that was paid to them.

It is also unclear if any of the families including that of Mr Mwarari received money from the Nakumatt and Molo fire tragedies funds that was launched by the government.

No comment was immediately available from officials at the Special Programmes Ministry which coordinates disaster management including the Nakumatt fire tragedy.

Up to 40 people were reported missing during the Nakumatt fire tragedy but only remains of 27 people were positively identified through a DNA exercise.

They include five Nakumatt staff who were burnt to death in the supermarket fire.