Sharon Otieno’s daughter, aged one-and-a-half years, plays with her 51-year-old grandfather Douglas Otieno inside their humble mud-walled house.
Oblivious to the tragic events unfolding around her and, perhaps, that may alter the course of her life forever, she is reluctant to leave his side. She clings to him as if to seek his protection.
The fear of strangers is her life’s biggest concern because she is afraid of people.
Nevertheless, new faces keep trooping in and out of their home on a daily basis, as they have done for the last few weeks now, and all she can do is run to her grandfather.
She and her other two siblings will now be raised by their grandparents after their mother was killed in a most brutal fashion — raped, tortured and stabbed eight times.
“It is like we have given birth again. We are glad that we have Sharon’s three children, a boy and two girls and we will raise them to the best of our ability,” Mr Otieno – seated next to his wife Melida Auma in their first one-on-one interview with the Nation since their daughter was killed three weeks ago – says.
They say Sharon’s youngest child reminds them so much of their late daughter. “The playful toddler resembles her so much,” Ms Auma says.
Their three grandchildren bring them solace and happiness in the face of this unthinkable tragedy.
“Luckily, she has left behind a generation,” Sharon’s parents say wistfully, even though they know in their hearts that nothing on earth can replace their dead child, whose life an assassin’s cruel blade painfully took away.
Her children now spend their night at their grandfather’s bed, just so they can feel the warmth of a ‘parent’.
Mr Otieno had, since the death of his daughter, maintained studious silence. He became taciturn and reclusive, no doubt weighed down by memories of his slain daughter whom he describes as a jewel.
“I go to the Med25 International-Kenya Hospital Mortuary in Mbita where my daughter’s body is, almost on daily basis. There, I often ask the attendants to bring her body to me. I sit beside it, touching and observing it. It satisfies my heart to just see it,” he says.
His slightly tremulous voice wears a woeful timbre even though his face remains expressionless, if somewhat careworn.
“I just sit next to her. Seeing her brings me some relief. I feel good, happy and satisfied that she is still with us. Her being dead does not scare me, she is my daughter anyway and I loved her very much. Her killers have robbed me off a pearl,” he says.
Not new to medics and hospitals, Mr Otieno reveals that he worked in a hospital set-up as a clerk for more than 14 years before he was retrenched 18 years ago. His last station was Migori District Hospital, now a Level Five county referral hospital.
“As a clerk in public hospitals, I saw many bodies, some badly mutilated. The body of my daughter does not therefore scare me,” he says.
Mr Otieno is now a peasant farmer and is supported financially by his wife, who is a teacher at Rabango Primary School in Rangwe Sub-County.
Here, she lived with her daughter Sharon who commuted almost daily to Rongo University for her studies. She was a second-year student pursuing a course in medical records and information sciences.
He visits the facility that is in Mbita constituency, located over 50 kilometres away from his home in Magare village, Homa Bay County.
This he does whenever he has time to kill and, even though his daughter’s issue has drained him financially, he does not mind so much, as long as he spends time with his dead daughter.
At times he visits the morgue early in the morning while other times he stays up late into the night.
“Sharon is my child, I fathered her and she deserves all respect and love, even in her death,” Mr Otieno, whose wife sits beside him all this while, quiet and observant, just chipping in with the odd comment every once in a while, says.
“Yes, he goes to check on our daughter at the morgue. When at home, he at times forgets to go to sleep and I have to force him as late as 3am to at least go and just lay his head on the bed,” his wife says.
But though he has a busy schedule, he manages to read a copy of the Nation which he buys daily, just to keep himself abreast with what is happening with investigations into his daughter’s death.
Ms Auma got married to her husband as soon as she completed her secondary education and gave birth to their first born daughter, Sharon, months later.
Together, they have three other children, the last born being a standard five pupil. Mr Otieno says at times he feels like his intestines are being shredded to pieces as memories of his daughter weigh him down. Ms Auma says Sharon’s death has left a very big gap in their lives.
“She was very close to me; she was my confidante and friend. She knew all development plans in this family, all our pains and happiness. She kept telling us to pray for her so that she could assist us to have a decent home. I feel lonely now,” Ms Auma recounts.
She says they shared a lot with her daughter whom she viewed as her age-mate, given that she gave birth to her when still young.
She says that, in character, Sharon took after her father; a straightforward and no-nonsense person.