New book queries Wanjiru’s death
A leading Dutch medical expert has opened an investigation into the death of Kenyan world marathon star, Samuel Kamau Wanjiru. Dr Frank van de Goot from Symbiant in Alkmaar, North Holland, 40 kilometres west of the Netherlands capital city, said he was collecting more evidence which could prove the marathon champion was struck before he fell off his balcony.
The pathologist is concerned that the injuries Wanjiru suffered are not consistent with just a fall and that he may have been struck on the head before he plunged to his death, according to an upcoming book on the Olympic marathon champion.
The author, Mr Frits Conijn, an Amsterdam-based journalist, spent weeks in Kenya investigating the circumstances that led to the distance running sensation’s death.
He subsequently also consulted a the Dutch pathologist who described his (pathologist’s) findings as “strange”.
In the book “Running on Empty”, due to be released next May to coincide with the first anniversary of the athlete’s death, Mr Conijn says the pathologist found “suspect” wounds on Wanjiru’s face that may conclude that he was struck before he fell.
“Strange things happened and exterior violence, like a blow on the head before he died, is very well possible,” Mr Conijn quotes the pathologist as saying.
“There was a wound under his left chin – three strips of six centimetres, two centimetres and one centimetre – which are very strange.
“Then there is the wound under his right eye. If it were above the eye it would have been easy to explain because then it would be caused by the fall from the balcony, because his skull moved. But that is not the case with this wound.”
Mr Conijn says the pathologist does not pay too much attention to the wounds on Wanjiru’s knees as “they are too small and could be caused by walking against a chair, so they are meaningless.”
Speaking the Daily Nation on Thursday, Dr van de Goot said: “The post-mortem report’s description of the body refers to a trio of long, superficial skin lesions running parallel to one another.
“Lesions of this type are consistent with contact with an external mechanical force or with a resistant object of a similar pattern.”
Describing his findings as “strange, also because of the other wounds,” the pathologist added: “I have not encountered a pattern of this nature in the description of the place where Wanjiru fell.”
Kenya’s chief government pathologist, Dr Moses Njue, gave the cause of Wanjiru’s death as “blunt force trauma” to the back of the head.
Dr Emily Rogena, a senior lecturer at the Department of Human Pathology who was hired to witness the post-mortem and advise the athlete’s mother, Mrs Hannah Wanjiru, concurred with Dr Njue.
She said in her report: “The body demonstrates a dual pattern of injuries with features consistent with conscious landing on all fours (the hands and knees) and fatal injury at the back of the head.”
In the book, which he co-authors with Tanzania-born fellow Dutchman, Mr Simon Maziku, Mr Conijn describes Wanjiru’s youth as troubled, saying the athlete was unable to handle his success.
“At first he was the child of an absent mother who was in Nairobi so in his youth nobody took care of him,” Mr Conijn told the Daily Nation on Thursday.
“He had to do all the nasty jobs in the compound and when the money came in, the situation deteriorated. He had to pay all the bills, everybody was nagging him because they wanted more, more and more. He was not important as a person, but even for his family he was just a walking wallet,” adds Mr Conijn.
The writer describes Wanjiru’s businesses as “a total mess.”
“Take the apartment complex in Nakuru (Birds Nest). During the construction everybody was stealing materials and he was buying the workers expensive dinners. In the end the return on investment was less than 10 per cent while the return on investment on a more or less risk-free Kenyan bond for two years is already more than 20 per cent.”
Mr Conijn currently writes for one of the leading Dutch financial newspapers, Het Financieele Dagblad.
The writer says his most memorable moment in Kenya was when he had an interview with the Olympic champion’s mother, Hannah.
“I was a bit nervous because I read very strange stories about her, but in the end she was nice and gave me almost all the information I needed. She just refused to tell me who the father is.”
Wanjiru is the first Kenyan sportsman to earn a billion shillings in sports.
Official figures show that Wanjiru made Sh1 billion between 2008 and May 2011, but he died a broke man.
When he first broke into the international scene in 2005, Wanjiru made a neat ($100,000) Sh8.6 million for breaking the world record.
As of May this year, Wanjiru’s total prize money in his athletics career was about $1,886,000 (Sh164 million), according to the Association of Road Runners Statisticians.
This excludes prize money, bonuses and numerous other endorsements.
But this is a drop in the Ocean. Soon after winning the Beijing Olympics Marathon gold medal, a Japanese apparel manufacturer signed Wanjiru for a five year contract worth $3 million (Sh258 million).
American sportswear manufacturer, Nike, tripled his annual endorsements to $800,000 (Sh68.8m).
Appearance fee from the three London Marathon and two appearances in Chicago earned him a further $1 million (Sh86 million) while the World Marathon Majors (these are golden label marathon races in London, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, New York and World Championships/Olympic Games) produced another $1 million (Sh86 million).
Nike gave him undisclosed bonuses for breaking the world records, winning the Olympics, and the London and Chicago marathons where bonuses are higher for athletes who perform well.
All these monies finally tally to a billion shillings, but Wanjiru died deep in debt.
Within athletics circles, getting soft loans running into millions is normal, and one man even sold Wanjiru a house in Ngong on which he still had a balance when he died.
After failing to run in the London Marathon this year, following a court case in which he was charged with assaulting his wife, Wanjiru was out of pocket.
Mr Stephen Mayaka, a Kenya-born, Japan-based athletics manager, says he had tax issues with the Japanese tax man.