Ritho family feud: Was city tycoon’s wife killed over Sh3 billion estate

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Ritho family feud: Was city tycoon’s wife killed over Sh3 billion estate
The UK family saga now playing out in Kenya.
Kenya: On the morning of February 22, a group of men went to the Mater Hospital Mortuary.  The men said that they had come to collect the body of Gladys Luhanga Ritho, a 70-year-old retired teacher and billionaire.

Her body had been lying at the health facility since October 14, 2013, five days after she was taken to the hospital complaining of vomiting and diarrhoea.  Gladys was the wife of ailing city lawyer Samuel Kanogo Ritho. They had been married for 47 years. The men were armed with three documents – a power of attorney, a letter issuing instructions to collect the body and lastly a burial permit. They were handed the body.

In a strange twist of events, Elizabeth Muthoni, the deceased’s daughter, arrived at the morgue days later to find her mother’s body missing. She told the hospital that the documents used to collect her mother’s body were “fake” since she was the only one with the original death certificate and burial permit. See also: Body ‘stolen’ from mortuary recovered from Murang’a gravesite One of the men who arrived at the hospital with the documents was Geoffrey Ritho, a neurosurgeon practising in Spain and the fifth child of Gladys. The Standard has made attempts to reach Geoffrey via SMS and phone with little success.

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He did not reply to our text messages. The sibling’s tussle over their mother’s body is emblematic of the twist and turns of the Ritho family saga. “This was a family that was divided into two, each party seeking the body. But since they did not seem to be reaching any agreement, we sought the legal opinion of our lawyer before we took the steps we did in releasing the body,” Lawrence Muiga, the Mater Hospital’s marketing director said in a phone interview.

“Our lawyers are now handling the matter and they will be better placed to respond,” Muiga said as he asked for more time to contact the hospital’s lawyers for direction. Toxicology report The drama, which saw Gladys’s body released under mysterious circumstances, happened in the same week a final toxicology report had concluded that she had been poisoned.

“As a result of my examination, I formed the opinion that the cause of death was disseminated intravascular coagulation pending histology, serology and toxicology,” Dr Oduor Johansen, a Government pathologist, said in his preliminary report. The same conclusion was made by Dr Emily Rogena, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s Department of Human Pathology. The revelations, which have now ruled out accidental death or suicide as the possible causes of her death, are set to aggravate the raging feud over the control of the family’s Sh3 billion estate.

Mater Hospital’s lawyer Carol Mwangi confirmed that Geoffrey Ritho picked up his mother’s body. Police are now investigating the matter. The case over Ritho’s Sh3 billion empire, which started over three years ago in London, has now attracted the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko, who this month weighed in after numerous complaints over inaction by the police.

The DPP’s office in a letter dated February 5 raised complaints of inaction against Nairobi County CID boss Nicholas Kamwende and Gigiri DCIO.  “Kindly but urgently forward to us the duplicate police file and the progress report of the investigations to enable the Director of Public Prosecutions give directions and advice,” the Head of Complaints and Compliments Unit Mary Mwenje said in the letter she wrote on behalf of the DPP.

Now Watch: Elderly persons troop to the city to Register as Mau Mau fighters Five years have lapsed since the family of Samuel Ritho were first embroiled in a dispute over his vast estate that conservative estimates value at Sh3 billion, excluding his real estate investments in the UK and US.  Ritho owns over 30 prime real estate properties in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa, Loresho and Eastleigh estates. Described by an impeccable family source as a ‘strict disciplinarian’, Ritho also has properties in Mombasa, Kilifi, Malindi and Murang’a. Ritho, one of the city’s most-shrewd businessmen, rose from a Sh10 salary to a billionaire. Most of his property he acquired when he served as a lands adjudication officer. A young man then, Ritho moved from Murang’a to Nairobi in search of riches. He was sacked from the Ministry of Lands.

He went ahead and studied law specialising in land and property matters and later founded S.K. Ritho and Company Advocates. He met Gladys over 40 years ago when he worked as a Land official in Kakamega. They went ahead to raise a family of seven children.

The couple offered their children the best in life. They took them to various schools around the world. Elizabeth, their eldest child, is a lawyer who lives in Kenya. She is followed by John (a dentist in London), Margaret (a financial analyst in the US), Nyambura (US), Geoffrey (neurosurgeon in Spain), Michael (pharmacist in US) and Florence (a university professor in Chicago).

BED-ridden The parents were said to have spend close to six months out of the year travelling abroad to visit their children.  The split in the family started in 2009 after Ritho suffered stroke.  “After he recovered, he became a born-again Christian. He started living what he thought was a normal life by being there for his family and going to church. But this changed after he went to London,” a family source said.

The old man stayed in hospital for six months before his children moved him back home and hired nurses and physiotherapists to take care of their father who was still bed-ridden. Not long after, the old man is said to have started walking on his own.  About three months later, his sons took him to the UK saying that they wanted him to have specialised care. Their mother accompanied them. In London, the mother claimed that their sons had confiscated their passports for almost a full year. She forced her way back to Kenya to bury her aunt. Two weeks after the burial, she discovered that her visa to the UK had been withdrawn and that she had been blacklisted as a result of various allegations raised by her children.

She sought the help of the British High Commission in Kenya where the allegations were found to be false and after a year, she was granted a visa. In the court documents related to the London case, Gladys claimed she found that her husband had bruises all over his body, burn marks from a hot liquid on his back and that he was limping. One day, officers from the London Borough of Brent Cross (LBBC), a social services agency, raided the home after neighbours said they heard screams from the house where the Ritho’s were staying. They took the couple into protective custody.

John, Geoffrey, Margaret and Nyambura are said to have differed with Elizabeth, Michael and Florence, who preferred that their father be brought back to Kenya. On December 12, 2011, the High Court in London stopped his children from discharging him from the Royal Free Hospital located in Hampstead, North London for treatment in Kenya. Ritho had been admitted to the hospital after suffering serious injuries that included a gushing wound on his knee. The children had sued LBBC after it took Ritho to hospital on suspicion that he had suffered serious unexplained injuries. Gladys opposed the application saying that her husband was very ill and needed close medical supervision.

But something else took place while Ritho was in London. His will was allegedly redrafted. The High Court in London recommended that the lawyer who was involved in the redrafting of the will be presented before a Kenyan court to ascertain whether the ailing old man redrafted the will willingly or under duress. When Gladys lost her case, she was forced to come back to Kenya. In May 2013, Gladys moved to court to stop her sons from controlling the family’s estate.

She accused them of beating the old man and scalding him with water. She claimed that her husband lacked free will due to stroke and brain complications. She said her children were whipping their father to force him to sign blank transfer documents. The old man is then said to have transferred legal powers over the family property to her firth born son, Geoffrey. Gladys said that she was assaulted and denied upkeep money when she protested. Days later, Gladys went to the High Court to seek orders that her children provide her with a monthly allowance of Sh500, 000 pending determination of the case. In her affidavit, she said, “I am a fairly senior citizen of 70 and I have been diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes mellitus and rheumatic heart disease, which require management by long-term hospital visits.”

Through her lawyers, Lubullah and Associates, she told the court that the heart clinic at Karen Hospital cost her Sh50,000 per month and she spent Sh35,000 on hypertension and diabetes medication. Six bank accounts

Months later, the court gave her the rights to administer the estate. She discovered that millions of shillings had been withdrawn from bank accounts. One of the bank account is said to have had over Sh200 million withdrawn. Ritho has about six bank accounts. After winning the court case, she started receiving threats from her family and reported the same to the police. On October 9, she sent her driver and house help to a property in Kileleshwa where she was rearing chicken. At about 7 pm that day, she cooked chicken, vegetables and ugali for dinner and ate before she went to bed. Two hours later, she started vomiting. She was taken to MP Shah Hospital and later Mater. On October 13, Gladys was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit from where she died on October 14. Now Watch: Elderly persons troop to the city to Register as Mau Mau fighters
standardmedia.co.ke

Related story:

The UK family saga ,Court Moves To Save Life Of Ailing father

 

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