Egyptian Burial: Teacher who nailed himself in coffin committed suicide


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Egyptian Burial: Teacher who nailed himself in coffin committed suicide

Egyptian Burial: Teacher who nailed himself in coffin committed suicide
The lid of the coffin in which the body of Mr Joseph Gathogo was found in. PHOTO/COURTESY Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media GroupPolice suspect that a teacher whose body was found nailed inside a coffin in his rental house in Ihururu village in Nyeri County could have locked himself in before committing suicide.

The body of Mr Joseph Gathogo, a computer and biology teacher at Muhoya Secondary School, was found in the living room of his two-roomed semi-permanent rental house placed in an enclosed coffin.

He had been missing since December 23 after supervising Form Four examinations at Muhoya Secondary School where he worked.

Based on how the coffin was sealed and the presence of a torch and a bottle of what they suspect is poison nearby, police suspect that Mr Gathogo could have committed suicide.

According to Tetu Sub-County Police Commander Philip Mwania, Gathogo seems to have accessed the coffin through a stool, lifted the coffin lid and covered himself inside before nailing the lid using a hammer that was found next to his body.

“We also found a torch inside that we believe he used to light up the coffin when nailing up the lid. He also sealed all the holes with tissue paper to ensure the smell did not leak out,” he added.

Unidentified chemical

Gathogo had laid a thick black polythene paper inside the boat-like coffin and had also poured some unidentified chemical.

“At his coffin, there was also a drug which we suspect is a poison he ingested,” said the Tetu police boss.

Gathogo was last seen on December 23 at his workplace following the completion of the KCSE examinations.

According to Muhoya Assistant Chief Martha Wanjiku, it was not the first time that the deceased had been reported missing.

“In 2020, the Principal of Muhoya Secondary School reported to me that he had been missing for two weeks,” she said.

After days of searching for him, Gathogo reported to the chief saying that he was not missing but had isolated himself as he suspected that he had contracted the Covid-19 virus.

Many in the village remember him as a chain smoker with a soft-spoken personality.

Currently, the police are withholding scrolls with Egyptian calligraphy and the deceased’s laptop hoping to unravel a death that has left his village bewildered.

This, even as it emerged yesterday that the ‘Egyptian’ -like ‘death plan’ could have taken him as many as seven years to plan.

Those who accessed his room said they found a three-foot coffin placed in a boat-like structure made of concrete slabs covered with cardboard.

Boat ‘grave’

The boat, which imitates the ancient funerary boats used in ancient Egyptian burials, acted as his ‘grave’.

In ancient history, such boats were conceived as the main means by which the deities travelled to the underworld.

Near the ‘boat’ were flowers and paraphernalia including a black flag with an image of a beetle which, according to ancient Egyptian culture, is associated with the god of resurrection.

Also found in the room was a five-litre container full of suspected local brew ‘Muratina’ and a cow horn, creating the impression that he drank it before committing suicide.

At the front of the one-foot-high boat was a drawing of three pyramids, a wall and a fish-like creature.

Speaking to the media yesterday, friends and neighbours who interacted with the deceased revealed how he started collecting materials used to build the boat-shaped grave and coffin.

In 2017, his landlord Daniel Kiama with whom they shared a compound, recalled that he cut a tree at the compound to sell timber.

It was then that Gathogo borrowed a few pieces of wood claiming that he was making a wardrobe.

“He told my Late mother who lent him the pieces of wood that his clothes were getting dusty and he needed a place to store them,” said Mr Kiama. He however did not see him construct the wardrobe since he carried the wood pieces to his house which always remained locked.

Kept to himself

According to the landlord, the 44-year-old high school teacher did not receive any visitors, nor was he seen in the company of any lady in the last 19 years he lived as his tenant.

“If you needed, he preferred that you make a phone call instead of visiting him at his house,” he said adding that the deceased was known to the locals as a computer geek and they frequently sought his repair services.

“But even for his customers he normally asked them to leave their computers or phones at a drop-off point where he would pick and return them after repairing,” he said.

His neighbours remember him as reserved as he hardly spoke about his personal life but was a lover of football, old-school music and politics.

“He was a big Arsenal fan and an enthusiast of ancient history, particularly the Egyptian and Gikuyu culture,” said a neighbour who sought anonymity adding that such conversations excited him even while in the midst of big crowds despite his introverted personality.

As the police try to establish the motive behind the bizarre suicide, neighbours speculate that the deceased was following some form of ancient culture borrowed from Egyptian literature.

“The bizarre way in which he killed himself is heavily borrowed from an Egyptian movie known as ‘The Mummy’,” said the neighbour adding that the movie is about how the Egyptian rulers were preserved with the hope of resurrection.

Gathogo, who had been reported missing to the police by his family which lives in Nyeri town’s Ngangarithi area on January 7, 2023, was found lying in a coffin on Thursday, January 12.

A caretaker who was out on domestic duties outside the deceased’s rental house, sensed a foul smell coming from the house.

The deceased rented out two rooms that had separate entrance doors and had connected them with another door from inside to have a living and a bedroom.

It appeared that Gathogo locked the door to the living room from the outside and accessed the house from the bedroom door which he locked from the inside.

“The main door to the sitting room was locked with a padlock from outside,” said Mr William Gitau, the caretaker.

Gitau alerted his employer who informed the police who broke into the deceased’s living room.

By Mercy Mwende



Egyptian Burial: Teacher who nailed himself in coffin committed suicide

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