A Mother’s frantic search for a daughter on the run.
BY DISHON NDUKU
The Back Story
Every Sunday, Margaretta Mukhavi would walk the few metres to the Friends Church – Musungu and settle down to a day of Sunday School teaching. The children loved her. She was eloquent, dedicated and a favourite teacher to many of the young children who sat at her feet to listen to her teach.
“I just want her back,” her mother Nancy Manogo says. “I want to see my daughter again.”
Margaretta was a straight-A student from nursery school. Her academic prowess earned her a place at the top-tier Kenya High School in 2018, up from a rural elementary school, and even won the trust of fellow students and teachers who endorsed her to the position of Chania House Prefect.
Her journey to Kenya High saw her shatter all records in her primary school, emerging the best candidate in Ikolomani Sub-county in 2017 with 426 marks out of a possible 500.
The Form Three teenager told anyone who cared to listen of her dream to become a medic after her O-Level exams, and she was targeting the post of School Captain by the time she would reach Form Four.
Her parents say their calm daughter only left their Malinya home when sent to the nearby market or was at the Musingu Friends Church. She spent a lot of time on books and liked watching educational programmes on the internet.
But her near-perfect demeanour started showing cracks when the pandemic hit.
“With a lot of spare time on her side, she met what I can call bad company in her peers during the lockdown…she changed,” her father Albert Balasenaka told Distory.
Her mother says it is the holidays that made her change. She stopped listening. She stopped being her. Nobody knows why.
Her father says Marga has always been of good character. But something in her changed during the long coronavirus lockdown.
“Once when she repeated something she had been told not to do, her mother brought up the topic of her changing demeanor and in the process punished her. Then she disappeared.”
That was on July 22 last year, when the 16-year-old girl received what her father terms as “some small punishment” from the mother, a thing that the Balasenakas believe made her take a boda boda ride to an unknown destination.
“I reprimanded her on the material day during the day just like a parent would do to a child who is veering off the mark,” says Nancy. “Later in the evening when my husband and I were away she packed some of her clothes and disappeared.”
Nancy says her daughter, for some reason, walked for a distance from home and picked a motorbike rider who could have been waiting for her and disappeared into the setting sun.
As she rode into the sunset, a mother’s frantic search began.
Listen to Nancy’s painful recollection of her daughter. As the days go by, so does her hope increase. But she says she can’t hold on for much longer.
The parents contacted her friends, relatives and combed the neighbourhood.
“We couldn’t find her anywhere,” her mother says.Nancy
After weeks of the frantic search, some good news came the family’s way. Police investigations found that Margaretta had been last seen in Kakamega town and that she had a new mobile phone number. Margaretta’s friend, who had revealed these new details, shared the new number with the police as well as her parents.
With this, her location could be tracked. And this, the police did.
Tips start coming in.
Marga’s phone signal was triangulated to Lurambi – a town just 15 kilometres – from her home. Armed with a pinpoint location, investigators organised an intervention that would bring Marga back home.
Unfortunately, though, this was not to be.
“She was not there,” Nancy says. By this time, her blood pressure was becoming dangerously high.
Tips on her whereabouts still kept coming in. On August 7, the Balasenakas learnt from one of her maternal aunts that she had sent her a message but she was not at her aunt’s place where she had a history of spending a day or two during school holidays. This was a good sign that she at least maintained an active phone line.
The police again tracked her number. This time, her location was further away from home.
The mobile-location-tracker placed Marga at Chokaa Area in Nairobi’s Embakasi Central Sub-county. But before anything could be done, the line went off, further dimming the hopes of finding her.
“We coordinated with our colleagues in Nairobi and Kakamega town to find the bright child without fruition, but we hope to find her,” said Raphael Minis from the Ikolomani office of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
Kenya High School Principal Flora Mulatia has been touched by one of her prefect’s disappearance: “She is bright and overall well cultured. We are ready to admit her back to school and want to let her know that the school and her peers love her.”
Marga’s phone was last tracked by police to a location in Nairobi’s Eastlands. Her mother says she had no friends in the city. In fact, she didn’t know it at all.