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Kenyan police interrogate slain running star's husband

By AFP
Kenya The 25-year-old double world championship medallist and Olympian has been hailed as a rising star cut short in her prime.  By MUSTAFA ABUMUNES (AFP/File)
OCT 15, 2021 LISTEN
The 25-year-old double world championship medallist and Olympian has been hailed as a rising star cut short in her prime. By MUSTAFA ABUMUNES (AFP/File)

Police were interrogating the husband of Kenyan distance running star Agnes Tirop on Friday after she was stabbed to death in a killing that has shocked her home country and the world of athletics.

Emmanuel Rotich was arrested following a dramatic late-night chase in the coastal city of Mombasa on Thursday. Police said he was the "prime suspect" in the murder of the 25-year-old double world championship medallist at their home in Iten, western Kenya.

Rotich, said by police to be aged about 41, had been expected to appear in court on Friday, but a senior officer told AFP the hearing had been postponed to next week, as officials apparently work out where the case against him should be held.

"The team is still speaking to him as part of the investigation and we have another team that has been collecting evidence at his home in Iten where the crime occurred," the officer in Mombasa said.

Factfile on top Kenyan athlete Agnes Tirop.  By John SAEKI (AFP) Factfile on top Kenyan athlete Agnes Tirop. By John SAEKI (AFP)

Police were also analysing his phone records, with prosecutors expected to ask for more time "to firm up a case" and determine where he could be arraigned.

"Given how tense the ground is in Iten, it is unlikely we will have him charged there," the officer said.

Police cornered Rotich in Mombasa, using his mobile number to track him down after he used his old SIM card in his new phone after spending days offline, the officer told AFP.

"He was determined to escape because when he realised that police had caught up with him, (he) tried to block the car, he tried to speed off and ended up damaging his car on the front and back," he said.

Local police commander David Mathiu told a press conference a second man who was with Rotich at the time of his arrest had also been taken into custody.

'Huge blow'

Tributes have poured in for Tirop since her body was found with stab wounds in the bedroom of their home in Iten, a high-altitude training hub for top-class athletes.

Athletics Kenya said it was postponing events for two weeks in honour of Tirop and another runner who was found dead at the weekend of an apparent suicide.

Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei said Tirop's death was a "huge blow" to athletics, describing her as "one of the fastest rising stars" and voicing hope for speedy justice.

She was killed just a month after smashing the women-only 10 kilometres world record in Germany.

She finished fourth in the 5,000 metres at the Tokyo Olympics this year and had won bronze medals over 10,000m at the 2017 and 2019 world championships. In 2015 she became the second-youngest gold medallist in the women's cross country championships.

Family breadwinner

Born to a peasant farming family in the sleepy Rift Valley town of Kesses, Tirop launched her athletics career less than a decade ago but swiftly earned a reputation as one of Kenya's brightest stars.

Her family told reporters she was their breadwinner, paying for children's school fees and clothes.

President Uhuru Kenyatta paid tribute to Tirop, who would have turned 26 later this month, saying she had "brought our country so much glory through her exploits on the global athletics stage".

Her killing came days after another long-distance athlete Hosea Mwok Macharinyang, a member of Kenya's record-breaking world cross country team, died of what athletics officials said was suicide.

Macharinyang, 35, had competed for Kenya in both cross country, 5,000 metre and 10,000 metre races. He won three consecutive titles in the World Cross Country Championships from 2006 to 2008.

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