Five girls suspected to have started the Saturday fire that led to the death of nine students at Moi Girls School in Nairobi have been interrogated by police.
This emerged even as Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i revealed that the fire was not an accident but an arson attack.
During a press briefing on Monday, Dr Matiang’i said that most of the investigations had been completed and that there were useful leads to the specific suspects.
“I can tell you unequivocally that I have been briefed by the police that it was not an accident.
“All investigations have ruled out the fact that that was not an accident, it was a case of arson and a number of interrogations have happened,” he said.
He said the police were carrying out more background checks on the suspected arsonists and that they would be arrested immediately.
National Police Service Spokesman George Kinoti said that the police were piecing together some evidence and that samples of extracts collected from the scene had been sent to the Government Chemist for analysis.
“We want to establish exactly what may have been used to light the fire.
“The results of the analysis will be ready in a few hours and we are hopeful that we will get to the bottom of it soon,” Mr Kinoti said.
Other police sources said four of the suspected students who have since been questioned are in Form One while the other one is a Form Three student.
The main culprit, according to the confidential police source, is a Form One student who had on two occasions attempted suicide by drinking a detergent, and by stuffing herself with a pillow.
“The students who have been interrogated have said that this particular student had a matchbox and had at some point indicated that she would make her parents believe her when she tells them that the school was not safe,” the detective said, adding that there were plans to subject the girl to a mental check-up.
After the student burnt her mattress, the detective said, one of the students called Mary Jengo took it upon herself to wake up the others who were deep asleep.
She forced all the students including the main culprit to get out of the dormitory.
“I understand the girl (Mary) choked in the smoke because she went upstairs to wake the other girls in their dorm. She did not manage to come out of the cloud of smoke,” the source said.
The Nation found Mary’s family at Chiromo Mortuary.
They were one of the three families claiming the body of the girl who died Monday morning.
She had been admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital with 66 per cent burns.
The girl, whose identity will only be known after a DNA analysis that is scheduled to start Tuesday, was among the three who have since Saturday been admitted to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
“We came to the mortuary after we heard that one of the girls, who was in ICU, had died, but we have been told that the body has not arrived here yet,” Mary’s aunt Ann Emali said.
She said the family was devastated but was not surprised by their daughter’s gesture because she has always been very helpful and caring.
“Her friends have told us that she was the one who woke up all the students and that she made sure that most of them were out, but they did not see her when they were out,” Ms Emali said.
During the incident, 51 students were injured and taken to Nairobi Women’s Hospital.
A total of 40 were treated and discharged while 11 were admitted. Three of them had serious injuries.
Apart from Mary’s family, other families including one from South Sudan who arrived at the morgue were turned away and asked to go back Tuesday so that they can submit samples for DNA analysis.
The Head of Human Anatomy at the University of Nairobi Peter Gichangi urged the families of the girls who lost their lives to be patient as DNA matching may last between two weeks and one month.
Last year, there were a total of 483 incidents of unrest.