Court of Appeal Judge James Otieno Odek yesterday was found dead in his Kisumu apartment.

The 53-year-old jurist was found face-up naked in his bed, with a blanket drawn up below his chest. Three sex-enhancing tablets, in a packet of six, had been taken but it was not known by whom or when, a police report seen by the Star said.

Odek was lying with one hand behind his head. Blood was oozing from his private parts and from his left ear and a hand was bruised, a police source who broke into the house said. It had been locked from inside.

The judge stayed alone at serviced Groovehut Apartments, a stone’s throw from the Kisumu Central police station.

He had arrived in Kisumu on Thursday as part of the Court of Appeal judges who scheduled to hear cases in Western Kenya.

His driver dropped him at the apartment and left. The house was locked from inside with the keys and the judge’s three phones inside. No one picked calls.

Groovehut Apartments in Kisumu where Justice Otieno Odek stayed.

MYSTERIOUS DEATH Groovehut Apartments in Kisumu where Justice Otieno Odek stayed.
Image: MAURICE ALAL

The TV was still on.

Nyanza regional police commander Vincent Makokha confirmed Odek was found dead in the morning after the police broke in following calls and a fruitless search.

Kisumu chief magistrate Julius Ng’arnga’r had called Odek because he was to attend court and listen to appeals. The calls were not answered.

Makokha said investigators and a pathologist visited the scene before the body was taken to Kisumu’s Aga Khan Hospital Mortuary for a postmortem.

“I have sent officers to ascertain the incident before the body is removed to the mortuary,” he told the Star on the phone.

“When the driver came to pick him [in the morning] he found the door locked. He reported this at the Kisumu Central police station. The police had to break the door,” chief magistrate Ng’arng’ar said.

He said the judge was always punctual and would be behind his desk at 8am daily whenever he was on duty.

It was not clear whether his death was linked to the sex-enhancing drugs, some other condition or foul play.

The bruises on his right hand appeared to indicate some struggle but police said there were no signs of struggle in the apartment.

A confidential police report indicated that Odek left his apartment alone on Friday, drove to an unknown destination alone and drove back late on Friday. 

“Sometimes he drives alone,” the source said.

On Saturday, a househelp visited for a routine clean-up but nobody opened the door and she left.

“She rang the doorbell and there was no response. It is suspected the judge could have died on Friday,” the source said.

The source who sought anonymity said Odek prefers to visit his home in Asembo, Siaya county, on weekends.

Groovehut Apartments n Kisumu where Justice Otieno Odek was found dead on Monday,

MYSTERY: Groovehut Apartments n Kisumu where Justice Otieno Odek was found dead on Monday,
Image: MAURICE ALAL

The body was to be airlifted to Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi.

A friend of Odek, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that he never picked calls on Friday.

“I thought maybe he was very busy. He had told me he had many cases for which he was writing judgments. Sometimes he could visit my office to have a chat as he stayed alone,” he said.

The judge’s absence was reported at 9.30am by chief magistrate Ng’arng’ar, who said Odek was to be in the office at 8am.

Sources who declined to be named said they also called his numbers but calls were not picked.

“Police officers knocked on his door but there was no response. They discovered the door was locked from inside. When they broke the door to gain entry they found Justice Odek lying dead on his bed,” a source said.

Investigators at the scene called a doctor from Kisumu county Hospital, Thaddeus Massawa, to examine the body.

Preliminary investigation also established that the deceased had bled from his private parts and left ear.

Groovehut Apartments where Judge Otiento Odek's body was found on Monday.

MYSTERY: Groovehut Apartments where Judge Otiento Odek’s body was found on Monday.
Image: MAURICE ALAL

Ng’arng’ar said the list was out of cases he was to preside over.

Justice Fred Ochieng led judges and magistrates in mourning.

Chief Justice David Maraga said he was “deeply saddened by the sudden demise of Odek”.

“He was not only a distinguished judge but also a prolific legal scholar who was widely published and celebrated across the continent and beyond,” Maraga said in his condolence message.

Forensics officer at Grovehut Apartmets where Judge Otieno Odek was found dead on Monday.

MYSTERY: Forensics officer at Grovehut Apartmets where Judge Otieno Odek was found dead on Monday.
Image: MAURICE ALAL

“On behalf of the Judiciary, the Judicial Service Commission and on my own behalf, I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and the entire legal fraternity for this shocking loss.”

Odek was born on October 18, 1963, in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu county.

He served as Director of the Judiciary Training Institute from 2016 to 2018, having become a Judge of the Court of Appeal in 2012.

The body of Justice Otieno Odek being taken to Aga Khan Hospital mortuary in Kisumu on Monday.

MYSTERY: The body of Justice Otieno Odek being taken to Aga Khan Hospital mortuary in Kisumu on Monday.
Image: MAURICE ALAL

Justice Odek was among the three bench judges alongside Justice Milton Makhandia and Patrick Kiage handling the Kibos pollution appeal case.

The case was due for judgment on December 19. Three Kisumu East residents, Benson Adega, Eric Ochieng’ and Bether Opiyo, sued the sugar factory in October last year.

Odek was also handling the appeal in the Sh2.3 billion Miwani land fraud case by five suspects, who were put on their defence after their acquittal.