.- Three men have been sentenced to death for the 2009 murder of Fr. Gerry Roche, an Irish priest working in Kenya as a member of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society.
Nine suspects had been accused in the death of the 68-year-old priest. On Aug. 23, three were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by a court in Kericho. Two others were found guilty of handling stolen property, a cell phone. They were given the maximum sentence of 14 years.
The other four were acquitted.
The priest was tortured before being killed. He had fresh wounds and his hands were tied with a rope when his body was discovered on December 11, 2009, according to the Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation.
Some of his parishioners thought the attackers were after information in the priest’s files. Two cell phones, a laptop computer and an undisclosed amount of cash were stolen.
Some speculated that the thieves may have been after information relating to a disputed sale agreement at Fr. Roche’s previous assignment. The sale involved land being transferred to the Catholic Church.
Fr. Niall Martin, East Africa assistant regional leader of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, expressed relief at the closure of the case and the professional manner in which the Kenyan police and judiciary dealt with the matter.
“It is important to note that while the death penalty is still given in Kenya, no one has been executed since 1987,” he said Aug. 24. “St Patrick’s Missionary Society, as Christian missionaries, is totally against the death penalty, as it is against every act of violence.”
Fr. Martin again expressed the society’s “deep sympathy” to Fr. Roche’s family and to his parishioners in Kenya.
“Fr. Gerry worked for 41 years in Kenya and had a deep love for the Kenyan people. He had a lifelong commitment to them, with a strong sense of justice,” Fr. Martin said.
The murdered priest’s funeral Mass was held in his home parish of Athea in County Limerick, Ireland.