Agent: Wanjiru's death wasn't suicide

Agent: Wanjiru's death wasn't suicide

Published May. 16, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

The mystery surrounding the sudden death of Beijing Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru deepened Tuesday, with the Kenyan's agent disputing a statement from the national police spokesman which said the 24-year-old had committed suicide.

Tributes to a unique talent were also tethered to reports of trysts, threats and a turbulent private life. The Olympic record holder was a huge star in Kenya, but died late on Sunday after falling from the balcony of his home. His death caused a seismic shock in a country where he is a hero and prompted the claim that he had committed suicide after a love triangle erupted into acrimony.

Wanjiru was tipped to wrest the marathon world record from the 38-year-old Ethiopian, Haile Gebrselassie. It seemed they were two of a kind, but in truth they were separated by more than a generation gap. Where Gebrselassie used his fame and fortune to establish a business empire, Wanjiru struggled with his status and in December was charged with threatening to kill his wife.

Monday, those mourning a tragic waste also had to deal with some lurid details. Jaspher Ombati, the regional police commander, said that shortly before Wanjiru's fatal fall, his wife, Triza Njeri, had returned home to find him in bed with another woman.


"It is not yet clear whether it was a suicide or if he jumped out of rage, or what caused him to fall to the ground," Ombati said.

He added that Njeri had locked the pair in a bedroom and rushed outside. "He then jumped from the bedroom balcony," Ombati said. "We do not suspect foul play. In our estimation we think he wanted to stop his wife from leaving the compound."

Confusion reigned in the aftermath. Eric Kiraithe, a national police spokesman, said that Wanjiru had committed suicide, while his agent, Federico Rosa, said that he was "100 percent" sure Wanjiru had not taken his own life.

Rosa added there was "no depression" despite the forthcoming court case for illegally possessing a firearm. All that seemed clear was that the public persona of an affable, smiling figure masked the whole truth.

Wanjiru's domestic life was first splashed across the Kenyan press last year when it was claimed he had broken the windows of his house with an AK47 rifle, threatened to kill his wife and a maid, and assaulted a security guard. Njeri initially demanded a divorce, but later said that the pair had been reconciled.

On Monday another woman, Judy Wambui, came forward and said that she had been living as Wanjiru's wife and their child was due in September.

Another Kenyan running star, Paul Tergat, a former marathon world record-holder, called on athletics officials to provide counseling to teach athletes to handle their lives.

Wanjiru broke the world half-marathon record at 18 and became the first Kenyan to win Olympic marathon gold in 2008.