Agnes Tirop: "Overwhelming evidence" comes to light in Olympic runner's murder

Agnes Tirop

On the day she would have celebrated her 26th birthday, Olympic long-distance runner Agnes Tirop's funeral took place in Nandi County, Kenya.

Thousands gathered to pay their respects and bid farewell to the athlete, who was found stabbed to death in her home earlier this month.

Damning evidence has since emerged against Tirop's partner, Ibrahim Rotich, who is currently in police custody as the main suspect of her murder.

Prior to her funeral, it was alleged that Rotich had planned Tirop's murder during the Tokyo Olympics, where she was representing Kenya in the 5,000 metres track event.

A spokesperson for Tirop's family revealed the ownership of the Olympian's property changed hands three months ago, which led the family to believe Tirop "was killed because of her wealth".

Detective Andolo Munga, of the Kenya Police Criminal Investigation Department, stressed the level of diligence being put into the murder investigation, but that the family's statements would be taken as "allegations until proven otherwise".

However, what has been described as "overwhelming evidence" towards the case has been discovered.

The autopsy report and the suspect's confession note, together with the murder weapons – a knife and a wooden club (rungu), have given us overwhelming evidence, which points to murder.

Tirop's family and friends recently learned the runner had been suffering bouts of emotional, physical and financial abuse at the hands of Rotich before she died. Red flags were raised just weeks ago as she tried to seemingly cut ties with her partner.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Tirop's father Vincent explained his daughter had returned to the family village after the Tokyo Olympics in the wake of violent threats from Rotich. 

Agnes Tirop

She trained on a dirt road near the family home, but the rainy season muddied Tirop's running surface and forced her to relocate to the Kenya Athletics training camp in Iten, the same town she had shared a home with Rotich.

"We thought she would be safe there because the coach told us there were security guards watching over the grounds," her father added.

Rotich showed up at the training camp with a male friend on October 11th and reportedly forced Tirop to return to their home in Iten, as the runner's younger sister Evelyn recounted. 

Evelyn, who knew of the abusive history, accompanied her sister and stayed the night, but admitted "they [Tirop and Rotich] looked happy and he didn't show any issues."

The morning after Evelyn stayed the night in Tirop and Rotich's home, the latter made a strange request to his sister-in-law.

Rotich told Evelyn to go and buy meat from the butcher. 

"It was only 7.30 in the morning, so I told him I could go later because I had to collect my certificate [from school]. I did not see Agnes, I thought she was asleep."

Agnes Tirop

Later in the day, Rotich had instructed Evelyn not to return to the house in Iten and explained he and Tirop were taking a trip to Nairobi. 

Two days later after accompanying her sister home from training, Evelyn and her family would receive the life-changing news that Tirop was discovered dead in her home.

Fellow Kenyan distance runner Viola Cheptoo Lagat described Rotich as "very jealous and controlling", who was "draining her [Tirop] of her money, her energy, and her spirit."

Cheptoo Lagat, who watched Tirop break the women's 10,000 metre world record time, said the athlete was "like a mum to a lot of girls in the village" with her gentle ways and passion for education. Tirop funded the school fees of several local children, having not been able to complete her own studies.

Since Tirop's death, Mary Ngugi – a Kenyan long-distance road runner and founder of the Women's Athletic Alliance – has started a social media movement to help protect women in Kenya from domestic abuse.

"As a fellow Kenyan athlete, it was heartbreaking to hear that a young woman, at the height of her sporting career, had been killed," Ngugi wrote in a Telegraph column.

"Whatever the outcome of the police investigation and any criminal proceedings, I believe now is the time to lift the lid on a wider societal problem in Kenya of abuse, including domestic abuse, of women."

Ngugi has received support from the likes of Dina Asher-Smith and Jodie Williams as she pushes for the social media hashtag #NotYourProperty to help eradicate "outdated and dangerous" ways of viewing relationships and marriage.

News Now - Sport News