THE family of a murdered Irish priest has asked that mercy be shown to the three Kenyan men who have been sentenced to death for his killing.
Fr Jeremiah Roche (68), a member of the Kiltegan Fathers, who had lived and worked in Kenya for 41 years, was murdered on December 11, 2009.
He was brutally stabbed to death by intruders at his home on the outskirts of Kericho, 200km outside the capital Nairobi.
On Tuesday a court in Nairobi sentenced Isaac Kipng'etick Bett, Jackson Cheruiyot Koskei, and Joshua Maranga Makori to death after they were convicted of robbery with violence.
Two other men were sentenced to 14 years of hard labour in prison after they were found to be in possession of a number of items which were stolen from Fr Roche's home.
Four other men were acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
However, following the verdict, Fr Roche's niece, Anne Cunningham, said that while the family was glad to have justice, they do not wish to see any of the men executed.
"We sincerely hope justice has been done. Gerry stood firmly on the side of justice, but always by peaceful means.
"We are not in favour of the death penalty or punishment by any violent means. It will not bring Gerry back.
"We understand the death penalty has not been enforced in Kenya since 1987, and our wish would be that it not be enforced in this instance either."
Fr Roche was a hugely popular man whose murder sent shockwaves through the local community. He spent 40 years working with the Kiltegan Fathers in Kenya and Somalia from his ordination in 1968, and was involved in youth development projects in Kericho.
He often paid visits to his friends and family in Athea, Co Limerick, and had been planning to retire to a renovated cottage in Athea just before he was killed.
During the trial, High Court judge Hedwig Ong'undi heard that, two weeks after Fr Roche's death, a pair of pants with the victim's blood on them were found hidden under Joshua Maranga Makori's mattress.
The court also heard that during the robbery at Fr Roche's home, a laptop computer, two mobile phones, a digital camera, a CD player and a remote control, and a sum of cash were taken.
The three men found guilty of Fr Roche's murder will be hanged unless the sentence is commuted. Ms Cunningham said the convictions had brought "closure" and would allow her family to "continue with the healing process".
"We are hopeful that by detaining those found guilty, others may be protected," she added.