Martin Shikuku has become accustomed to sleepless nights since his daughter went missing more than a year ago.
His last child, Bella Martin, who would have turned 16 a fortnight ago, has been missing since April 12, 2020.
“My daughter went missing on Easter Sunday last year. She walked out of the compound at around noon and never came back. We made a missing person report at Molo Police Station vide OB number 19/13/04/2020 and to date, no one knows where she is,” said Shikuku.
Bella, who was 15, had returned home weeks earlier from Kambala Girls’ Secondary School where she had just enrolled as a form one student.
Shikuku lost his wife in 2011 and was taking care of their three children. He said Bella’s disappearance broke his heart.
“I had to move my bed to the living room. Watching TV is my only distraction from sinking into depression. I hardly sleep as I think of the next place to look for her,” he said.
Recent cases of children missing bring back memories of his daughter.
But he clings on to hope that his story will have a happy ending.
“Whenever I hear about a missing child, my focus is on whether they were found. I pray that my daughter’s story will be among the successful ones where children have reunited with their parents,” said Shikuku.
The father of three broke down as he talked of the many places he has visited in search of Bella.
He says no one has ever called him to demand any ransom.
“I have visited all places. I have reached out to family and friends. It would have been a little easier if anyone asked for ransom which I am willing to pay just to reunite with my daughter,” he said.
Shikuku said Bella resembles his late wife.
“Bella was my wife’s lookalike. All that remains of the two are their photos and the memories we shared,” said Shikuku. “At the worst, I just wish I would find her body to bury rather than live with this uncertainty. Please Bella, wherever you are, just come back home. We are all hurting.”
Dismus Mukhwana, Bella’s elder brother said his sister’s disappearance has left a huge void in the family.
“She always consulted me whenever she needed assistance or advice. When we lost our mother in 2011, we had each other’s back to overcome the grief. Every time I visit home, it reminds me of the pain of losing our mother and uncertainty over my sister,” said Mukhwana.
Albert Mwale, one of Bella’s teachers described her as an outgoing girl and a hardworking student.
“News about her missing came as a shock. She was a disciplined girl who was always eager to learn,” said Mwale.
Mwale said that since she went missing, they have been visiting her parent’s house to console the family.
“The man is depressed. His health deteriorated fast. He has not been at peace since then. None of Bella’s friends seems to know her whereabouts or what could have happened to her. We are all very worried,” he said.
Molo sub-County police commander Samuel Mukusi confirmed that the case was reported but they have not managed to trace her.
“We received the report from her father on April 13, 2020. We have made efforts to see if we can trace the girl,” said Mukusi.
The police boss called on residents to give any information to help trace her.