By Duncan Mackay

Sammy_Wanjiru_funeral_June_11_2011June 12 - Thousands of mourners have attended the funeral of Kenya's Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru, who has finally been buried a month after his death and despite the protests of his mother, who claims he was murdered.

The 24-year-old athlete, who died from head injuries sustained in mysterious circumstances at his home on May 16, was laid to rest at the family farm outside Nyahururu after several weeks of acrimonious bickering and lawsuits.

There was a heavy police presence both on the streets of this town in Kenya's Rift Valley, where a requiem mass was said, and around the burial venue to guard against disruptions by angry relatives.

Many of the police were in riot gear, and the thousands of mourners in attendance were frisked before being allowed in.

Emotions ran high as male relatives of the deceased carried out traditional Kikuyu burial rites and where the police conducted a 21 gun salute in honour of Wanjiru, who had been an honorary corporal.

His widow, Trizah Njeri broke down after the salute and had to be helped away.

Wanjiru's mother, Hannah was conspicuous by her absence at both the mass, held in the stadium where Wanjiru trained as a boy, and the burial, attended by Kenyan athletes, including former women's marathon champion Catherine Ndereba, long distance runners Daniel Komen, Benjamin Limo and Charles Kamathi and former Olympic champion Kip Keino, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). 

"We have lost a great man," said Keino, the President of the Kenyan Olympic Committee. 

"We expected him to successfully defend his title at the London Olympics."

In a message delivered on his behalf by local MP Ndiritu Muriithi, Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki said Wanjiru, who also won the London Marathon in 2009, "inspired hope to Kenyan youth and his death is a great loss to the nation".

It was only on Friday (June 10) that a court ruled the burial could go ahead, after Hannah Wanjiru who had already succeeded in getting a May 19 ban on the funeral taking place, failed to convince the magistrate to extend it.

She insists that her daughter-in-law and the couple's guard killed her son and then made the incident look like an accidental fall after she had caught him with another woman.

Local police have since the beginning of the case stuck to the accidental fall theory but two out of the three pathologists who examined the body said the injuries sustained were not consistent with that theory.

In her tribute to her husband read out on her behalf, Njeri acknowledged that their relationship was strained at the time of his death but they were committed to each other.

"I am learning through your mistakes that to be great you have to be weak at times," the message said.

"You too were a human being.

"I can't say that there were no tears, no heartbreaks, no betrayals and no wrong.

"All I know is that you loved me."

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