Toronto Man Admits to Poisoning Cereal in Disturbing Obsession Plot


In a chilling confession before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, a man from Toronto, Francis Ngugi, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of three-year-old Bernice Natanda Wamala, and also accepted his involvement in an attempt to murder three-year-old Samarah Sameer. This conclusion stemmed from a sinister plot in 2021 wherein Ngugi poisoned a toddler’s breakfast cereal out of an obsessive fixation on a married woman.

The unfortunate incident took place on March 21, 2021, culminating from unfortunate events that started the previous night at Sameer’s residence. The pivot of this plot was a lethal dose of sodium nitrite, which Bernice ingested, leading to her untimely demise. In a surprising reveal, it seemed the children were the unintended victims of Ngugi’s horrendous plan. His actual target was Zahra Issa, Sameer’s mother and a woman who had borne the brunt of his increasing obsession.

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Ngugi and Issa had struck an acquaintance at an adult learning school in 2019 post their immigration to Canada. A brief romantic liaison was followed by consistent rejections by Issa who cited her loyalties towards her husband and daughter, scheduled to join her in Canada. Unrequited advances, however, gave rise to Ngugi’s obsessive and jealous nature, compelling him to record Issa’s private conversations and interactions covertly by hiding an audio recorder in her room.

His fixation took a gruesome turn when he smuggled a lethal amount of sodium nitrite from his workplace, Scarborough’s Griffith Foods, and adulterated a box of breakfast cereal at Issa’s house. The after-effects were devastating. On March 7, after consuming the poisoned cereal, Bernice began to show signs of sickness almost immediately. Despite medical intervention, she succumbed to a seizure and two heart attacks after violent bouts of illness. A similar fate almost met Samarah, who showed similar symptoms but managed to recover after four days of treatment at the hospital.

Ngugi, ironically, was by Issa’s side through the ordeal, suppressing his guilt and denying any knowledge of the entire affair when confronted by the police. He continued to distant himself from the crime by feigning ignorance about the toxic chemical and its usage at his workplace.

In a sorrowful turn of events, instead of expressing remorse, Ngugi continued his overtures towards an already distraught Issa. He stooped to contacting the Tanzanian embassy in an attempt to jeopardize Issa’s marital status. His relentless pursuits continued until his arrest in June when he was charged with multiple offences including administering a noxious substance to endanger life and criminal negligence causing death.

An air of remorse hung heavy when Ngugi appeared before the court, seeking forgiveness for the joy he had stolen from Issa. His apologies extended to his family, counsel, and the court for the tragedy he had instigated. Awaiting his fate, Ngugi faces an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for a period of 10 to 25 years due to his second-degree murder conviction. The full extent of his punishment will be ascertained on November 2nd, when Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestell will set the terms for his parole eligibility.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.