because you never forget that funny smell

Date: May 30, 2011

A tragic accident and a murder

So much has been written and said about the Samuel Wanjiru tragedy that the time has now come for the public to do the decent thing and allow the family to come to terms with their grief without the undue speculation, rumour and gossiping. It is just unfortunate that this case involved a celebrity and thus it has aroused intense media scrutiny.

As it happens, I spent an afternoon last weekend in the company of a family friend, a retired deputy police commissioner who was once the head of the homicide division, Nairobi. We spoke briefly about the “Wanjiru” affair before he told me about a case that he was involved in when he was a junior officer fresh out of college.

“Woolie”, he said, “Nothing is ever what it seems. Be prepared for the unexpected at all times.”

“In those days, you see we all thought that murder was an offence carried out by thugs and gangsters on strangers. In our naïve way we were brought up to be trusting in the general good of humanity.”

We had now retired to a small sitting room and the former cop opened a glass cabinet and took out a single malt whisky and 2 small glasses. He poured the drinks, made sure I was comfortable and sat down to light his pipe. Then he got to his story.

When the Ikumbi case came to the High Court in late October 1985 it made all the headlines because of the gruesome brutality with which Mr Silas Ikumbi had met his death. Here was a well-liked, successful businessman with a seemingly happy home life. He was said to be fair in business and generous to friends and family. He made numerous donations to harambees and other worthy causes. He was hard-working and expected the same from his employees but he also rewarded hard work with bonuses and promotion.

Then there was the widow. Young, beautiful, stylish – with friends in high society. There was plenty of money and hints of something shaky in the marriage.

It was the night of the 26th -27th July of that year. A horrible road traffic accident on the Mombasa Road. A Nairobi bound coach slammed into the back of a heavy goods lorry that stood broken down by the side of the road. A mighty fireball engulfed both vehicles and there were no survivors on the coach. Most of the bodies had been burnt beyond recognition. Four days later Silas Ikumbi’s wife came forward and claimed that she was sure that her husband had been a passenger on the coach on that fateful journey.

image from topnews.in

It is fair to say that most people were surprised by this announcement. Why had it taken this long for Mrs Ikumbi to come forward with this information. She claimed that she had tried to make absolutely certain that there was no mistake before going to the police. Mrs Ikumbi explained that her hsuband had called her from Mombasa on that evening and he had given her the name of the coach and their departure time.

Silas Ikumbi travelled frequently to Mombasa on business trips but he never, ever went by coach. Nor did he travel by train. Silas was a competent driver and he preferred to drive himself on long journeys. He told friends that it helped him to clear his mind, think and plan new business strategies. Also he had many business contacts in towns on the way to Mombasa and he liked to call upon them and catch up with business affairs. It was not unknown for Silas to drive down from Nairobi early in the morning, conclude his business meetings at the coast and drive back the same day. He derived great satisfaction from this.

The remains of the victims were buried and the authorities accepted the wife’s word and a memorial service was held for Silas Ikumbi on 13th of August. The service was attended by friends and family and many business associates from agents to distributors and wholesalers. Silas was a popular man.

It was just over a week later that a Mr Abdul Kadir from Mombasa came to see me in my office. He seemed unsure of himself but I ordered for us some tea and asked what was troubling him. He came out with it. He asked if I had heard of the coach crash tragedy. He then told me that he had attended the memorial service but it was only after going back to Mombasa and thinking things through that he felt that there was something that did not add up.

He pulled out a pocket diary and showed me an entry that he had made: Telephoned Silo, agreed to meet a week from today. Must have the samples ready for him. The date was 29th July a full two days after the accident. He had only realised this discrepancy after the service. Still puzzled he had called Silas’s home hoping to speak to Mrs Ikumbi but there was no answer. What, he wondered, did all this mean? One thing was sure – his friend could not possibly have perished in that crash. Was it all a mistake? Was he still alive.

We spoke at length with Mr Abdul Kadir checking details and covering other background stuff and I assured him that we would investigate all the circumstances surrounding this incident and keep him updated on future developments. Then he took his leave. I was touched by the gesture the man had made for his friend.

The next afternoon I drove up to the Ikumbi home in Tigoni near Limuru seeking to speak to Mrs Ikumbi. The security guard ushered me into the compound but when the front door was opened a young maid informed me that mama was not seeing any callers and that all communication to her was being handled by her lawyer. I could not hide my surprise. The maid duly presented me with a business card bearing the name of a city lawyer. As I turned to leave a young girl, 10 or 11 came up to the door. She had just arrived from school, it seemed. She asked if I was a policeman, come to find out where daddy had gone. The maid told her off and sent her indoors. I got into the car and drove to Nairobi deep in thought. I had now come across two people for whom the story that Silas Ikumbi was killed in a coach tragedy did not ring true.

It was time for action. Investigators went out to try and put together the final hours of Mr Ikumbi’s life. The bus companies of the day were not required to keep passenger manifests so no documetary evidence was available to prove one way or the other whether Ikumbi had been on that coach. My investigators dicovered no sightings of Ikumbi in Mombasa and none of his associates and colleagues had met with him. Investigators visited all the likely places he would have gone on a normal trip to Mombasa and everywhere it was the the same story: Ikumbi had not been there on the dates in question and in any case he always communicated his arrival well in advance – after all it is a long way to come and not meet your objectives.

It was now time to focus on the domestic setting. We already knew that Ikumbi loved his family and cared dearly for his only child, whose name was Faith. Years ago, we learnt, the couple had been told by doctors that Mrs Ikumbi could not have any more kids. This may have drawn the father to cherish the daughter even more closely. Family friends said that perhaps Mrs Ikumbi may have resented this. We focussed even closer coming to the days when Ikumbi had last been seen by the members of the household. We learnt that a day before the crash Faith had seen her dad in the evening and they had done some homework together. He had left for work early the following day and so she had not seen him before going to school.

The night watchman who had worked over that period had been replaced. It did not take long for officers to locate him. He turned out to be a habitual user of marijuana but he was quite willing to speak to the police. According to his statement the last he had seen of Mr Ikumbi was when he opened the gate to him one evening. There was something odd about the way the boss drove into the compound – but he thought nothing more of it. It may sound crazy, he said, but this was definitely after and not before that awful bus crash. He was not too sure about exact dates, though.

With this and other bits of evidence it became clear that Silas Ikumbi should now be classiffied as missing, presumed dead and that we were possibly looking at a murder case. My investigators interviewed Mrs Ikumbi always in the presence of her lawyer and she repeatedly claimed that Ikumbi had gone to Mombasa and had been killed in the coach crash. they stuck to their guns. Further she insisted that theirs had been happy marriage and she did not known what she was going to do with him gone.

There were further enquiries – mostly house to house. One junior officer was carrying out such enquiries within Limuru town when he struck gold.

The officer approached a small garage and found one of the mechanics polishing a car. He introduced himself and asked the young mechanic if he knew a Mr Ikumbi. The boy’s face brightened when he spoke of Ikumbi, a real gentleman. He brought all his cars here for servicing, you know. I always valeted his car. He treated me well. It was he that got me this job – he was like a father to me. We will never know what made him travel in that coach, anyway that is fate, I guess. You cannot escape your date with fate.

“When did you last see him?” – the officer asked

“I can tell you exactly when I saw him – gosh this is weird – he was here on the 29th of July I marked it here on this wall calendar because I changed the tyres on his car. He liked to know when he changed his tyres so we always kept a record.” Mr Ikumbi always checked his vehicle records in the office.

The officer asked a few more questions and then showed the mechanic some photos. He asked him if he recognised anyone in the set of pictures. Twice he picked out the city lawyer.

The mechanic explained that two cars had pulled up outside as he was working on Ikumbi’s car. He saw there were four people in each of the cars. Moments later one man came into the garage and asked if the mechanic knew where the owner of the car that he was working on had gone – this is Ikumbi’s car, right – the mechanic said he did not know the owner by name or where he was but he would be coming shortly to collect his car. He did not like the look of them one bit. That was when the lawyer got out of the front car and came across all smiling and polite and said – do not worry we are just friends of his we thought we might see him – but never mind. Thanks. And with that they got into their cars and left. Mr Ikumbi came soon after, paid for the job and left.

Woolie, these things ususlly take a momentum of their own because just 2 days my officer had visited the garage a Mzee looking after some cows near Maai Mahiu made a gruesome discovery. In a small depression quite out of sight in the fields lay the body of a man. He was clothed only in a loose fitting pair of trousers. No shirt, shoes, belt and no other items that could be used to identify him. His head had been beaten to a pulp as the perpetrators tried to conceal his identity. Police were called. The body had lain there for at least three weeks given the advanced stage of decomposition. After liaising with missing person reports police used dental records to positively identify the body as that of Mr Silas Ikumbi.

Law Courts
Image from taifalangu.com

Well as you can imagine there were many other details that came out in court but the long and short of it was that the lawyer Judas Magaryan and Mrs Ikumbi were long-time lovers. Together they had deviced a plan to kill Ikumbi and make it look like an accident. This would enable them to control the vast financial wealth that Mr Ikumbi had built. Magaryan’s profession brought him in daily contact with gangsters and it was one such group that he recruited to trail Ikumbi from the garage. They had jacked him by the railway tunnel near Limuru and bundled him into their own car.

Magaryan had donned Ikumbi’s jacket and hat and driven Ikumbi’s car back to the house. He was not familiar with the compound layout and even the stoned watchman noticed that his driving was erratic.

The prosecution was able to prove its case and the two suspects were found guilty. They were convicted and sentenced but their lawyer managed to get them out on bail pending their appeals. They are now said to be living quietly, somewhere overseas. You know what this place is like……..

Osama down, so where’s Kabuga?

This piece was written back in March 2010 but I place it here following the dramatic killing of Most wanted Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan in the first week of May 2011.

The US Ambassador-at large for war crimes issues, Pierre-Richard Prosper, a few weeks ago said that Felicien Kabuga was still hiding in Kenya. Rwanda Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo is then reported to have said that her country believed Kenya’s word that Kabuga, Africa’s most wanted fugitive, was not hiding in the country.
image from tenorama.com

How wonderful it would be if the US would just put their money where their mouth was, back up their rhetoric and accusations and arrest the man. Somehow I suspect that they too have no clue as to where this war crimes suspect is and they use the Kabuga issue to embarrass the Kenya government from time to time. A specialist in locating missing people said to me the other day, “A man does not simply disappear into thin air especially not one with a delicious price tag of $5 million on his head.”

The Kenya government is caught between a rock and a hard place because it would be virtually impossible to prove that a suspect was not in Kenya unless they could prove that he was elsewhere or else – provide a corpse.

So where is this old boy – Kabuga? They say a painting is worth a thousand words but I believe that in order to solve the Kabuga riddle it is worth visiting the world of fantasy and imagination. A place where all things are possible…indeed a place where a Most Wanted man could disappear before our very eyes. In so doing it is hoped that we can challenge those who maintain that Kabuga is alive and well in Kenya to prove that he did not, infact meet with some terrible end. Perhaps then we can put this issue to rest -and I can go back to watch the cricket.

This story is best read with a large block of sea-salt.

A close friend invited me over to his home and we went to a Jamuhuri day bash. We were in the capital of this small and mountainous country where African despots and others come to hide their cash. No not Swaziland – There were people from all different nationalities as is normal in these events. By a stroke of luck amongst the people seated just by our table was a young lady from Kenya.

The Kenyan lady, Miriam worked as a translator here at the Kenya mission where the party was being held. She was married to Hendri Schmidt. We learnt that Mr Schmidt worked at the consulate of another european country. The evening went very well indeed with great music, fine wine and delicious food and when the time came to finally bring the party to a close we all felt it was far too early to be going home. The Schmidts invited my friend and me back for a quiet drink at their lovely apartment. We sat and chatted till late and at some point our conversation ventured into the murky world of politics. Mr Schmidt excused himself for a moment. He came back with a small folder marked Top Secret in red ink.

He said, the folder contained the statement that he had taken from a man who was claiming political asylum at the consulate. They got dozens of satements every day but Schmidt had kept this one at home because of the amazing story. He had removed the front page to protect the subjects identity


As serving officers in the elite protection force we were were routinely assigned to look after visiting dignitiaries and other VIPs. We gave support to the regular secret service and bodyguard teams but ours was essentially a background operation.

One morning around the first week of August I was called in to see our commanding officer. She glanced at me as I shut the door and continued reading from a khaki folder on her desk. She then stood up and walked up to me and stood there staring me up and down before telling me that she had received orders that I was to go on annual leave with immediate effect.

We learn not to question orders very early in this industry so I collected my belongings and headed for the gates. I was vaguely aware of a civilian saloon car parked by the perimeter fence as I neared the gate but I did not give it much thought. I knew the guards quite well and we had a bit of a chit chat before I went through the gates.

There is a frequent Matatu service between the camp and the city and I headed for the bus stop about 300 metres up the road. Here there was a bit of a bend in the road so that from this spot you could not see the gates of the military camp. The same white saloon car drew up beside me the back doors opened and two men grabbed me and put me in the middle of the back seat. One of them produced a hood and placed it over my head. I relaxed as I realised that they meant me no real harm – and I guess they too were relieved that I had not put up an unnecessary struggle. After driving in silence for about half an hour I dropped my head as if dozing off and started to snore gently. I could “hear” the smiles on their faces as they too eased down and pretty soon they were sleeping like babies.

It was dark when we got to our destination. They pulled me out of the car and the driver barked some orders to the two goons who held me between them. they took me to a small room and stood waiting for further instructions. The driver barked a fresh set of orders and walked off and one goon pulled off my hood.

The smells and sounds of the farm came rushing to me when the hood came off – I thought that pretty odd. Two minutes later the multi-lingual driver came in with another figure – a senior ranking officer from our elite team. He was the one that gave orders to our commanding officer. He ordered the room cleared and asked me if I wanted anything. I wanted to know where I was and why I had been brought here in such a fashion – but you do not question a senior officer and so I just asked for some food and water.

We were here – he explained – on a most secret government mission. A senior scientist from a neighbouring country was in the process of developing some type of vaccine to protect our pig population from the devastating effects of swine flu. It was important that this was done secretly – and that he was given adequate protection. In other words, he was a fugitive from his country and there were people out there looking for him. The officer said that in his view it would be much better for me if I did not know the scientist’s name. He explained that the nature of our work drew speculation from all quarters and it was our duty as professionals to avoid adding to it by engaging in careless thinking and loose talk. We were here to do a job and by God we would accomplish the mission!

It was time to meet the Scientist – we went into the main house and were shown into a lavishly furnished living room. The scientist and his wife were seated on a large leather sofa watching the evening news courtesy of KTN. They turned to us as we entered and the lady of the house waved at us to be seated. I recognised the grey-haired “scientist” and realised that the speech from my commander a few minutes prior was meant to warn me about who this man was. The US government had placed a sum of $5million on his genocidal head.

Life at the farm was pretty cool. There were few visitors. The AP men at the gate kept curious callers at bay. One needed special clearance from the ministry of Internal Security no less to gain access to this government scientific facility. I learned from the domestic staff that we were in a farm called the Grip farm – Government Research Into Pigs and that we were some twenty-five miles north of Eldoret. Pig buyers called on a Wednesday to pick livestock for market. Pig fatteners would collect their piglets on a Thursday and on Friday it was the turn of the feed merchants to deliver all the animal feed needs for the week. The rest of the time I spent patrolling the complex looking for weaknesses and potential points of attack. I also began to write notes of this operation for my own record.

Monday morning October (date deleted) and another beautiful day on the cards – the sky was blue and the birds were in song just as insects buzzed about. The pigs shrieked in their pens and the black-and-white cows swished their tails as they grazed in the meadow. I could hear the wood cutter’s axe echoing in the valley. In the distance a tractor was raising a cloud of red dust as workers prepared a field to plant maize – the farm sounds were like music to my soul. It was great to be alive.

I felt the first strains of tension when one of the APs who was always with the scientist, a nice lad called Sam, came up and asked me to fetch my boss.

Sam should never have left his post – why hadn’t he used his radio – what was going on. I found the commander in the driveway by the front of the main house. He was talking to a man seated in the back of a shiny limousine. When they saw me approach the man rolled up his window – the tinted glass immediately hiding him in his dark tomb. Then the car was gone.

The shrieking of the pigs grew louder. The commander asked me to walk with him back to his office. His normally jovial face was grim and his eyes held a far away look. He ushered me in and closed the door. From the corner of my eye I noticed that he locked the door and put the key in his pocket.

He opened a drawer at his desk and pulled out a bottle of Teachers and two small glasses. As he poured, he told me that our mission here was over. He did not look me in the eye. He was looking at the drink in his glass. The scientist, he said, was tired of running. He now believed that the vaccine rightfully belonged in his country where they had spent years in its development. He wanted to give himself up. Unfortunately it is never that easy. Yes he may have provided the finances and organisational skills but it is others who did the real dirty work – they were aware that if he cooperated – It would be Arusha for them too.

He looked at me – It would have been a totally unacceptable position. The scientist’s Kenyan pals who had made him welcome, protected him and entered into all sorts of deals with him, they too feared that they would be implicated and exposed – the commandant took another a sip of the whiskey. I felt a shudder as I realised why he was speaking in the past tense.

This was all too fantastic. I could not believe what I was hearing. The commandant was spelling it out that it had been decided – kill the “scientist” – chop him up as we did so many times before and feed him to his shrieking pigs- without a body there could be no conclusive proof that he was dead and the meddling Americans were free to maintain the spotlight on Kabuga whilst the others who actually coordinated and carried out the murderous orders were able to clear up their trails and evade justice. That also explained the locked door – I too would have to be silenced. The young Sam must have had a Special protector. He had been sent away from his post in order that he could be spared.

The commandant poured another couple of drinks all the while looking at his watch. The pig noises were driving him crazy so he stood up to shut the window. I had only the slimmest of chances – the bottle of Teachers was half full. I grabbed it by the neck, raised it and brought it down on his head, just as he was turning back from the window – he tried to go for his gun – but he was slow in motion and I saw the bottle smash into his face between his nose and left eye – spraying booze, glass, flesh and blood everywhere. He slumped onto the table and I grabbed the key and made my escape.

© 2024 wetwool

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑