One of Kenya’s most wanted fugitives slipped through police fingers for two years before he was finally arrested in Makueni this week.
And even then, the authorities did not know they had a dangerous man in their custody until inmates alerted them.
Mr John Kilonzo Musyoka, also known as Karunyu, had been on the run since July 4, 2013, when he was suspected of leading a six-man gang that killed 12 people in the remote Nyanyaa Village of Waita in Mwingi, Kitui County.
On the day he was arrested in Emali in Makueni County last week, he identified himself as Jackson Mutua Kimanthi, and the police at first could not link him to the murders in Mwingi. He did not have any identification documents at the time of arrest, police said.
Witnesses said the suspect was picked up by plain-clothes police officers from his hideout in a culvert in Emali.
“He disguised himself as a casual labourer who spent the day tilling farms for pay,” said a man who sought anonymity and asked to be identified only as Paul.
“He was an interesting character because even though people used to spend days with him in farms, no one knew where he lived or what he did after earning his day’s keep.”
POLICE FORCE INEFFICIENCIES, LACK OF INFORMATION
However, though Mr Musyoka had been arrested in his jurisdiction, Nzaui police boss Alex Ndung’u told the Nation he was not aware of any such incident, probably indicating the secrecy with which detectives had conducted their surveillance and eventual arrest.
The failure of the arresting and prosecuting officers to positively identify one of the country’s most wanted and dangerous fugitives illustrates the inefficiencies of the police force, as having a resourceful and well-organised criminal database is a crucial policing requirement.
Mwingi Central police boss Gerald Barasa told the Nation on Monday evening that detectives had been tracking him since 2013, “and our leads traced him to Emali town in Makueni County sometime in November last year”.
It was in the same town on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway that Mr Musyoka is alleged to have committed the crime that would land him in police custody, and blow up a case that had begun to wither into dark history.
On Tuesday, Machakos prison deputy-in-charge Isaack Bwire told the Nation that Mr Musyoka was charged at the Makindu Law Courts with murder following a robbery-with-violence incident. He pleaded not guilty and was taken to the Machakos GK Prison on Saturday.
But even in custody, Mr Bwire believes Mr Musyoka is a very dangerous man, which is why he cancelled an identification parade scheduled for earlier in the week over the safety of people ferried from the suspect’s Nyanyaa Village to identify him.
“An identification parade for such a (dangerous) person is very tricky because if you bring in a neighbour from his village, that neighbour runs the risk of becoming a target of the suspect’s criminal network,” said the prison boss.
Still, said Mr Bwire, an unofficial identification could be carried out at the Makindu court on March 1, when the suspect is expected to be arraigned for the start of his Emali murder case.
A police source on Tuesday told the Nation that Mr Musyoka managed to elude the proverbial long arm of the law by using a fake name.
So successful was he at concealing his true identity that few, if any, of the people in his Emali hideout knew him by his real name.
Still, police suspect that Mr Musyoka had criminal aides who shielded him from the law.
He operated only at night and used a mobile phone and several SIM cards that were never active for more than a day.
Occasionally, he would communicate with family members back in Nyanyaa through friends and by phone, but most of the times he remained off the radar.
Reporting by Benedict Mutuku, Evelyn Musambi, Stephen Muthini and Zadock Angira