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Alarm as abductors prey on children, seek hefty ransom

Sunday November 4 2018

crime scene

Samples of the sweets were taken for investigations, said the deputy superintendent of police. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MARY WAMBUI
By MARY WAMBUI
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Last Wednesday, residents of Kimuchu village were treated to a rare spectacle of a machete-wielding man fighting armed detectives who ambushed him at his single-room rental house after being trailed for weeks over the abduction of five-year-old Alvin Ngari Kwerra.

The suspect, 33-year-old Gregory Wafula, was shot dead by the police during the attack in which he slashed an officer's firearm.

STRANGER'S CONTACT

Wafula is alleged to have kidnapped the boy on October 7 outside World Temple Church in Munene estate, Thika, where he was playing with another child.

Kwerra's friend was, however, released a few hours after the incident but she was found bearing a note with a stranger's contact and Sh526,000 was scribbled on it.

Kwerra's mother, Ms Grace Wanjiru and her husband, took the writing as the only clue in getting hold of their son, who they had at the time searched for all over Thika in vain and later reported the matter to the police station.

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CHILD KILLED

The first call the family made to the anonymous contact confirmed their fears after they were asked to send the money through M-Pesa or risk having their child killed.

"We were threatened that if we do not send the money, a box bearing our son's head shall be sent to us in a box," Kwerra's mother.

As the search for the boy intensified, Kwerra's family kept sending ransom in portions to the kidnappers hoping to derail the murder of their son as they would not afford the amount demanded upfront. By Wednesday this week, the family had sent over Sh100,000.

PHONE SIGNALS

On the same day at around noon, detectives who were tracking the kidnapper’s phone signals managed to zero in on their exact location, laid an ambush and rescued the young boy alive and in good health.

They also arrested the suspect's partner, a 24-year-old woman and a mother of one who has been identified as Jane Muthoni.

The couple had been living with the abducted child hardly interacting with their neighbours.

PECULIAR

An identity card used to register the line that the slain suspect was using to solicit for ransom from the family was recovered at the suspect's house alongside several other SIM cards.

Neighbours told the Nation that the family had a peculiar lifestyle, as they barely interacted with neighbours.

"The woman was particularly proud. She would only get her hair done from the house, never at the salon. She conducted almost all her activities indoors. We thought the child who was brought in a few days later after they moved into the building belonged to a relative because he was referring to them as auntie and uncle," a neighbour explained.

SH2.2 MILLION

Thika police commander Paul Kiriki said detectives were holding the woman to establish if she was directly involved in the abduction before preferring appropriate charges against her.

The incident was the second prominent abduction involving a child in Kiambu in just few months. Last year, four-year-old Kelson Kimani was abducted at his parents' home in section nine by armed robbers.

In the incident, the family was robbed at gunpoint and their child abducted and his images used to solicit Sh2.2 million from the family.

FLYING SQUAD

A few days after the incident, officers from the flying squad rescued the boy in good health and arrested five suspects, among them a college student.

The five pleaded not guilty to robbery with violence charges at the Thika Magistrates Court in a case whose hearing is yet to commence almost two years after the boy was rescued.

Kelson's father, Kimani Wambugu, told the Sunday Nation he believes that despite the delays, justice shall eventually be served.

STILL MISSING

Mr Kiriki who was recently transferred to Thika has so far handled three cases of children disappearing from their parents watch.

Not all families have, however, been lucky in finding their children after they are kidnapped.

Elizabeth Mwahu's unending search for her now 11-year-old twins started on October 28, 2012, and to date, it is still on.

PREVIOUS INCIDENT

Police say most of the abduction cases happening in Kiambu are aimed at soliciting funds from parents regardless of their economic status. The abductions show a trend in which desperate criminals take advantage of parents to get money.

According to the police, Kwerra's kidnapper has been linked to two previous incidents and had even been jailed before.