How Pinto murder was plotted . . . and Kisilu framed - Daily Nation

How Pinto murder was plotted . . . and Kisilu framed

Monday June 19 2000

The murder of Leftist firebrand Pio Gama Pinto shocked the nation. Now the fight is on to free the man accused of his murder. Read how a secret statement never revealed at the trial shows how the so-called killer was framed . . . and about the yawning gaps in State evidence at his trial. Special report by Nation investigative writerKAMAU NGOTHO. The first part of the captivating series was published yesterday.

Details of how independent Kenya's first victim of assassination Pio Gama Pinto was gunned down have finally emerged.

A Nation investigation has also established why the alleged killer of Pio Gama Pinto is still in prison, 35 years after he was jailed on July 15, 1965, for a crime he did not commit.

Pinto, a Kenyan of Goan extraction, was shot dead at the gate to his house in Nairobi's affluent Westlands suburb on the morning of February 24, 1965.

At the time, he was a nominated MP and a close ally of then Vice-President Oginga Odinga. The day after the murder, Kisilu Mutua, 21, and Chege Thuo, 19, were arrested and charged with the crime. Chege was later acquitted but Kisilu was sentenced to hang.

However, two years later, the East African Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to life imprisonment.

Thirty-five years on, Kisilu is still in prison. The Kenya Human Rights Commission reckons that he is the longest serving prisoner anywhere in Africa.

The Prisoners Review Board has on several occasions recommended his release on account of good conduct and many years in prison but the government has not been in any hurry to oblige.


We have reliably learnt that Kisilu's undoing was a tell-it-all statement he gave to Chief Inspector Patrick Shaw.

The statement, in broken English and counter-signed by Shaw, was never produced in court. Instead, the court relied on a second statement Kisilu claimed to have written under duress, a claim which the Chief Justice dismissed.

We have read Kisilu's first statement, which is locked in the strong room at the Police Archives.

It shows that Kisilu appears to have been recruited by the Directorate of Intelligence (Special Branch) as an informer and "dirty jobs'' errand boy.

On the day of Pinto's murder, Kisilu had been planted at the politician's gate as a decoy and possible fall guy. After the murder Kisilu was taken to the Eastlands Police Station (now Pangani) where, at midnight, he was interviewed by Patrick Shaw, who told him that, as a colleague, he simply wanted to understand what had happened. Kisilu fell for the ruse, spilled the beans and even took Shaw to the scene of the shooting.

Shaw returned the following morning and asked Kisilu to write down all he had told him, so he could protect him just in case anybody had seen him near the scene of the Pinto murder.

Shaw further asked Kisilu to include details of how he knew each of the people with him at the scene of crime and what they had previously done together.

This, Shaw explained, would be important should any of Kisilu's accomplices decide to betray him. Once again, Kisilu fell for the trick.

In his statement to Shaw, Kisilu opens with a disclosure that he was a police informer operating in Eastlands and at a bar on River Road.

Kisilu identifies by name and rank of the senior police officer who recruited him as an informer. He further discloses that the officer was attached to Special Branch.

Kisilu says that the man recruited him as an informer in exchange for freedom from prosecution after he was arrested over a tyre theft.

Kisilu's brief was to hawk vegetables in the Eastlands area while keeping watch on what was happening there. In the evenings, he had instructions to hang around the bar on River Road from where he would monitor the situation in the crime-prone back streets in the area.

Kisilu says that the Special Branch man later introduced him to another officer, whose name and rank he identifies, and whose code-name was to be Sammy, who was to be the link between Kisilu and the officer who recruited him.

Kisilu says that three days before the Pinto murder (February 21), Sammy told him the senior officer would be sending him a Mr Ochola Mak'Anyengo, a well-known trade unionist, who had a job he wanted done.

Kisilu says he later discovered that the Mak'Anyengo referred to by the Special Branch officer was not the real Mak'Anyengo he knew but a look-alike.

In the evening, Mak'Anyengo went to the bar on River Road, where Kisilu and Sammy were waiting, and said a trade unionist was causing trouble and he wanted him threatened. The plot would be to wait for the man outside his gate and accost him when he came home.

Kisilu says that the following evening he and Sammy took a taxi to the unionist's house and waited by his gate.

When the unionist came home, Sammy pulled out a kitchen knife and ran towards the man. Kisilu, who remained in the shadows, says he heard Sammy tell the unionist he "better stop seeing Odinga and his men or he would soon be dead''.

Kisilu went on to disclose that, the following day, Sammy told him Mak'Anyengo was very happy with the job and handed him Sh200 with a promise that he would soon have another, not dissimilar, job for them.

On the eve of Pinto's murder, Kisilu disclosed, Sammy told him Mak'Anyengo wanted a certain Goan in Westlands threatened in the same way.

The following morning, February 24, Sammy came for Kisilu with a man he introduced as Chege Thuo, who would be joining them for the job at Westlands.

The three then took a taxi – a small blue Fiat – which Kisilu had never seen before but whose driver appeared to know Sammy.

Kisilu says that the three were driven to the junction of Lower Kabete Road and Ring Road in Westlands.

There, Sammy asked the taxi-driver to park the car on the kerb and wait for them. Sammy then led them to the gate of the house of the Goan they were to threaten.

As they were taking up position at Pinto's gate, Kisilu disclosed, the senior Special Branch officer who recruited him drove past in a white car and parked some yards away on the other side of the gate. Sammy immediately went to the car, partly hidden by the fence.

Kisilu then saw a car – a white Saab – pull out of the gate, and only then realised that the Goan was Pinto. Kisilu says that within a split second he heard three or four shots and a loud scream from Pinto.

Kisilu wrote: "I was so scared to hear the sound of a gun. Sammy had not told me that we would use a gun to scare the Goan. I thought we would use a knife, as we had done to the man in Nairobi West. The thought that an MP had been killed in my presence made my heart pound with worry."

Kisilu says that immediately the gunfire sounded, Chege, who appeared to know what was to happen, beckoned him to run quickly to their car.

Says Kisilu: "We found the taxi-driver had already opened the doors for us. He, too, appeared to have known what was to happen and did not appear disturbed at all."

He goes on: "We drove to town at very high speed. I asked Chege what could have happened and he said he did not know.

"When I asked him and the driver why we had left Sammy behind yet we went with him, the two just kept quiet."

Kisilu says Chege asked the driver to drop him at the Khoja Mosque on Government Road (now Moi Avenue).

As Chege alighted, Kisilu remembered him cautioning: "From here you go to your house and never tell anybody what happened. If you talk, you will face it alone."

Kisilu was dropped at the bar on River Road, where he hoped Sammy or the Special Branch officer would join him to brief him on what had happened. After waiting for two hours, he gave up and went home.

Once in his house at Pumwani, Kisilu wrote, he tried to sleep but was unable to, because he was wondering if his colleagues had actually killed Pinto.

His fears were confirmed on the One O'clock News. He heard that Pinto was dead but comforted himself that the Special Branch must have had good reasons.

At about 6pm he went back to New Rwathia Bar to check whether Sammy had shown up. He had not, so Kisilu decided to sit and wait.

As he sat there, three CID officers arrived and took him to the Eastlands station.

Kisilu concluded his statement by saying the CID officers were friendly, and gave him "food and a nice place to sleep''.

Our source says that from Kisilu's first statement to Shaw, senior security men in both CID and the Special Branch concluded he was too gullible to be released. A decision was made that he should be the fall guy for the Pinto murder.

A day after his statement to Shaw, Kisilu was taken to CID Headquarters, where Senior Superintendent J. Bell told him that he and Chege Thuo were to be charged with the Pinto murder.

Our sources say that it is only then that a shocked Kisilu smelt betrayal.

Afterwards, Kisilu was handed to three hostile junior police officers who, Kisilu was later to tell the court, threatened him and coached him on what to record in a fresh statement to Shaw.

In this, Kisilu could not deny he had been at the scene of the murder because he knew only too well that he had taken Shaw to the scene.

His new line of defence was that though he was present at the scene, he had no prior knowledge that they were going to see, let alone kill, Pinto.

The three court assessors in the murder trial agreed that Kisilu and Chege may not have had prior knowledge of what was to happen and recommended that they be set free.

They insisted that the police instead look for Sammy, whom they described as having been "the prime mover of the whole affair".

However, Chief Justice Sir John Ainley, while satisfied that Kisilu had not pulled the trigger, said the young man could not have gone to Pinto's place without an idea of what was to happen. He sentenced him to hang.

What saved Chege was that he had denied being at Pinto's gate at the time of the murder.

Though three witnesses testified to seeing him running to the Fiat car with Kisilu, the Chief Justice held that there was a chance he might not have been there and set him free.

But even as Chief Justice Ainley delivered his judgment, he could not help expressing the feelings of many to his day.

He said: ". . . it must be conceded that the case wears an unfinished aspect and that we may not have all who were involved in the crime before us . . ."