A bloodthirsty gang that seems to have outsmarted security agencies in the past year has left a trail of death and destruction in the South Rift region.
Its mind-boggling attacks in Bomet and Kericho counties have seen more than 15 people murdered and dozens of women and children gang-raped, with the victims robbed of their phones and money.
What has emerged is that the attacks, which police have failed to contain, target serving or retired teachers and their families.
The residents, whose anger is palpable, accuse the police of complacency, and even complicity, in the crimes.
Meanwhile, independent investigations have revealed that there are three different criminal groups. The first comprises at least seven people, who break into homes at the crack of dawn, then kill and rob their victims of valuables.
The second group of two men and a woman are involved in highway robberies, especially on the Kaplong-Bomet-Mulot highway and the Kaplong-Litein-Kericho highway. They “offer lifts” to commuters, whom they then attack.
The third group, whose number is not known, steals cars in Bomet County, where 11 vehicles have been stolen in the past two months, with no arrests or recoveries made so far.
The murder of Mrs Anna Chepkwony, 73, in Samoget village in Litein last Wednesday by a four-man gang that seriously injured her husband, Mr Richard Chepkwony, and a housekeeper, was just the latest of the daring attacks. Mr Chepkwony, a retired teacher and politician, and the maid are recovering at Litein AIC Mission Hospital.
Three main suspects have been arrested, with one positively identified as the mastermind of the attack. They are said to have attacked the family believing that the couple had money sent to them by their children working abroad.
“We have made a breakthrough in the investigations and hope to arrest more suspects involved in the attack,” said Bureti Divisional Police Commander Ali Abdi.
Mr Stephen Tanki, the Sub-County criminal investigations officer, added: “Unlike in the previous murders where we were groping in the dark, this time around we have tangible evidence to sustain a conviction of the suspects in custody,”
“The gang members killed the grandmother after she allegedly identified them and called them by name. She asked them why they were attacking the family yet they had been hosted at the home and shared a meal with them on several occasions,” said an officer involved in the investigations.
But they spared a young boy, whom they pushed under the bed and ordered to be quiet.
The residents took the law unto their hands and lynched a suspect who went to the homestead on Thursday morning.
The latest attack occurred three kilometres from where a teacher, Mr Willy Sang, and his wife, Evalyne, were murdered on the night of October 20, 2018, in an incident that shocked residents. Initial claims that the killings were about a land deal gone sour or a family dispute were dismissed by he police. Seven suspects were arrested.
On August 17, 2018, Mr Wilson Kamau Kibe, 53, a teacher at Changina Primary School in Konoin Sub-County, was murdered and his body dumped in a tea plantation a short distance from the school. The body had injuries in the back, neck and face inflicted by a sharp object. The victim’s mobile phone and wrist watch have not been found. No one has been arrested.
Mr Leonard Sang, also a teacher at Changina Primary School, was murdered by a gang that seriously injured his wife and three children late last year.
His wife, Ms Faith Njeri, was hoispitalised for three months at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital while her children, spent a month in hospital. They were all cut in the head, neck and back.
Mr John Mosonik Bosek, a teacher at Chemengwa Primary School in Chepalungu Sub-County, was murdered on February 24, 2018 at the Sigor trading centre. The murder remains unsolved.
Similarly, the murder last month of Mr Johnstone Chirchir, 43, a teacher at Lelechwet Primary School in Chepalungu, has not been solved.
A senior police officer involved in the investigations said the criminals randomly target families they believe have money in the house.
“It is very clear that these are not cases of revenge or business deals gone sour, but what baffles us is the fact that the attacks are well coordinated and executed,” said the officer.
A female teacher was robbed of Sh 300,000 by a gang in Bomet town two weeks ago. The same thugs pounced on a teacher at Kaplong Boys High School, forced him to reveal his ATM PIN and withdrew Sh70,000 from his bank account. His wife was forced to send Sh35,000 via M-Pesa to secure his release.
“Despite the incidents being reported to the police in Bomet and Sotik, with the registration numbers of the vehicles being used indicated, no action has been taken,” said Mr Paul Kimetto, the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) branch chairman.
Mr Malel Langat, the Bomet County branch executive secretary, said the victims are helpless because police have failed to crack the murders, which have instilled fear and anger in teachers in the county.
“The victims’ families are demanding answers over the chilling murders of their loved ones,” said Mr Langat.
Rising cases of rape and defilement have rocked the region in the recent past.