The man suspected to be the leader of the organised criminal gang responsible for a spate of killings in Mount Elgon had years back been arrested in Uganda and handed over to the Kenya Police.
Timothy Kiptanui Kitai, alias ‘Cheparkach’, whom police say is on the run, is believed to have formed a gang to help him avenge the torching of his house on January 17, 2017 by residents who had been fed up by his criminal activities.
On Wednesday, the National Police Service (NPS) placed Sh1 million bounty on the head of ‘Cheparkach’ whom they say, is armed and dangerous.
“NPS has identified a number of suspects linked to the recent wave of robberies and murders within Mt Elgon.
"The leader of the gang is the man whose image is shown below and has been identified as Timothy Kiptanui Kitai,” the statement by the NPS said.
The gruff ‘Cheparkach’, according to residents interviewed by NTV, works closely with his younger brother Kitai Ngeywo commonly identified in the area as ‘Jet Li’ and runs a well-organised armed gang that has been raiding homes, killing men and raping women.
“He was once jailed and I remember that at one time he made a daring escape from a prison van around December 2016 at Bokoli market when he was being taken back to Bungoma GK Prison after attending a court session at Kimilili Law Courts.
"What we don’t know is if he indeed escaped or he bribed the police to secure his escape because he has a lot of money,” a resident said.
Cheparkach, it emerges, is well-known by the police, as he had been in their custody after he was extradited from Uganda last year, before he escaped and started doing businesses.
His brother, whom residents say is a former commander of the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF), is a known sharp shooter and is also on the run.
The two brothers are believed to be owners of a cache of powerful weapons, including fire arms, which they allegedly use for conducting their criminal activities.
A neighbour, Eliud Kemboi, who recounted the day residents torched Cheparkach’s house, said everything was destroyed by the angry mob that was tired of his criminal activities.
On the day his house was burnt, Cheparkach disappeared again, only to resurface after three months.
“It was around 8pm, we were playing pool when we spotted him. He was armed with a rifle. When he came, he announced that he had brought a firearm and that he would kill people,” Mr Kemboi said, adding that Cheparkach shot in the air.
After his return, residents alleged, Cheparkach started murdering those he suspected were behind the burning of his house, including police officers and leaders of community policing groups.
The well-coordinated murderous activities of the gang that village elder Paul Ngeywo says are well-known and which work for the duo, happen from 8pm to 3am at night.
“Polisi hawakuji kutusaidia…..polisi kazi yao ni kuokota maiti (Police don’t come when people are in distress, they just come to collect bodies of those killed),” a resident, Rhoda Chepkemei, said.
The chairman of Mt Elgon Peace Forum, John Ndiema, alleged that Cheparkach had close contacts with the police in the area, including the commanders.
“It seems like Cheparkach steals money, and with the heightened corruption, the suspect shares it with people in authority,” he said.
Cheparkach, who was also part of the SLDF fighters, is a resident of Kitai village, Cheptais sub-county, in Bungoma and a father of three.
A source told the Nation on Wednesday that Cheparkach, now in his 30s, is a Standard Five dropout born and raised in Kitai village on the slopes of Mt Elgon.
He dropped out of school to join the outlawed militia group.
Police asked anybody with information about his whereabouts to call 0202199151, 0702432877/999 or 112.
But residents fear that those behind the attacks will pounce on them at night as they have a large network of informers.
Additional Reporting by Dennis Okari