What did Kenei know? The puzzle of a slain Sergeant

Wednesday March 18 2020
By VINCENT ACHUKA
By BAYA SAMUEL

Did police sergeant Kipyegon Kenei plan his suicide so meticulously that no one heard the gunshot that sent a bullet through his head into the ceiling of his small bedsitter house in Imara Daima, Nairobi?

And how did the cartridge come to rest on his chest, given the violence with which he is said to have taken his life?

These are some of the questions that detectives are seeking answers to as they investigate the death of Kenei, a key witness in the fake arms tender deal involving a former Cabinet secretary.

The deceased was the head of security at Harambee House Annex in Nairobi, where the office of Deputy President William Ruto is located, and where documents related to the tender scandal are said to have been signed.

The biggest question in the minds of detectives is whether Kenei killed himself or was executed.

The clues to this riddle so far lie in the small semi-detached house at Twiga Court in Imara Daima, where his body was found on Thursday evening.

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The houses here are so small and close to each other that if you accidentally broke utensils in your kitchen, your neighbours would most likely know about it.

KEY WITNESS

Yet within the past one week, on a day that we still do not know, a gun is said to have been discharged once in the servant quarters of one of the houses, killing the police officer.

No one in this small, tightly knit community heard anything, and so life went on at its humdrum pace until last Thursday, when all hell broke loose.

The police would be investigating just another case were it not for the fact that Kenei worked at Dr Ruto’s office, which is fighting accusations of abetting the Sh39 billion fake guns tender scandal.

Kenei was scheduled to become a high-level witness in the investigations into the saga.

He had been expected to record a statement with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, and detectives are trying to establish whether there is a connection between his death and the tender probe.

Dr Ruto said he was saddened by the death and urged the police to get to the bottom of the matter. “Kenei was a disciplined young police officer. I urge the relevant authorities to conduct a thorough investigation to ascertain the circumstances surrounding his death,” he said a few hours after the body was found.

Those who knew Kenei, 33, say he liked to lead a good life.

NO SPECULATING

He may have lived in the small bedsitter off Mombasa Road, where his lifeless body was found, they say, but when he was not in his police uniform, he was ever neatly shaven and in nice suits.

His coat lapel always sported the Kenyan flag. He was an ambitious young man as well. In just 13 years he had risen to be a sergeant within the police force and in charge of security at the DP’s office.

The Saturday Nation understands that his key responsibility was clearing visitors before they are allowed to access the premises, one of the most guarded government installations in the country.

Kenei was on duty on February 13, the day former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa accessed the DP’s office and allegedly issued a fake Sh39 billion military arms contract to two foreigners.

Less than 10 days later, he lay dead in his small house, with a single bullet wound on the head.

An initial observation by the police indicated he had committed suicide, but on Friday Nairobi County Commander Philip Ndolo was measured in his assessment of the situation.

“I have not been able to get the facts on the ground. What will make a difference is what the homicide team, which is still there, says. Before talking to them – and it is still early to make a conclusion – I suggest that we wait and hear what they have to say.”

BUNGLED CRIME SCENE

But the homicide detectives combing the house were confronting the problem of a crime scene that had been grossly interfered with by the first responders on Thursday evening.

It took the intervention of the Director of Criminal Investigation George Kinoti, who was waiting to catch a flight from Moi International Airport in Mombasa when he heard about the macabre discovery, to have the scene secured properly.

But by the time Mr Kinoti gave the orders, Kenei’s body had been removed from the scene of crime by police officers from Embakasi.

The vehicle carrying his body was already heading towards Nyayo National Stadium roundabout on the way to City Mortuary when Mr Kinoti ordered it returned to Imara Daima for scenes of crime detectives to do a proper analysis.

So furious was Mr Kinoti that he drove straight to Imara Daima after landing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from Mombasa to personally lead the investigations.

Just hours earlier, he had exuded confidence on the progress of the fake guns tender investigations, saying his team was building a watertight case and had covered significant ground.

DCI SUMMONS

What the DCI did not know was that he had just lost the one person who had the answers as to how Mr Echesa, the prime suspect in the tender saga, and his friends had accessed the DP’s office.

Telltale signs that something had gone grossly wrong in the investigation first came in the form of communication sent to the Nation from Dr Ruto’s office at about 3pm on Thursday.

“One of the security officers on duty on Thursday, February 13, when former Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and two foreigners visited the office of the Deputy President, and who was required to record a statement, among others, has not done so, and neither has he reported for duty since Wednesday, February 19, the day he was scheduled to appear before the DCI,” read the statement.

“A search for the officer has been launched. So far five security officers have recorded statements.”

Two officers had informed investigating officers from the DCI that they were unable to record statements as required on Wednesday.

Kenei was said to have claimed that he was not feeling well, while the second officer said his children were returning to school after the mid-term break and he was escorting them back.

It was after this that Kenei suddenly became unavailable on his mobile phone, until a neighbour on Thursday afternoon noticed a foul smell coming from the officer’s house and alerted the police.

GUN SOUND

By the time the police arrived later in the evening, neighbours had already accessed the house and discovered his body.

He was in his pyjamas when he died, a spent cartridge lying on the left side of his chest and a Jericho pistol on the floor.

No one had heard any commotion or gunshot from the house and there were no records to show that strangers had accessed the house in the past few days.

A woman and her two children lived in the main house on the same compound with the sergeant. They, too, did not hear anything suspicious.

To get to Kenei’s house, one has to pass through two manned gates. The first one is the main entry to Villa Franca Estate and the second is the gate to Twiga Court.

Security guards in these first two gates only ask visitors where they are going but do not note down their names or take details of the cars that pass through.

Without any records, anyone could have walked in, shot the sergeant, and left, but Kenei could also have killed himself, as the police initially said.

If he indeed killed himself, a gunshot from a Jericho pistol is louder than a tyre burst at close range.

PHONE RECORDS

This means neighbours would have heard something because the gun found beside the sergeant did not have a silencer.

And if someone had killed him at the scene, there would at least have been a scuffle, which, again, neighbours would have heard.

The odour associated with a dead body starts spreading after two or three days as a result of gas being expelled by the bacteria consuming the body.

Kenei is said to have claimed that he was unwell on Wednesday while neighbours said they caught a whiff of the foul smell from his house on Thursday.

Detectives were last evening working to unravel that puzzle. They will also rely on a ballistics test on residue found on the ceiling and the spent cartridge in order to see if they match with the gun.

The part of the ceiling with the bullet hole was removed Friday afternoon, even though the bullet also tore through the roof.

On top of that, detectives will also analyse the phone records of the sergeant in order to ascertain his final movements and the last people he talked to before he died.

In Nakuru, Kenei’s family also appealed to the DCI to expedite investigations into the officer’s death, even as a close confidant of the deceased recounted his last moments with him.

LAST MOMENTS

Kenei’s father, John Chesang, speaking at Chamasisi Village in Nakuru County, refuted claims that the officer had committed suicide.

“It is a great loss to me. I just want a thorough investigation into my son’s death. Kenei was my fourth child and I am sad we only received the news of his death through radio. We were not formally informed about his death yet he was a public servant,” he said.

“He was here on Friday to see off his son, who was joining Form One at Baringo High School. He stayed with the family for the weekend and left for Nairobi on Sunday. When he arrived, he called us and said he was fine and that he had arrived safely.

I did not see any signs of him being disturbed or worried. If there was anything bothering him, he would have told me, or I would have sensed it from his demeanour.”

The family spoke as one of Kenei’s close friends narrated his last moments with him, about the visit to Harambee House by Mr Echesa and other suspects moments before they were arrested.

“During the burial of retired President Daniel Moi last week, he told me that he would come to Nakuru but he did not manage to come the same day. However, the following morning, he came to Nakuru and we met at our usual joint as he claimed to be hungry,” he said.

NEWS OF SCANDAL

The confidant said another colleague joined them for lunch, and that as they chatted, there was a ‘Breaking News’ flash on TV on the arrests of people who had visited the Deputy President’s office.

“He moved closer to watch the news, and when he came back he informed us that the arrested people had visited the Annex before he left for Nakuru. He then called his colleague in Nairobi and enquired about what had happened.”

The confidant said Kenei told them that he had ushered Mr Echesa and his colleagues in to the Annex office after they requested to meet DP Ruto.

“He said the suspects asked him if the DP was in his office, but he told them that he wasn’t. The suspects then went to the waiting room, sat and waited for some minutes before leaving,” he said.

But on Sunday, after Kenei drove back to Nairobi, he called the friend at around 7pm and told him that things were getting out of hand.

“He said the Echesa issue was getting tough because he had been informed that some detectives were going to the office on Monday. I told him not to worry because that was going to be investigated and that he should say whatever he saw,” the friend, whom the Saturday Nation is not naming for security reasons, said.

“He said he would brief me on the outcome on Monday but didn’t, and I forgot to call him. When I tried to reach him on Tuesday, his phone was off,” said the confidant.