Crime of our time: Did they really bury Wacucu’s body?

By Amos Kareithi

He thrived on controversy for 29 years before a police bullet brutally crashed his career. But even in death, controversy still dogs the notorious gangster.

Serah Nyokabi Kanagi the mother to slain gangster, Anthony Ngugi Kanagi (Inset) lays a wreath at his grave during his burial. [PHOTO:FILE/STANDARD]

For more than 10 years, Anthony Ngugi Kanagi also known as Wacucu, taunted the police as he terrorised Kenyans.

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These exploits earned him a place among Kenya’s three most wanted gangsters of his time with a Sh100,000 price tag on their heads.

His accomplices in crime, Gerald Wambugu Munyeria alias Wanugu and Bernard Matheri alias Rasta, also had a similar price tag on their heads.

The former matatu driver turned mechanic and Karate tutor at Kariokor Social Hall was gunned down on January 4, 1996, in Ongata Rongai. He was the first of the three gangsters to be felled.

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At the time of his death, Wacucu was in the company of Wanugu. They were cornered by police and sprayed with bullets. Wanugu was forced to snatch a gun from a dying Wacucu, as he escaped from the scene.

At his mother’s homestead, there is no reminder of the gangster except for his unkempt grave.

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His wife, who had mothered his only child, a son, no longer lives in this compound.

She was allegedly taken back by her parents who wanted to severe ties with Wacucu’s family.

When Wacucu died, his mother, Serah Nyokabi Kanagi kicked off a controversy that has since refused to die.

A decade after his death, the family is still unsure that it buried the right man.

His family voiced their doubts about the true identity of the body of the slain gangster.

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However, they were silenced by the police who wanted the gangster interred hurriedly.

Relatives are unsure whether it is truly the remains of Malachi Ngugi Kanagi, which are buried in Kiranga village, Kandara.

The grieving mother contradicted the police by telling the world that her son was baptised Malachi Ngugi Kanagi and not Anthony Ngugi Kanagi. But she was quickly silenced by the then police spokesperson, Peter Kimanthi.

When asked about the contradiction in the names in 1996, Kimanthi replied that gangsters were known to use many names adding that that was not an issue.

Kamau told CCI: "When we went to collect Wacucu’s body at the City Mortuary, there was a heavy presence of police. We were not too keen to view the body for fear of being intimidated."

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"My brother, Kanagi Kamau had died and we were all depending on Nyokabi to identify the deceased as her elder son, Samuel Kimamira Kanagi had been arrested as soon as his brother Samuel Kimamira was killed, " Kamau explains.

Wrong body

There have been whispers in the family that it is possible the police coerced them into burying the wrong body.

"It is true Nyokabi identified Wacucu’s body at the City Mortuary before the burial. But you must understand she was under duress," a relative confided to CCI.

Some relatives intimate that after the burial, the mother expressed doubts because the body she had been given was darker and taller than that of her son.

The body, the relatives further recall, lacked the warts just next to the two small fingers.

"There were no tears. Relatives were unwilling to be photographed as hawk eyed police were lurking in the maize fields, scouting for sympathisers or any of Wacucu’s accomplices," Kimamira says.

According to the then Police Commissioner Mr Shedrack Kiruki, Wacucu was alleged to have killed two GSU officers and a KBC driver along Outering Road in 1993.

He was also wanted for the murder of a CID officer along Limuru-Nairobi Road in mid 1995. He had also allegedly killed two women in August 1995 in Ruiru.

Besides the murders, he was also wanted for a series of violent robberies and bank heists.

In life, Wacucu was many things to different people. His relatives and age mates remember him for his generosity and heroic antics.

"One day, he was drinking in a bar in Muruka centre, Maragwa District when two drunk police officers misbehaved. He tactfully disarmed them, handcuffed them and took their gun to Kandara Police Station," his uncle, Moses Kamau says.

This was strange for a man the police had described as a dangerous criminal.

His name is still reverently mentioned in his home village of Kiranga. Any stranger asking directions to Wacucu’s home is viewed with suspicion and hostility.

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