Mystery of man who fell from the sky

Isaac Beti and family members.  The family denied the story ran by Sky News alleging their son fell from a Kenyan Airways flight preparing to land at Heathrow in London in June. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The family of a man said to have fallen out of a plane in London has denied reports that he was their son.

Isaac Beti was yesterday uneasy when talking about Paul Manyasi, identified in a Sky News report as the man who fell out a Kenya Airways plane flying over London on June 30.

Isaac is identified in the story as Isaac Manyasi, Paul’s father.

The report said the body of a man who plunged into the compound of a home along Offerton Road in South London was that of Paul Manyasi, 29, who worked as a cleaner at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi.

In the story, Isaac is reported saying Paul was his eldest son, but he and his wife Janet had not heard from him since the beginning of July. He said although Paul left home 10 years ago, they kept in touch via phone.

Yesterday when The Standard caught up with Isaac at his home in Makhabuye village, Malava Sub-County, Kakamega, he denied knowing anyone by the name Paul Manyasi, saying his son was called Cedric Shivonje.

Disowning surname

Isaac said he was unaware of the news doing the rounds on social media, or the bulletins on TV and radio on Paul’s death. After bringing him up to speed, Isaac started by disowning the surname Manyasi as used in the Sky News report.

“I still don’t believe that my son is dead or missing. I know him very well. A person can go for years without communicating or being in touch with his family, but that does not mean he is dead,” said the father of five.

Isaac said the last time he spoke to his son was July 2017, and their conversation ended in an argument after he pressed him to send money for school feels for his other siblings.

“I last spoke with him in July 2017. I did not have kind words for him, and he ended up disconnecting the call. I have not bothered to call him since, and neither has he called,” he said.

Brian, 18, corroborated his father’s statement, saying his brother, who he said is 25, has been an active member on Facebook. He said they had been chatting until mid-July this year under his brother’s Facebook user name, Mustapha Junior. The account was last updated on July 17.

With the news of the possible death of their kin trickling in, the family did not appear fazed. Janet Khakali, Isaac’s wife, exuded confidence that her son is alive - they just did not know of his whereabouts.

During the interview with Sky News, Janet was asked if she had contacted anyone about her eldest son going missing since July.

She replied: “I didn’t know where to start or where to end. I don’t know who to ask. Paul’s phone isn’t working.”

Yesterday, Isaac said the photos doing the rounds on social media of Paul were not of his son. He added that the latest information he had about his son was that he had been arrested and was being held at the Industrial Area prison in Nairobi.

“A relative of ours called me two days ago (Monday), saying he had seen someone like Cedric being hauled into a prison bus in handcuffs. He told me to go to prison and confirm if he was the one,” he told The Standard.

However, prison authorities yesterday denied having anyone in their records by the name of Cedric Shivonje.

Isaac said he had planned to travel to Nairobi this Tuesday to check on his relative’s claims, but his wife fell ill, so he had postponed the trip to Friday.

He additionally claimed that the Sky News reporter misrepresented the information he gave. Isaac said he told the journalist that the details presented to him were not for his son.

In the Sky News story, the reporter John Sparks recounted how he showed Isaac and Janet photographs of the stowaway’s things, which he had got from the Metropolitan police, and asked them if they looked familiar. 

He also showed them a computerised mock-up of what the police thought the victim looked like before he fell from the plane. Isaac and Janet said the picture resembled their son, but the skin colour was too dark. They, however, said they recognised his personal effects.

Yesterday, Isaac recounted the events of the day the Sky News team visited their home.

“The journalists drove into my compound and identified themselves as reporters at an international news agency. With them were pictures they wanted me to ascertain if they were of my son. They also had pictures of clothes, shoes and a bag, which they wanted me to confirm if they belonged to my son,” he said.

“The picture they had was not of my son, and I told them as much. In addition, they presented the name of Paul Manyasi, while my son is called Cedric Shivonje.”

 Private mission

When asked by The Standard team for a photo of their son Cedric, the couple produced a picture similar to the one published on the Sky News website and captioned Paul Manyasi.

Neighbours confirmed the Sky News team had visited the homestead, but said they did not know what the visit was about. One person we spoke to identified himself as Shivonje’s uncle, but declined to be named. He claimed the neighbours were attracted to the home by the presence of drones flying overhead.

When they sought to know who the visitors were, they were kept at a distance and told the visitors were on a private mission.

“We were not allowed near the home and we didn’t know what they talked about. Even the village elder was not allowed. After they left, we tried finding out what the visit was all about, but nothing was forthcoming and we ended up concluding that maybe Isaac wanted to sell his land, and the drones were doing a survey,” the uncle said.

Makhwabuye village elder Julius Beti said he was among the residents who were kept at bay when the team visited the family.

“When I was alerted to the presence of the visitors, I went to find out what they were up to. Two white men and two women who were speaking the local dialect (Kabras) told us they were agricultural extension officers and were out to do research on the farm,” he said.

“Upon further inquiry, the women told us that we should not get involved in another family’s issues. With that, we kept off but we went to the county lands office to enquire if our land was safe.”

Julius described Isaac’s eldest son as being a man of few words who did not interact with people much.

And as regards his alleged incarceration in Industrial Area, Shivonje’s uncle claimed to have spoken to his nephew and confirmed that he was taken to court on November 4. He, however, did not know the details of the offence he had been charged with.

“I have spoken with the boy through the phone in the presence of our assistant chief and county CID officers, and he confirmed he is in remand. He said he was at the Kibera Law Courts on November 4 over sex-related charges,” the man said, despite the Industrial Area prison denying reports they had a prisoner under the name of Cedric Shivonje.

County Director of Criminal Investigations Peter Kimulwa said he was not aware of any investigations.

“How do we investigate what happened in London?” he asked when reached on phone. A teacher at Tande High School, Judith Satia, said she remembers a student by the name Shivonje who cleared his secondary education in 2014. She did not remember much else about him.

A multi-agency team that was set up to investigate the identity of the stowaway passenger who fell to the ground from the landing gear of flight KQ100 yesterday said it is yet to complete the probe. The team said it was analysing the fingerprints of the victim, and that all staff and stakeholders who were on duty on June 30 have been accounted for.

“The multi-agency team conducting the investigation reviewed more than 1,000 hours of CCTV footage. No finding of intrusion or suspicious activity has been observed on the recordings,” an official said.

The team comprises officials from the police force, Kenya Airports Authority, Transport Ministry and National Intelligence Service.

In a statement released on Tuesday, KAA said it had conducted its own investigations and “the name Paul Manyasi does not appear in the JKIA staff register”.

[Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati and Paul Thoronjo]