Convicted killer policeman Titus Katitu sits in a corner block at Kamiti Maximum Prison famously referred to as ‘punishment block’.
This will be his home for a long time because the Appellate Court last Friday upheld his 15-year jail term.
Until the High Court imprisoned him for the killing of Kenneth Kimani in Githurai, Nairobi, the band leader was a revered crime buster.
The man, whose finger alternated between strumming the guitar and pulling the trigger, was jailed in 2018 and will now face the music for the extrajudicial killing.
Katitu was loved. He was a hero to the public for eliminating crime. Whenever he rested his gun, the benga musician struck guitar strings to win the hearts of many music lovers. He is now paying the price of killing Kimani on March 14, 2013, a man he claimed was a wanted criminal.
The block is not punishing as its name suggests. Instead, it is a place for crème-de-la-crème criminals, where they are pampered rather than chastised. They have cable news and self-contained rooms with modern toilets.
Katitu shares this block with self-confessed hitman Joseph Njuguna, who was allegedly hired by former Icaciri Secondary School headteacher Jane Muthoni to kill her husband Solomon Mwangi, and Francis Muruatetu who is now serving 35 years in jail after successfully petitioning the Supreme Court to outlaw mandatory death sentence.
Katitu is now the poster boy of an infamous phenomenon - the blue code of silence - addressed by Appeals Court Judges William Ouko, Fatuma Sichale and Sankale ole Kantai, and which is dogging the police across the world.
The code is an unwritten rule that police officers never provide information incriminating their colleagues and whenever one of them commits a crime, they close ranks in silence to cover up evidence in a collective effort to ensure the long arm of the law they enforce does not reach them.
Law unto themselves
The Kenya Police Service has provided a safe haven for officers who are the law unto themselves, effortlessly gunning down suspected thugs in disregard to established protocol. Katitu’s arrest fit this phenomenon perfectly.
The three Appeals court judges observed that when Kimani was killed at Githurai stage, there was an active attempt by the police to sweep the cause of the deceased’s death under the carpet and, in death, deny him and his family justice.
“This background is important in our consideration of this appeal because of the police in Kenya. As we shall demonstrate in this case as in others before it, the police, in certain circumstances, engaged in the practice of covering up for each other,” the judges observed.
The court found that the evidence was deliberately manipulated and improperly handled, while the scene of crime was not secured.
Of all the five bullets fired at the scene, not a single spent cartridge was recovered, except one that was lodged in Kimani’s body, and whose origin the prosecution treated as a mystery. The cartridge could not match a pistol that Katitu claimed to have been using.
An officer from the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) told the court that the firearms movement register was manipulated. In the case, out of 15 witnesses, there were police officers but none of them gave incriminating evidence.
Bid to save suspect
The Appeals court observed that the police were determined to maintain the blue code of silence in a bid to save Katitu. Curiously, two police officers, George Amori and one Amemba who were with Katitu on the day Kimani was shot, were never listed as witnesses by investigators.
“Indeed, it was only after the intervention by IPOA and other pressure groups that the appellant’s nearly two years of freedom was brought to an end,” the judges continued.
Katitu was a loved and revered cop for his crime-busting tactics. In fact, when he was arrested, a series of concerts were organised by those who believed in what he was doing to raise his bail cash.
When the concerts failed to hit the target, one of the city’s popular politicians stood in the gap. Nairobi County Governor Mike Sonko, then a senator, personally paid the bond.
While denying killing the victim, Katitu told the court he only responded to an alarm after a group of youths stole a mobile phone.
He claimed he shot thrice in the air while pursuing Kimani and when he got to him, he found he had been shot and the mobile phone was next to his body.
His two colleagues also discharged one bullet each from their guns. However, a firearm examiner stated that none of the cartridges were fired from the three guns.
“This is indeed a baffling conclusion as the three firearms issued to the appellant and his colleagues were also 9mm calibre pistols designed to chamber 9x19mm rounds of ammunition,” the judges said.