A missing sharp shooter has been linked to a kidnap gang that extorted Sh4 million ransom from a prominent family to release an abducted girl.
Police say investigations had linked businessman Dafton Mwitiki, who went missing on March 11, to the gang of five that kidnapped the grandchild to the late politician Mark Too early this year.
She was taken hostage from their house in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa on January 13, and driven to Kisumu. Her kidnappers demanded a Sh20 million ransom to release the university student.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was reportedly informed about the incident and he ordered security agencies to help trace the child and ensure she was rescued safely.
However, before the police could move into action, some family members negotiated with the gang and paid Sh4 million. This was against police advice not to pay the ransom.
The ransom was reportedly dropped at a makeshift structure near Maseno University on January 17 by the girl’s relative. A masked man took the bag that had the cash stash into a waiting car and directed the one who had delivered the cash that they would find the girl once the car had left. The gang had warned against police involvement if they wanted the girl alive.
Once the car sped away, the relative saw the girl emerge from a short distance away. The girl and her relative then drove to Nairobi.
Police say investigations showed a mobile number used by the gang to communicate with the family was registered to Mwitiki. Even though no police officer wanted to talk on record, detectives privy to the case, and who spoke to The Standard, said the investigations had traced the clandestine mobile number to Mwitiki. The number was rarely used in communication with his close relatives.
The family of the politician refused to comment on the incident. Police believe the kidnappers had profiled the family before they struck.
Meanwhile, Mwitiki’s wife has taken possession of his car - a Land Rover Discovery - after getting a court order. She had gone to court to compel police to release Mwitiki’s car for her use, saying she was suffering.
Family and friends of Mwitiki want speedy investigation into his nearly two months of disappearance. Two days after he went missing, his car was found on Kimbo-Kiganjo road in Juja, Kiambu County. The probe into his disappearance is ongoing.
The 38-year-old father of two was reported missing at Kilimani after he failed to return home on the night of March 11.
A security officer of a coffee farm reported to Juja police that his security guards spotted the abandoned black vehicle at around 5am.
The vehicle was not locked and police recovered a driving license and a business card bearing the names of the missing man. The guards said they did not see who drove the vehicle to the coffee farm.
So far up to 15 people have recorded statements on Mwitiki’s disappearance. Preliminary findings show Mwitiki, who was a licensed firearms holder, a sharpshooter and well known in social circles, was last seen driving from his office off Galana road in Kilimani area, Nairobi.
CCTV footage showed a man driving out of Galana Plaza in the Land Rover before it vanished off the cameras on Thika road. Apart from establishing the identity of the man who was last seen driving the car, detectives are combing through Mwitiki’s mobile call logs for more clues. His phone was said to have lost signals around Thika Road Mall area while speeding towards Juja that night.
Mwitiki came into the national limelight during the dusitD2 Nairobi terrorist attack on January 15, last year when he was pictured at the scene alongside city politician Steve Mbogo. The two had big guns. Mwitiki was, however, a popular figure in shooting circles, having represented Kenya in the 2019 International Defensive Pistol Association Southern Nationals Shooting Competition in South Africa.
After the kidnap of Too’s granddaughter, police started to profile those believed to have taken part in the scheme. It was in February 27 that the same gang took hostage a Chinese businessman and demanded Sh100 million as ransom from his partners and family.
The Chinese was said to be a business partner of Mwitiki. According to investigations, the mobile phone line used in demanding ransom was also registered in Mwitiki’s name. If Mwitiki is found, detectives would want to question why a line registered to him has been used in criminal activities, whether he is an accomplice or it had been used without his knowledge.
During the rescue of the Chinese in Jamuhuri estate, four suspects, including a police officer, were killed. Police towed away a saloon car that was found in the compound.
The owner of the car went to Kabete police station and recorded a statement saying he had leased it to Mwitiki for use and produced documents to back the claims. The car is still lying at the station. The owner wants police to release it as he had proved ownership and its status then. But police say they cannot release it until Mwitiki is found to explain why a car he hired was found at the crime scene.
The Chinese, according to police reports, was kidnapped from his shop on February 27 by individuals impersonating officers from Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
Police are investigating whether Mwitiki may have led a double life; one as a doting father and humorous friend who loved to party, a man who never shied away from lending a helping hand to friends in need at any time.
“The other image is the opposite. A darker shade of the man. We believe he was one of the key leaders of a brutal, well organised kidnapping gang responsible for high caliber disappearances in and around the city. Many people had paid ransom for release of their kin,” a senior officer aware of the probe said.
Mwitiki’s family says he was not a criminal and want him traced.