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How a chilling confession, distress note and cigarette gave away Kimani killers

The accused Fredrik Lelliman, Stephen Morogo, Sylvia Wanjohi, Leornard Mwangi and Peter Ngugi during the rulling of willy Kimani's murder case on July 22 2022. [Esther Jeruto, standard]

From their abduction to a holding area in a police station, then to the elimination scene and a dumping site, the murder plot of lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri seemed perfect until it caved in.

Mobile phone calls, a tissue paper note by Kimani, two cans of Shark drink, an empty can of Redbull, an empty bottle of Dasani water, a cigarette butt and human waste crumbled the heinous plot hatched by police officer Fredrick Leliman, carried out by him, colleague Stephen Cheburet and police informer Peter Ngugi.

On Friday, another officer, Sylvia Wanjiku, was also netted for failing to record the victims’ details when they were brought to Syokimau Police Post on the occurrence book. Justice Jessie Lesiit found that she played a part by failing to report her colleagues. Their other colleague Leonard Mwangi was acquitted.

The killing area was a secluded farm in Mlolongo in an area called Soweto. The court heard that this nine-acre land with tall grass belonged to a man called Njoroge and his wife Agnes Wanyua. 

Note on tissue paper

The court heard that when Leliman locked the three at Syokimau Police Station on June 23, 2016, lawyer Kimani wrote a note on a tissue paper requesting passersby to call his wife and inform her that they had been locked up.

He wrapped the tissue to a socket which was lying in the holding area and threw it out. A boda boda rider saw the same, read its content and called his wife. Kimani’s wife thought it might be a con and disregarded the same.

At the same time, the rider threw away the socket plus the tissue. Later in the evening, when Kimani failed to show up to his house, his wife informed his employer about the call.

The lead investigator of the 2016 murder Chief Inspector Robert Owino told the court that he managed to trace the rider who took him to the place he had disposed the socket and the tissue paper. The tissue was take for analysis and it was discovered that it was Kimani’s handwriting.

“On June 27, 2016, we received a report from the document examiner that the note was written by late Willie Kimani which confirmed that they were confined in a fabricated container. The note had indicated that the three had been detained at the AP Camp and they were asking for assistance as they feared their lives were in danger,” said Owino. It was then that they moved to Syokimau and asked Cheburet and Wanjiku whether the three were in that station and whether they had been booked in the occurrence book. The witness told the court that they two denied and that was why he decided they should be charged.

The officer traced the deceased’s mobile phones which led him to Kwa Mbira in Limuru where Ngugi had dumped Muiruri’s car. It is from the mobile phones that Leliman was netted.

According to Owino, he interrogated Leliman on July 1, 2016 and he gave inconsistent information on his whereabouts on the day Kimani went missing. The officer explained that since Leliman was the team leader of Mlolongo’s undercover police team, they decided to investigate the other officers who worked with him. He said Mwangi was singled out as a person of interest.

Meanwhile, two bodies were found at Ol Donyo Sabuk the same day and were brought to City Mortuary. He said the two were Kimani and Muiruri. He said investigators were told that another body belonging to Mwenda was also found and retrieved. The last person to be arrested was Ngugi on August 8, 2016. According to the officer, Ngugi immediately volunteered to spill beans. Ngugi narrated how the three were kept waiting in handcuffs inside a Nissan Wingroad car boot for three hours while his killers debated on whether to execute or release them.

Details on how a plan was hatched and disagreement between the killers were in a statement by Ngugi, a hawker who doubled as a police informer.

According to the statement, the plot was to eliminate Mwenda, a boda boda rider, as he had previously been shot by an Administration Police officer Leliman, charged with murder alongside Ngugi.

Kimani killers - Leliman, a sergeant Kamenju and Ngugi arrived at the death site along Mombasa Roard from Syokimau Police post at around 7pm.

It is then the four started agonising on whether to execute their victims or just release them. According to Ngugi, he and Mwangi were against killing the three citing their detention at Syokimau as a loophole as Leliman and Kamenju insisted on closing their month-long plot by killing them.

Waiting with a rope

Mwenda, the court heard, was the first to be eliminated at 10pm. Ngugi’s task was to guard the three, hand them to Mwangi who would in turn lead them to the killing spot where Leliman and Kamenju were waiting with a rope and a polythene bag.

“In the bush, we started to disagree on how to execute the victims. Myself and sergeant Mwangi were of the view that we had already exposed ourselves the moment the victims were placed in custody and we thought that the best thing was to release them. Sergeant Leliman insisted they must be killed. We belabored on the issue for three hours,” Ngugi’s confession read. Mwenda, described in the statement ‘as the short man,’ was strangled to death and his body was put in a sack and dumped in a boot of an NZE car which belonged to Kamenju. The second person was killed at 11pm at the same spot where Mwendwa was executed. Since he was tall, the court heard, two sacks were fit - one from his feet and the other from his head and were tied in the middle with a rope. He was, however, placed in Leliman’s vehicle.

The last person was suffocated - strangled to death and was equally placed inside a sack and put in Leliman’s Wingroad. Then, Mwendwa’s body was removed and also placed in the same car.

The reason to have Mwenda killed was that he was pursuing Leliman’s sack before the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA). However, there was a criminal case lodged against Mwendwa at Mavoko law Courts which was coming up on June 23, 2016. This is the date that was set to abduct and kill the three. Ngugi and Leliman were not known to each other. Fate happens that Ngugi was a friend to Mlolongo OCS named as Mr Leleli who he knew from Kabete Police Station. According to Ngugi, he was previously working as a boda boda operator at Muhuri Road at Dagoreti in Nairobi.

Sometime in 2011, he said, Lelei approached him with an allegation that he was ferrying thugs with his bike. What followed was harassment by Lelei’s juniors as he did not also have a motor cycle license.

Spilled the beans

Justice Jessie Lesiit heard that this led to Ngugi going to personally see Lelei, and he spilled beans on the thugs he knew at the area.

Lelei’s and Ngugi’s friendship grew in leaps and bounds such that when he was transferred to Busia, they kept in touch, though as not often as they used to do.

Fast forward to 2016, Lelei again came closer to Ngugi, this time at Mulolongo. He invited Ngugi to come visit his new station and introduced him to a three civilian clothed police team known in police circles as spiv. This is how he came to now Leliman. One month to the criminal case, in May 2016, Leliman approached Ngugi with an issue which was agonizing him. He told Ngugi that he had shot a boda boda thug who was now pursuing him in a bid to have him sacked and jailed. He never explained what was the plan, instead he requested Ngugi to sleep over it.

They did not talk until the last week of May when Leliman called again and this time he requested that they should meet at Connection’s Bar, at Mlolongo. It is then he explained his story, noting that Mwenda was being assisted by IPOA and that the criminal case was coming on June 23, 2016.

They agreed to again meet on June 22, 2019 and this time they met at Mlolongo police canteen.  Leliman tasked Ngugi to trail Mwenda’s movements the following day, from the court and gave him a new mobile phone which they would communicate. On the death day, Mwendwa left his house at Waithaka in Nairobi at 5.30am. He arrived at Mlolongo two hours later, at about 7.30am.

Meanwhile, he met Leliman on the road. He was driving the Wingroad, white in color which had a KBF registration. At the back seat was a lady who Ngugi described as ‘one with well built hips’ and either from Luhya or Luo land. This lady was to point to him the target.

He was given Sh2,000 which he was to share with the lady. On June 22, Leliman had also given him another Sh2,000. After the lady showed him Mwendwa, she left and he has never seen her. He waited for the court session to end. At around 11am, Kimani and Mwenda joined Muiruri in a waiting car. Ngugi immediately alerted Leliman who was in turn ready to waylay them.

Ngugi boarded Leliman’s car which also had Mwangi inside and they caught up with Muiruri’s vehicle at the Railway’s crossing.

Mwangi ordered the three to get into the Wingroad while Ngugi steered away their car. The plan was to dispose off the car. He explained that it had been agreed that the victim’s car would be taken to Meru.

However, there was change of plan as it happened that the taxi had been hired and was operating from Zimmerman. The three were taken to Syokimau Police Station.

Justice Lesiit heard that there were five mobile phones in Muiruri’s car which kept ringing. Ngugi switched off four and threw them all away at Kwa Mbira, Kiambu.

At 5pm, he again met Leliman and Mwangi at Connections Bar. In between their talk, an officer from Syokimau called Leliman alerting him that one of the three had called his wife. “We were shocked,” claimed Ngugi who said the call prompted them to head to the station where they met with Kamenju.

Leliman took keys to the cells where the three were. He told them to enter the Wingroad’s boot and Mwangi handcuffed them from the back. They then headed to the bush where they executed them.

After killing, the two vehicles headed to Ol Donyo Sabuk where the bodied were thrown into a river. It is Kamenju who led the team there as he had allegedly worked at the area before. The killer team went back to Mlolongo where they arrived at 4am. They had supper at an Asian hotel. Leliman drove off 30 minutes later. Then, Mwangi followed on foot while Kamenju left at around 6am.

Ngugi drunk himself to sleep until 4pm of June 24, 2016. Two days later, he went to see his friend Lelei. The OCS, he said, suspected nothing.