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Scoring As in high school could not keep them out of crime

 Charles Mwangi Murakaru, Halford Munene Murakaru and Julius Ndung’u Wainaina at a Thika [Photo: Kamau Maichuhie/Standard]

Two brothers made it to the headlines this week - for all the wrong reasons.

Halford Munene Murakaru, 32, his brother Charles Mwangi Murakaru, 30, are prime suspects in one of the most peculiar robberies in Kenyan history.

The three are suspected of digging a 30-metre tunnel into the Kenya Commercial Bank, Thika branch, and making away with Sh52 million with no shots fired.

The two have denied the charges.

While the robbery caught the attention of the nation for its sheer daring, it is the suspects' academic qualifications that have created a buzz across the country.

Mr Munene is an electrical and electronics engineering graduate while his brother, Mr Mwangi has a degree in agricultural engineering.

The Standard traced the suspects' home to Karura village, Mathira, to find out if indeed their qualifications are genuine. It turned out that the two brothers had built a reputation in the village long before they appeared in court on Monday.

The two are easily the brightest people in the village.

Karura, where the two brothers grew up, is a sleepy village in Mathira constituency, where scores of young men join the boda boda taxi business to make ends and most women spend their days tilling farms.

But since last week, news of the charges facing two of the village's brightest sons has dominated conversations albeit in hushed tones.

School records

According to school records, Mwangi was the best in his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) class of 2002 at Karura Primary school with 409 marks out of a possible 500 - a school record that is yet to be broken. 

He repeated Standard Eight after scoring 397 marks in the 2001 KCPE examination and earning admission to Karima Boys High School.

“He was so upset with his performance that he decided to repeat the class. He scored 409 marks and was admitted to Nyeri High School,” said his mother, Esther Nyaguthii.

The two brothers, she said, had a passion for reading and were inseparable introverts who preferred staying indoors to read instead of going out to play with other children.

“They came home and studied together; they read anything they could find in the house and kept each other company,” said Ms Nyaguthii.

“People often asked me if they were twins because they did everything together, including walking to and from school," she recounted.

And when Munene read his way to Nyeri High School in 2000, Mwangi was determined to follow him to the prestigious school, which he did in 2003.

According to their mother, getting them through high school was not easy. The two were frequently out of school for lack of fees.

“When Mwangi was admitted to Nyeri High I was worried because I did not have the money. I decided to sell our only cow and then borrow from neighbours and friends,” she said.

Whenever her sons were sent home for school fees, their mother would walk 40km from the village to the school to plead for them to be readmitted.

“It was a struggle, walking for close to six hours, but my boys were very intelligent and I knew I had to give them the best education possible,” the mother of four says.

At Nyeri High School, Mwangi is described as "an amiable and respectful and industrious boy who is very intelligent".

School principal James Maina said he was not at the helm at the time the boys were students there.

The only indiscipline incident was when he was punished for making noise in class. For punishment, he had to complete prep time outside the staffroom.

Mwangi graduated from high school in 2007, scoring straight As in all subjects, and proceeded to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology to study agricultural engineering.

Impressive grades

His brother Munene had graduated from Nyeri High a year earlier with equally impressive grades and joined the University of Nairobi to study electrical and electronics engineering.

“Both of them are very bright," said their mother, adding that the the third suspect, Julius Ndungu Wainaina, 30, is not related to her, and that media reports on where they lived may have been wrong.

“I don’t have a nephew by that name, and my sons live in Nairobi County, not Kiambu. Even when I visited them, I travelled to their homes in Nairobi,” she said.

Until their arrest, the two led quiet lives.

On the crime they have been charged with, their mother says it is all up to them and the courts.

“They are adults and as a mother, I can only do my part and hope they do the right thing,” she said.

Nyaguthii said Mwangi last visited her on Mother’s Day this year, and that the two called her regularly.

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