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Home / Lady Speak

How my love sent me to jail

 It's love and crime on same pate
  • When R Kelly, one of the best R&B legends sung that when a woman loves she loves for real, he must have done his research.
  • Yes, women fall in love for real. Love is an adventure that could have a happy or an unhappy ending. LUCY MARONCHA chats with one woman who found love behind bars only that the same love landed her in jail.

 

I should have, I wouldn't have, and I wish I had- were not of any help now.

I was a criminal thanks to the man I had sacrificed my job, my family and even my self-respect for. "Criminals don't change! You should have put that in your little head before committing yourself," I was told as I was being handcuffed and led to the police station.

I have not always been a criminal. My single mother brought me up as a God-fearing child. I studied in a Christian school, chaired the Christian Union in high school and all through the university I was a role model.

But my life took a turn when I met this man who became my trainer and partner in crime, robbing me of my Christian and moral virtues. Under his "mentorship" the calm Christian girl was replaced by one who knew how to engage in physical fights and do drugs.

Today was not the first time I was arrested. Since I met this man over seven years ago, I have abused drugs and I have been beaten up and thrown in police cells. But the most painful bit is that , I have been separated from my family. My lawyer is always alert because he knows a month can't go by without me calling him to bail me out.

Memories of how I met him are vivid.

The prison ground was packed yet silent; every convict drawn to their own thoughts. I spoke on: ".....HIV is a viral infection and not a moral issue...."

He shyly kept smiling and nodding at every point I made. A born-again Christian, I had allocated the last Thursday of every month to encourage capital offenders and to bring hope especially to convicts living with HIV. He was in this group. He had innocent - or so they looked - shy eyes and was very handsome.

We never spoke to each other outside my sessions but our eyes did: "I can't bear to see you leaving," his eyes would plead and mine would respond: "I can't bear leaving you here."

Fantasies and a longing for the Thursday became the norm. I was not only in love but also obsessed. In my dreams, I would assure him I would do anything within my ability to have him free. I would tell him how I loved him and would protect him with my own life. He would then assure me that it was all a mistake and he had never been a criminal. But all this was fantasy!

I had to put an end to this day-dreaming. Before I knew it, I had started fighting with my boss because i was not performing my duties well and I was also not meeting deadlines.

The only way to bring back my old self was by confronting this matter head-on. He would answer all the questions racing in my mind. I gathered courage and confronted the warder who was in charge of counselling. Coincidentally, my man had also requested to have a private session with me and I accepted without hesitation. That's the day my life somersaulted.

His name is Ali*. He was facing a death penalty having been a gangster for as long as he could remember. Bank robberies, killings, rape...I was agape as I listened. He had been in and out of prison more than he had been in school.

"But I am now a changed man", he concluded. He confided that he may have contracted HIV from the many women he had raped. Soon we were good friends. This was followed by several personal visits and i I even smuggled in a phone for him and we would talk through the night. My Christian virtues were slowly being compromised.

I grew to trust him. I wanted to bring change in his life. Little did I know that he'd be the one to change me. He had mentioned that he still stood a chance to freedom if he appealed against the judgement. This was my chance to prove my love to him. He never asked me for money and neither did he attempt to ask for any help with his appeal.

He just mentioned it. Many are the nights I turned and tossed in bed, toying with the idea of surprising him with the best criminal lawyer in Kenya. And I sure did.

The case would take several months and cost me a lot in terms of time, emotions and finances. In fact, I had to take a Sacco loan.

The case in the Court of Appeal brought us closer. I followed every step of it and I would assure him that it was just a matter of time and we would live together as a discordant couple. He adored me and even the prison warders allowed us to meet as often as we wanted. Seemingly, they also supported our love.

Soon came the day of judgement. As he was ushered in, he winked at me. Our lawyer was calm, so sure he had done a good job. As I would later learn, he had dedicated his work more to my love for this man which he said can only be seen in soap operas than to the heavy fees I was paying him.

Ali showed no anxiety or emotions; he had been through so many of these High Court cases. He looked more handsome than ever as he listened attentively to the proceedings.

And the verdict came: he was acquitted! I don't know why I cried for more than 30 minutes. I knew that in three days time, we would, hand in hand, walk out of the prison gates. This time, for good! I threw a welcome party for him in my house where I invited my workmates, friends and our relatives.

We narrated our love story to anyone who cared to listen. This would henceforth be his house. His elder sister however cautioned me that this wasn't the first party thrown for him. "Criminals don't change," she said.

Since Ali hadn't gone beyond high school, I enrolled him for HIV Voluntary Counselling and Testing training so he could earn a living. He embraced the idea and soon he got trained and started practising. Though he wasn't earning a lot of money, we started living extravagantly as soon as he got his first job. We bought expensive clothes and we would go to expensive hotels.

He was especially particular about the wardrobe. I would later learn criminals dress very smartly to cover up any suspicion. Since I was always late or absent, I lost my job. This wasn't a big deal though for the two of us. I had enough savings, thanks to him, though he himself never had a bank account.

We moved to a costly neighbourhood and he bought expensive furniture. I don't know if it was love or foolishness that stopped me from asking his source of income.

But Ali remained and has always been a good partner. When the hospital where he was working was raided by armed robbers and all fingers were pointing at him, I defended him.

He was suspended from work but that didn't seem to bother him. He had always said he was more into business than employment. When he came home with jewellery and expensive phones and asked me to hide them, I always did without asking any questions.

One day, I had accompanied Ali to take his medication and the lady sitting next to him was talking on an expensive phone and her handbag was on the bench. When she put the phone inside the equally expensive bag, Ali sent me a text message. "I will engage the lady as you take the handbag and walk to the washrooms!"

This sounded like a command. I didn't hear what he asked her but I remember them talking. I took the bag as if it were mine and walked to the washrooms.

"Empty it, leave it there and go straight to the gate" another text message. I obeyed. I found him waiting for me in a cab at the gate. Of course he had sent a text to the taxi driver. The bag had Sh10,000 in cash and other valuables.

"See how simple it is to be rich," Ali told me as we celebrated my recruitment. And that's how I was ushered into crime.

However, not all days were simple, sometimes I would be caught and roughed up and other days I would be arrested but all this hardened me. In fact, I seemed to be enjoying the commotion of running from the police, distracting attendants in big shops so Ali and his friends could stage a robbery and of course enjoying the loot.

"Have you ever thought of being a millionaire overnight," Ali asked me one morning. The glitter in his face told me something big was underway.

"Dress expensively as usual and distract the guards at the entrance of the bank I will tell you. Leave the rest to me," he explained. This deal scared me because I sensed it would be a battle with the police.

Other times, Indian shopkeepers would be easily scared. The plan was that I would run to a get-away car and head to a restaurant out of town when the commotion started. I went and engaged the guards in a conversation and they were momentarily distracted. Suddenly, I heard gunshots, and people were screaming. Someone pulled me from behind and pinned me down. I heard a familiar voice from a distance. "It has gone bad!" That's when I realised that we all had been caught.

I saw a handcuffed Ali looking dangerously at the gathering crowd. Two of his friends lay dead but the get-away driver had escaped.

Like the biblical blind man, my eyes were opened and I exclaimed: "See what you got me into!"

"Criminals don't change, you should have put that in your little head before committing yourself," he calmly said as handcuffs clicked.

The loud sirens attracted curious onlookers as we were all whisked to the police station.

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