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Mystery killings: Tales of boda boda riders led to their deaths by conniving customers

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By Vincent Mabatuk | Aug 17th 2014 | 6 min read
Peter Kinyanjui at his bed at Valley Hospital in Nakuru town after he was attacked at Pipeline area by a gang which made away with his motorbike. [PHOTOS: BONIFACE THUKU/STANDARD]

NAKURU COUNTY: When a bakery proprietor in Nakuru County invested his profits on a new motorcycle for a taxi business, he never thought that his aspirations would lead him to his death. John Mwangi then closed his bakery so he could concentrate on the boda boda business.

So when a middle-aged man asked to be ferried to Kibanga Way near Lake Nakuru National Park on the night of July 19, Mwangi quickly started his motorbike as it meant more revenue. After all, the two-kilometre ride to Kenlands through Ponda Mali Market would earn him good money before he went back home to his family.

It was 11pm and his colleagues were envious, wishing the customer had picked them because at such hours, the charges are higher than they are during the day.

Back home, his wife Mary Wambui was getting worried. It was way past the time Mwangi usually got home. Her attempts to reach him on his mobile phone were futile. She had a restless sleep that night.

Unknown cartel

Then came the bad news: his lifeless body had been found abandoned on a deserted street with a long manila rope tied around his neck, feet and hands. His motor bike was missing.

“His attackers hit his head several times. They also tied his hands and legs behind him. The same rope had been used to strangle him,” a grieving Wambui told The Standard on Sunday.

At the family’s poorly lit single room at Rhonda, two-month-old Mary Wangari smiled at the mother, unaware that she would never be held by her father again. Wambui describes Mwangi as a hardworking and committed husband and father. He was the sole breadwinner and his murder had left her to raise their four children, the eldest of who is in class seven, on her own.

Jonathan Otemba was with Mwangi when he was led to his death. They shared the same stage and were friends. Otemba said Mwangi braved the pain from a leg injury he sustained in a road accident that left him with a broken leg six months earlier to provide for his family.

Sadly, Mwangi is only one of the many boda boda operators killed by a mysterious gang in Nakuru. According to Kenya Motorcycle and TukTuk Owners and Riders Association National Chairman Samson Nundu, more than 20 riders have been killed and 75 motor cycles stolen in the last five months in Nakuru town.

A cartel has been kidnapping boda boda operators in the town and its environs, stealing their motorcycles before killing them. The stolen motorbikes are mostly sold to unsuspecting buyers outside the county.

Operators who have fallen victim to the gang and lived to tell their story say members of the gang use young women and children to lure unsuspecting operators to their deaths. After identifying a motorcycle, a gangster poses as a customer and asks the operator to drop them at a specific place. As the passenger alights at the end of the journey, thugs pounce on the rider as he awaits his pay.

The operators say the gang targets operators at Hyrax Hills, Rhonda slums, Kaptembwo, Industrial area, Manyani, Pipeline and other deserted areas of the town.

Noah Kipkemoi, 33, invested Sh96,000 in a motorcycle and ventured into the boda boda business in Nakuru town. Unfortunately, he did not live to enjoy the fruits of his hard work. Just like Mwangi, he was killed last month as he dropped off a passenger.

“He was killed a year after he bought the motorbike. He had just serviced and bought new tyres for it. It was in very good condition,” recalls his wife Irene Jepkorir.

His body was found on August 1 strangled with a yellow manila rope. His wallet and phone were missing and another person’s ID card had been left next to his body.

Jepkorir says a friend at Kibanga area where his husband was killed called and told her about the body of an adult thought to have been murdered the previous night.

“From the description alone, my heart was certain something had gone wrong. I cried and locked myself in the house,” says the mother of three.

Kipkemboi’s father John Sambili wept as he narrated how his son left Molo Sirwe village in Baringo County in search for greener pastures. “An autopsy report reveals that he sustained injuries on both sides of the head and ribs. He had been strangled,” explained the father holding a rope as evidence.

Sambili says the police did not take the rope as part of their evidence even after visiting the crime scene. Survivors say the police are reluctant to arrest and interrogate  suspects.

In April, Stephen Kuria cheated death. He fought off four attackers, one of whom was a woman. The woman and a youg man who looked like her son approached him outside Tuskys Supermarket on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway. But on reaching industrial area, the woman pretended to have dropped her handbag and forced him to slow down, only for two men to emerge from nowhere.

“The woman immediately attempted to strangle me using my scarf, as the other two attackers pulled me over and started attacking me with crude weapons. They rode off with my motorbike,” he said, displaying three wounds the gang inflicted on his head.

Although he reported the incident at Nakuru’s central police station, no suspect has been arrested.

About 100 metres from Kinyanjui’s stage is Isaiah Maina, who was attacked as he was waiting for his “customer’s” wife to pay him outside his gate. Suddenly, two men emerged from a building under construction and attacked him, stealing his KMCL 203T motorcycle that cost him Sh94,000. “They took me to a lonely place atop the Hyrax Hill where they assaulted me before they tied my hands and legs together and placed a huge rock on my back as I faced down,” he said.

Peter Kinyanjui, a Boda Boda operator, was rushed to Nakuru Provincial hospital in May by police officers. His skull had been broken by thugs posing as customers. Doctors diagnosed him with a severe head injury with multiple fractured skull and damaged brain. The attackers made away with his motorbike.

“I have spent over Sh30,000 trying to trace my motorcycle in vain. I have even conducted my own investigations and I believe my motorcycle is operating within Narok County as a taxi. I think it has been modified,” says Joseph Omondi, another victim.

Unrealistic fare

Omondi says a prominent businessman could be behind the syndicate. The group, he says, operates garages and stores in Naivasha, Bomet, Narok, Gilgil and Eldoret towns where mechanics change the stolen motorcycle’s number plates. The gang seems to prefer new motorcycles as they are disposed off faster locally and in neighbouring counties. Nakuru County Police Commandant John Koki confirmed that there were several cases of motorcycle theft.

“It is time riders started to record details of their customers, especially at night. They should also be sensitive when customers offer them unrealistic fare to strange and insecure zones,” he told The Standard on Sunday.

Nundu says in July alone, six operators were murdered and their motorcycles stolen in Nakuru. Nobody has been brought to book and their motorcycles have never been recovered.

“The attackers change route midway by offering a higher fare getting most riders off guard, leading them to slaughter dens,” he said. Reliable sources told The Standard on Sunday the secluded area in Kibanga where Mwangi and Kipkemboi were killed is a well-known drug dent.

The murders have instilled fear on the operators. Every ride, they say, could be their last. “What do we do? Whichever way, we are damned. This job puts food on the table but our clients could just be our killers,” says Patrick Kinuthia, a bod boda operator.

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