When he finally walked out of Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, Rasesh Shah Chhotalal was full of excitement. He fancied the good life he was accustomed to prior to his imprisonment. But before he could figure out what outside life had in store for him, Rasesh thought it was not a bad idea celebrating his freedom by going to the coast to unwind.A few friends who eventually deserted him, agreed to foot the expenses.
“I just want to go and enjoy myself until January when I will return to Nairobi and ponder over what to do next while at the same time mending fences with my close relatives,” Rasesh told this writer a few days after earning his freedom on October 10, 2021. The scion of a fairly rich family, Rasesh was jailed for murdering his father Chhotatal Amratlal Shah and stepmother Hemlata Chhotalal Shah on July 5, 2008 at their Gitathuru Gardens home off Peponi Road.
Their mutilated bodies were dumped in their bedrooms, and investigators successfully put Rasesh, then aged 28 years, at the scene of crime. A year later, he was sentenced to death.
“My hands are tied. I know of no other sentence except death which is provided for under sections 203 and 204 of the Penal Code,” ruled Lady Justice Jessie Lesiit.And with the judgment, the world came tumbling down on Rasesh. The man who had barely settled in marriage, convinced himself it was pointless living and as a result, got hooked to “drugs and conning” in order to adapt and survive prison life.
At the time he murdered his parents, Rasesh, the only son, was barely one year into marriage. He blames his stepmother, Hemlata, for the heinous crime.“She was against my marriage from the onset and never got well with my wife,” Rasesh says during the interview at his one-bedroom house in Ruaka where the only notable valuables are a bed, table and two side chairs.
I blame my step-mother
"So I got into confrontation with her and one thing led to the other, and that’s how I found myself in prison. I regret what happened; I was pushed to the wall. My wife and I needed freedom but my parents couldn’t allow us to live our way and away from them,” says the 41-year-old who initially thought with freedom, his old good soft life will come back.He was wrong. Rasesh leads a lonely hands-to-mouth life, a contrast to the picture he had in mind when the prison gate was opened, releasing him to freedom.
“The only privilege out here is freedom, otherwise what I’m experiencing is not different from prison life,” says Rasesh who considers himself an outcast ostracised by family and the larger Indian community.
“Would I be living here had my relatives and community accepted be back?” he poses before taking a long gaze at the ceiling board, lost in thought.Describing his father as a wealthy man, Rasesh had expected that once out, the family would help him to pick up the pieces and start afresh. The man of dual Kenyan-British citizenship had looked forward to securing a job and remarrying.
“It was all but a dream; I am a pauper living in squalor yet my father bequeathed on me 25 per cent of his wealth,” says Rasesh, whose wife left following the murder incident. The father was the proprietor of Amratal Hardware Stores along Kirinyaga Road where the young man worked between 1999 and 2007 earning a monthly salary of Sh60,000 before being thrown into prison.
Rasesh, who pursued a computer engineering course in the UK, was eventually made a partner in the business. He believes he is entitled to gratuity by virtue of being a co-owner in his father’s business that is still running.
“I have not signed any document selling my shareholding. I was an employee before being made partner and the law says that I am entitled to gratuity,” he states.Last year, through a cousin, Rasesh got a job at a charity home in Kasarani where he worked for four months before allegedly being dismissed after administration discovered he had a criminal record.
“I worked for the missionaries doing odd jobs of cleaning mentally deranged people and feeding them. A job that was given to me to punish me even more, as if having spent 14 years in prison was not enough punishment,” says Rasesh.Even though his blood sister steps in to assist Rasesh, the ex-murder convict feels the support is not enough. He wishes to lead his former life before going to prison where he undertook a diploma in law.
He claims his valuables including some cash and gold were taken from his room when he was arrested, adding: “We lost our mother in 1993 and as far as I am aware, she left all her valuables to be shared between my sister and me.”
Thoughts of selling one of his kidneys often cross his mind. “Though I committed a crime, which I was punished for; I don’t deserve to suffer after earning freedom. Life is tempting to the extent I have tried selling one of my kidneys in order to get finances,” says Rasesh.
Were he in a position to afford an air ticket, the man could have flown to Britain where he believes there are better support systems for ex-convicts than in Kenya.While in prison, Rasesh claims he was discriminated due to his skin colour. And to overcome the discrimination, he had to devise ways of survival including giving bribes to some of the warders and wardresses.
“Life is relatively comfortable inside there (prison) especially if you have money and a mobile phone. Fortunately, I had both courtesy of friends,” says Rasesh whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2018.
This is after he appealed and was given a 20-year jail term. The following year, Rasesh successfully sought from court resentencing, earning freedom two years later.“Since my release I have been living the life of a pauper. My sister has been paying my rent and giving me a stipend to survive on but it is simply not enough. I need help yet I’m in a dilemma. People here in Ruaka think I am a vagabond, on the other hand, the Indian community does not want me,” cries out Rasesh.