On a Thursday morning in June 2009, a little boy hugged his mother goodbye like he always did every school day.
11-year-old Brian left the house at 7.20am to wait for his school van at the bus stop. But instead of the school van, a white car screeched to a halt next to him.
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A short man jumped out of the car, grabbed him and forced him into the car. As the car sped off, they blindfolded him and covered his mouth with a piece of cloth. They then struggled to put him inside a sack.
The kidnappers, who were armed with a pistol and knife, had done their homework. One of them was a garbage collector, who was known to many people in the neighbourhood.
Eyewitnesses, who heard sounds of the car door closing and a child crying, thought that Brian had been knocked down by a car. By the time they arrived at the scene, the car had sped off and they could not read its registration number.
Minutes later, neighbours rushed to inform Maya, Brian’s mother, that her son had been abducted.
At first, Maya thought the kidnappers would release her son that same day. But that Thursday was the beginning of a four-day nightmare.
Security experts and law enforcement both concur that most kidnappings are inside jobs. They are planned by someone who is known to the family. Which is why, in the case of a kidnapping, investigators begin by questioning the persons who are nearest to the family, before they cast their net wide.
It later emerged that the plan to kidnap Brian was hatched by Juma Omar Mumba. He was a garbage collector who, ostensibly, wanted to go from trash to riches in a matter of days.
Because of his garbage-collection job, which took him from door-to-door, Mumba was known in Nyali. What Nyali residents did not know was that Mumba had a deadly side hustle.
When the kidnappers arrived in the hideout, they put Brian in the toilet and asked him for his parents’ phone numbers. Brian stayed in the toilet the whole day until he fell sick.
A shaken Maya rushed to the police station in Nyali. And it was here that she received the first phone call from the kidnappers. She got to spoke to Jamal, but the kidnappers snatched the phone before they finished talking. They told Maya that her son would be returned after the parents coughed up a ransom of Sh10 million.
ANATOMY OF KIDNAPPERS
Sometimes, living in a certain neighbourhood, having a perceived social class or trappings like cars can make potential kidnappers think that their prey is filthy rich.
Kidnapping is typically not a one-man job. It involves a group of people, or “moving parts”. All these parts must work in sync to ensure that the kidnappers achieve their goal. One weak link almost always leads to a catastrophic collapse of the plan.
One such link involved in the kidnap of Jamal had two cousins. They are women who later claimed that they were roped in on the crime by accident.
VICTIMS OR VILLAINS?
When cousins Nelly and Eva Kirimi spoke to Dennis Onsarigo in 2012 for his crime and investigative programme, Case Files, the pair claimed that they were victims of circumstance.
“That day Mumba came as usual to pick up trash and I told him that it was outside,” Nelly said.
“He left and came back after five minutes. He said that I had not given him the previous month’s payment for garbage collection and that I had a visitor at the gate.”
Nelly told Onsarigo that that was when she met the Mumba’s accomplice, Rangi. She alleged that Rangi approached her with a deal which at first she thought was genuine, but only came to learn the real intention days later.
“He told me that there was a child he had been looking for and had finally found, and he needed a place for the boy to stay for a few days. He then said he would pay for the inconvenience,” Nelly said.
And so, the two men came later with a child in a gunny bag.
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“Seeing my hesitation at the sight of the child in a bag, he said that I couldn’t back out.”
Sh10 million was what they had asked for, but on realising that it may be too much, they reduced it to Sh2 million.
Brian’s family was directed to a place in Nyali where the kidnappers were to meet them for the ransom. Back at Nelly and Eva’s house, trouble was brewing. Brian had gotten a glimpse of the kidnappers, and he recognised Rangi. Even called him out by name.
“Rangi was enraged and said that his only option was kill the child because he would identify him as one of the kidnappers,” Nelly told Onsarigo.
And thus, Nelly claimed that she and Eva hatched a plot to rescue Brian. The court did not buy her story, though.
“We didn’t tell Rangi that we didn’t agree with him. There was a third man in the crime, and he also didn’t agree with Rangi about murdering the child,” Eva said.
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“We decided that when Rangi and Mumba left the house, we would return the child to his parents.”
However, this wasn’t to be as Rangi and Mumba decided that this was the day to pick up the ransom. The plan was for Eva and Nelly to pick up an ATM card and they would withdraw the money.
But their 40 days were up, because as soon as they got to the mall, they were surrounded by police.
Brian was soon reunited with his parents and after two years in custody, Nelly, Eva, Crispus, Mumba and Irene stood trial. Two of them were set free. Nelly, Eva and Mumba were each sentenced to five years in prison.
Those who live by the gun die by the gun. Rangi, the ringleader, was allegedly gunned down by the police in a shootout.