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When Indian officers called the shots at Central Police

By Hudson Gumbihi | November 25th 2021

Central Police Station, February 1962. [File, Standard]

Not all Europeans who arrived in Kenya in the 1900s were economically stable. Some were penniless and ended up engaging in criminal activities.

Many are the times when police applied the Distressed British Subjects’ Act, commonly referred to as DBS, to deal with such individuals, mainly from South Africa.

The lawbreakers were arrested and taken to court. Those who failed to convince the judge about their financial status or past record were committed to prison for six months, followed by deportation.

They served their term at Fort Jesus Prison in Mombasa where they were paid for work done. On their release, they were placed on board a steamer to Bombay in India. The cost of travel was deducted from their earnings in prison.

There was, however, one interesting love-triangle case that came to the attention of the police, according to Robert Foran, a former officer in charge of Kingsway Police Station, now Central Police Station.

A burly Dutchman walked to the station and reported to one Inspector Rayne that his close friend with whom they shared a mud-and-wattle house within Parklands area, was committing adultery with his wife.

Inspector Rayne found that the three were sharing an oversized bed with the woman sleeping between the two men. This had gone on for six months since the trio arrived in Kenya from South Africa.

“The husband stated that he awakened on the previous night and found the friend having intercourse with his wife. The latter and friend readily admitted this, and said that it had been an almost nightly occurrence,” Foran writes in his book The Kenya Police, 1887-1960.

The offender was arrested, charged and released on bail to wait for trial. Under the Indian penal code, which was being used by the Kenyan police, adultery was a criminal offence. But the magistrate dismissed the case after reprimanding the three. The accused was ordered to look for separate abode elsewhere.

“In those early days many undesirable European characters reached Nairobi from South Africa and drunken orgies frequently ended up in fracas,” writes Foran.

According to Foran, the Occurrence Book (OB) was written in Urdu since most of the officers were Indians. Foran’s first assignment at the station when he reported was arresting two Dutchmen who had been involved in gun drama at the Masonic Hotel.

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