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Widwika the legendary colonial-era burglar

By Hudson Gumbihi | Dec 24th 2021 | 2 min read

Kisumu Town in 1959.

Today being Christmas Eve, there is bound to be a beehive of activity as Kenyans prepare for the big day.

Heightened travels and shoppers flocking malls to make purchases will characterise the day. Amid this usual adrenaline rush, people often forget to observe routine safety precautionary measures.

Generally, the guard is lowered as the celebratory mood kicks in. For example, many doors are left unlocked while homes get deserted. Yet, Christmas is a favourable season for thieves; they reap big from unoccupied houses and homes where they raid for valuables.

So while making merry, remember burglars are looking for opportunities to strike. Do not leave your home unguarded; always keep in mind burglars like the famous Widwika are on the prowl.

Widwika was a hardcore criminal who gave police sleepless nights due to his exploits in breaking into homes.

On account of his numerous prison escapes, Widwika was known as ‘Jack Sheppard'. He became extremely active in 1927, causing a great deal of headache to police and prison department as well.

He had been convicted for burglary on many occasions, but seemed capable of breaking out of jail more easily than he could be put in there.

“He was a real tartar to arrest or hold in prison,” wrote police officer W Robert Folan in his book The Kenya Police, 1887 to 1960.

In March, 1927, Widwika broke out of jail for the fifth time and succeeded in reaching his rural home in Kisumu. From there, he managed to elude police while hiding in the vicinity of the town where there was a spike in burglaries in European and Asian residential neighbourhoods.

For a spell, Widwika would sneak from his hideout on the periphery of the town to carry out the raids.  

“An informer warned the Kisumu police about an impending burglary planned by Widwika. They surrounded the building which he had broken in, but he made a dash for it and escaped with a companion,” wrote Folan.

The two men were arrested after being trailed for several kilometres and found with some of the stolen items. Police located Widwika’s lair where they recovered an assortment of stolen goods.

Among the found items were a shot-gun and some files, which Widwika admitted having used to escape from prison.

Both men were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment with hard labour. In addition, the court ordered Widwika to receive 24 lashes of the cane.

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