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Stanley Mwangi was taking a drink at a bar before heading to a robbery. But a fist-fight with a cop sold him out and he was arrested
We found him reading his Bible at Nakuru GK Prison and when he saw us, he cheerfully came to greet us. He is in high spirits and it is hard to believe Stanley Karanja Mwangi was condemned to face the hangman’s noose.
As we settle down, he flips through the Bible and quotes Mathew 6, verse 14: ‘For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you’.
“I’m at peace with myself having sought forgiveness from God. I’m lucky to have been given a second chance,” he adds.
Convicted to death in 2002, Mwangi, a reformed highway robber, now counts days in prison after Nakuru High Court gave him a second chance and reduced his death sentence to 21 years. He narrates how he was forced to set free the love of his life, following his death sentence.
Mwangi says that he lived happily with his wife in Eldoret where they were blessed with two children who are now 21 and 19 years respectively. Mwangi used to sell secondhand clothes at his boutique, which he says used to bring in money, but not enough to sustain his family. Through his childhood friends, he was enticed to join a gang, which used to rob people.
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“I wanted more money...who doesn’t want to be rich? It was the easiest way to make money without struggling. The proceeds were good beyond my imagination. But I am now suffering for it,” he said.
He got into robbery in 1999 when he was only 31 years old. He bought an AK 47 rifle from Uganda and his main targets were trucks ferrying goods on the highway, as well as motorists.
“We had a market for every thing we stole. I would take stolen clothes to my shop and sell them at a fair price. We sold stolen vehicles to an Asian man based in Kitale who would buy all the vehicles, remove their registration numbers then resell them at a profit,” he revealed.
The gang operated along the Nakuru-Webuye highway and dressed in military attire, which he said he sourced from his soldier friends who worked at Moi Barracks in Eldoret. On May 3, 2002, Mwangi’s gang had a mission to rob a high-profile businessman in Nairobi and they were all set for the job. They had agreed to meet in Limuru.
Mwangi chose to travel early in the morning that day to catch up with his two friends who lived in Limuru. He left Eldoret at around 4am and by 7am, he was at Kinangop town where he passed by his father’s farm.
“I used to hide my gun at my dad’s farm. It was a secret. After picking it, I boarded a mathree then alighted at Murungaru trading centre to grab a drink. I figured it was still early and decided to kill some time,” he said.
At the bar, he met a barmaid, and the two struck a conversation.
“The barmaid was beautiful and we had a long chat. She wanted to find out why I was drinking alcohol in the morning, and asked if I was stressed. I didn’t reveal much and I gave her my bag which had the gun and military clothes to keep for me,” he narrates.
Mwangi revealed that a few minutes later, a cop, who was dressed in civilian clothes walked in and joined his table.
“I didn’t know the man. We started talking, but I could tell he was up to no good. He started asking me silly questions which angered me and soon we were exchanging blows. It was one of those bar fights,” Mwangi says.
In the midst of the mayhem, another cop who was outside, heard the commotion and stepped into the bar.
“He was armed and came to rescue his friend. He demanded to know who I was and ordered me to follow him to the police station since I had injured his friend,” he adds.
As he was leaving, the barmaid handed him the bag and when the cop opened it, he was shocked to see the gun and military uniform.
“I knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t explain which base I was attached to and didn’t have an identification card,” he says.
Mwangi was taken to Kinangop police post, then DCI offices where he was further interrogated.
“At the police station, they opened a file for me and after being grilled and realised that I was part of a gang that cops had been looking for. I was locked in,” he says.
He was taken to court to face three counts of robbery and finally sentenced to death after the court found him guilty of all counts. Life in prison, according to Mwangi, has been tough, but he has learnt a lot.
“I have faith that I will be released this year. I’m very optimistic and believe that God had a reason for me to get arrested. My two friends were gunned down by police a month after my arrest. I have been to many prisons in Kenya, but soon, I will join my family, God willing, who are currently living in Laikipia County,” he says.
“I’m now a preacher and when I get out of this prison, I will continue preaching the word of God and harvest souls for Christ,” says Mwangi.