7 Most Badass Kenyan Gangsters

Kenyan gangsters are the stuff of legend. Their exploits often follow a Robinhood-style trajectory, with gangsters working as ‘wealth distributors.’ Once in a while, they even make citizen arrests.

#7 Danson Gachui

Gachui had balls of steel, but he chose the wrong time to be badass. Unknown prior to June 1977, Gachui went on a rampage in Nairobi. He was fast, methodical, ruthless, and seemingly unstoppable. He intrigued the nation, with the Standard newspaper trailing his crime spree. By the time they named him ‘Nairobi’s Most Wanted Criminal’, Gachui had 10 robberies, one murder, and the unbelievable crime of stealing two machine guns from cops. The report says he ‘stole the machines guns from two police officers at gunpoint.’

Gachui’s balls were not thawed by making cops look like headless geese. He survived two shootouts, but then he made a fatal mistake. Legend has it that, bouyed by his unstoppable spree, he openly taunted PD Shaw, the legendary police reservist.

The car chase that followed ended up in South C. Gachui had comandeered an Audi and the police, presumably show with his feared Mercedes (KFH 845) were hot on his trail. Cornered, Gachui jumped out and started shooting at the police. What happened next is virtually unknown but for this single line “The officer shot the gangster through the mouth.”

#6 Wakinyonga ‘The Killer’


When the rest of the world was busy enjoying the bond films, and the film release of the Godfather, Wakinyonga ‘The Killer’ was busy bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. Forget economic policies, Wakinyonga used to rob the rich and give money to the poor, because fuck capitalism and the laws of the land. Wakinyonga “redefined how robbers viewed violence as a tool of coercion” and sometimes, for mere adrenaline.

The Killer’s most notable escape was sometime in 1975 when he fled with a bullet wound in his right collarbone, and his ass. He stole KShs. 330, 000 from a bank in Thika, Kshs. 200, 000 from a bank in Nairobi along Wabera Street and over KShs. 80, 000 somewhere else. He also killed a man called Bloch as he attempted to steal his car.

The Killer who was killed on the night June 26th, 1978 at the Nyakiambi Lodge and Nightclub in Kangemi. Legend has it that the kill shot was taken by PD Shaw. Such reports were never confirmed, but Shaw’s exploits in Nairobi are the stuff of legend Nyakiambi closed years later and the premises are now occupied by, of all mother of ironies, a bank.

#6 Wanugu and Wacucu

In the late 1990s, a gang of four criminals made a name for themselves in Nairobi. The core group had Gerald Munyeria, or ‘Wanugu’, Anthony Kanari ‘Wacucu’ and Bernard Matheri ‘Rasta’. The fourth position was occupied by different gangsters during the years when the gang was active. Wanugu and Wacucu started out as matatu touts and then became drivers. Wacucu later became a mechanic and a Karate tutor at the Kariokor Social Hall.

Wacucu is thought to have been the leader of the gang. It is hard to find the police records detailing his rap sheet because well, the Kenyan court system decided future generations did not need to know. The criminal extraordinaire committed at least six murders, many violent robberies and bank heists. He was the first of the gang to die after he was gunned down in the far-off autonomous country of Rongai on 4th January 1996. As he fell, his comrade Wanugu stole his gun and bolted. So much for the brotherhood huh?

Six months later, a rather cozy Wanugu and his girlfriend made their way back to his house in Kabati-ini, Nakuru when they walked right into a police ambush. They had been out running errands, oblivious of the fact that he was one of the most wanted men in Kenya at the time. Flying Squad officers had tracked him down and were lying in wait of the man and his squeeze.

At some point during the shootout, Wanugu grabbed his girlfriend and used her as a human shield. In the movie version, the police let the criminal go because they do not want to harm the innocent life. In the Kenyan version though, one standing behind the other makes it a more challenging target and saves bullets.Wanugu was killed on June 27th, on the same day eighteen years after Wakinyonga.

The irony of it all? The story is told of a time when Wacucu was drinking in bar in Maragwa district when two police officer got drunk and begun to bully revelers. The leader instincts in Wacucu kicked in and ‘he tactfully disarmed them, handcuffed them and took their gun to Kandara Police Station.” Wait, WHAT?

Wacucu’s mother claimed that the body she buried was taller and darker than Wacucu, and was missing two warts her son had had since birth. Do you think he might be alive and well? And in Parliament?

#4 Rasta (and the rest of the gang)

This is not a mug shot, this is a badass pose.

Rasta was badass, but his second wife was even more badass. Mary Wanjiku was the ultimate ride or die, the sidekick every criminal wants. One of her first crimes was a heist of her grandmother’s Shs. 70, 000. The money was actually tithe money her granny was keeping in safety.

When she gave 4, 000 bob to her mother, she told her she had found it on the road. But mothers know, mothers always know. So her mother did the silliest thing ever, she took the money to the police station (WTF!) and was rewarded.wait for it…Shs. 20 for reporting the crime. Wanjiku also stole from customers who visited her boutique which had been financed by money she stole from a petrol station owner.

Later she met and fell in love with Rasta who, since flowers and chocolate were too mainstream, gave his new fling an AK-47 as a gift to show his love (suddenly that clutch bag does not look so well-thought does it?). In 1999, years Wanjiku was arrested in a cash in transit heist gone wrong. She was jailed for seven years during which time she Found the Lord.

Another member of the group, John Kibera, was the coffin-stealer of the group, because what is a criminal gang without a man who specializes in stealing coffins. Even more interesting is that this reverse undertaker is still alive and well because, like Rastas wife, he found the Lord. The last of the Gang of Four/Five, and perhaps the least known of them all was Timothy Irungu Ndegwa. He was sentenced to death in 2002.

#3 Simon Matheri

When the entry on the Most Wanted List is titled Public Enemy No. 1, then you know the police have a funky content creator for their website or the man are completely badass. Matheri begun his working life as a taxi driver in…you guessed right, Rongai. He was arrested and jailed for arson for five years at the one place where hardened criminals in KE are manufactured, Kamiti Prison.

In his short career, Matheri was said to have shot and killed or wounded: prominent African AIDS researcher, Job Bwayo; Lois Anderson, a Presbyterian missionary, and her daughter Zelda White, the wife of a U.S. embassy employee, a Carol Briggs, a missionary volunteer. He is probably the only violent robber in Kenya who once had a Wikipedia page (It has since been removed).

Matheri lived a very simple but wild life. Of all the criminals on this list, he showed the most ingenuity for someone who had never attended a military school. He had never used the front door of the house in Kitengela, and his wife of two years knew him as Matheru because there is nothing like hiding ones identity by switching a vowel.When he was killed, the only things found in the house were two mattresses, a coffee table, a sofa set, a DVD and a 14-inch TV.

The police swoop was carried out by over 100 police officers who, after riddling his body with bullets the typical Kenya police way, soiled the crime scene in unrestrained joy. They were too excited to remember to remove the handcuffs from the man they had just killed. How hard can it be to stage a he started shooting at my (m)boys and they returned fire scenario?

So the body camera crews beamed to the world had the hands stuck curiously behind because the officers had slept through their pathology class and new zero about rigor mortis. The next?day, an accomplice of his committed suicide. Unless there is an unspoken suicide pact between such criminals, the death itself was as interesting as the fact that the Gachie villagers burned his body.

#2 Shimoli ‘The Jackal’

The Jackal, pictured here going green.

When Shimoli was released from Kamiti prison on March 15th, 2007, he had a record of having escaped from prison three times. Shimoli got his nickname from the Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal because they both eluded police dragnets for a long time. Like Carlos, there is no evidence that Shimoli ever called himself ‘the Jackal.’ His litany of crime reads like a Stephen King write up, but with Shimoli most of it is likely to have been true: 14 murders, 88 rapes, drug deals and numerous bank robberies.

Any man who rapes and keeps a record is 100% psychopath. Where Carlos the Jackal evaded capture for 20 years, Shimoli was a mere ghost for ten years. He escaped after a gun battle at Uhuru Park, then shot two policemen who stopped him as he drove a stolen Mercedes. As if his three pairs of titanium testicles were not enough, Shimoli was photographed raising his middle finger several times to the police and judicial officers.

As part of his theatrics, he removed some weed from his pocket and lit it up in the courtroom The badass, albeit needlessly foolish, act got him one more year in the slammer. During the interview outside Kamiti prison, he expressed his fear that he would be killed and he was right because two months later, his body was lying on the cold tables of City Mortuary with a single bullet wound to the head.

One of his dramatic escapes from Kamiti prison was right before he was to be hanged. He had been sentenced to?death in 1996. His last escape was from a Nairobi courtroom. When he was arrested in 2002 in Kiambu, Kamiti prison officers visited the police station and identified him as the same man who had escaped death row in 1996. He was reported to have, among other people, shot his own wife in the back and killed his brother-in-law after he suspected they had betrayed him.

#1 Daniel Cheruiyot ‘Frank’

Looks a bit fatherly, no?

Looks a bit fatherly, no?

No, this is not Frank Martin but I can see why you would make that error. Neither was he ever a CID detective, as he made everyone believe. He had only once been a Police Reservist who lost his job for hiring out his gun out to robbers. Cheruiyot was also soft-spoken, murderous, cunning, and meticulous.

Like Matheri and Wakinyonga, he sparingly furnished the houses he lived in. In his house in Zimmerman where he was killed in 2005, he only had a single bed, a five seater sofa set (because a gang of five is not going to sit on the floor is it now?) and a black coffee table (I am resisting referring to it as ‘a black loot-counting table’). He was also the chairman of the Imara Daima Estate Security Committee.

“Only a few metres from the Deliverance Church, and tucked away in a secluded part of the vast estate, the house has a high perimeter wall ringed with broken glass. It is less than 200 metres away from the busy Thika Highway, and boasts burglar proof doors and windows. Sandwiched between two houses, a passer-by has no view of Cheruiyot’s den, let alone the activities of its residents. The house’s backyard is, however, not barricaded with a wall like the front, and offers a possible escape route to the highway. “

He killed the first officer who went to arrest him in Imara Daima, Charles Karue and later killed Maina Cheserem. Oh, and did I mention that the police ambush and 5 hour drama was recorded on video?

You can watch it part of it here.

What more would a man who has already survived several gunfights, become a gangster complete with several homes and police murders, already using multiple phones in 2005, and died holding an Uzi sub-machine gun, do to be even more badass?

“Cheruiyot recently telephoned the control room at police headquarters and warned that he would continue killing police officers because he knows clearly that they are looking for him.”

The man who did was rewarded.

Featured Image Source.

Owaahh, 2012.

One Story is good,

till Another is told.

  • Debra Nyokabi

    Quite informative & intriguing. Could you do a follow-up on why Gachie is the headquarter of gangsters in Kenya…Robberies at gunpoint are still prevalent in Gachie, Ruaka, Banana, & Wangige-Kabete areas. What is it about those areas that makes them a breeding ground for thugs?

  • collins

    these men really did horrific acts before their death. I like this Shaw guy..he had the balls to do what it takes to stop heinous crimes and make sure the city was safe for people… like the Hessy wa kayole…

  • abcd efgh

    The post would have been a little more entertaining had you read through it for spelling mistakes, fact checking and less speculation. Still, an entertaining post!

  • Pablo

    Hyperbolic….. Zero references. How do we learn from the past? Are cops supposed to read this. Let your words be manifest of what you stand for. Integrity to self is greater that all the muse you can churn into people.

  • Henry Adera BSc

    “…As if his three pairs of titanium testicles were not enough, Shimoli was photographed raising his middle finger several times to the police and judicial officers…” Lol! Owaahh is the place to quench my history thirst!

  • anonymous

    Cheruiyot was the chairman of the security committee in Imara Daima. Advising residents on how best to secure their belongings before coming to steal them!!

  • Ng’ang’a The Blogger

    This man Daniel Seronei played a noble role in hunting down this most wanted crimnal. #Kudos This is my area of great interest

  • Joe Okoth Ondiek-Marech

    I should have studied anthropology… so that I can write badass novels and criminal series bestsellers! LOL! This list is exciting to read! One additional point though, Kibera actually DID find the Lord. He can be seen on random corners of Nairobi to date, regaling tales of how second-hand coffins are big business. He somehow managed to buy newspapers detailing his macabre accomplishments, including escaping a hailstorm of bullets once just in front of Nation house. Apparently, he is trying to talk youth out of crime and point them to the Lord. Can I get an AMEN!!!!??? Lookout for him, folks. And no, not during your funeral, but during your daily walks in NRB. Remember to drop a coin in his purse when he asks for offering, its better than robbing a corpse!

  • Korir Tuwei

    anonymous to synonymous,tripping too soon to death and historical criminal records.

  • Wangui

    Na wale 42 brothers who I heard who would allegedly terrorize an entire neighbourhood overnight with machetes


    can i have their resident areas??


    can i have their resident areas???

  • Anonymous

    Your article is badly done and inaccurate because
    1. It is Wanugu who was shot in Rongai, not Wacucu. Infact where wanugu was shot is today called wanugu street.
    2. Wakinyonga was shot at a bar called kilos in kangemi

    • Hey, thanks for the insight, I’ll confirm those two points and if they check out, I’ll edit the list.

      • Israel

        Rather late in the day but you are right, Wakinyonga was killed in that bar in Kangemi.

      • gatoho

        Wacucu was shot in a goatshed.. no that was Rasta

  • korir

    how swet it is to be a críminal

  • Ahmed Deeq

    Carlos the Jackal was neither Mexican nor a thug. Go back to the history books.

    • Hey Ahmed, thanks for the correction, I have edited that part to the facts as noted.

    • Anonymous

      Looks like it is you who should peruse your history books.Everybody knows about the jackal

      • gatoho

        He was Venezuelan

  • David mugo

    Amazing kikuyus n nandi waaa.

  • Great gangsta narrative, these names always popped up in my youthful age, felt as if I was watching the real life “Tony Montana movie”

  • generaliregi

    i lament the tragic deaths of these talented youths. i am for the school of :if the govt and the society do not appreciate your talent, use it against them in the most destructive way. stubborn youths are what we need in this country,revolution cannot happen if defiant men and women do not challenge the status quo. these entrepreneurs detected an opportunity and decided to do something about it.they re-leaved off the govt the prob of high unemployment.how can you die of hunger while others are eating? this is no excuse for laziness though!

    • Earnest

      by killing innocent policemen who are also searching for a living? Talk of double standards

  • Reblogged this on This Man's Mind and commented:
    Because they didn’t teach us enough in GHC.

  • MMK

    Now we need a list of Kenya’s most notorious white collar criminals

    • IKR? One of the next lists will be about white collar crime. Any ideas in mind?

      • Israel

        The triton guy…whats his name again ?

        • #Charana™

          I know its 8 months late but His name is Devani

  • Reblogged this on A Kenyan Boy and commented:
    I had to share this…..

  • what of former gsu cheruiyot gunned down in 2006,,he was on all dailies,,,, that matheri ak47 gift though,,,gangster love

    • I have been looking for information about him, let me see whether I can dig him up from the archives.

      • Hey Chris, thanks for your suggestion, I just added Cheruiyot to the list…see and share.

      • Anonymous

        And where the hell has mungiki leader disappeared into?and by the way this is the most educative and humourous piece ever recorded and posted.stan

  • Tm

    Thanks for the commercial break.

    • Bookmark, share, share 😀

  • Jimmy Jam

    No John Kiriamiti?

    • He was just a robber who could write, hehehehe. Maybe on a different list..

      • Earnest

        there is this other guy who wrote “Prison is not a holiday camp”. Should you interview him you will get more juicy stuff about some of these guys you mentioned. he was a badass himself

  • Reblogged this on The Nakuru Dispatch.

  • Anonymous

    mangai wasapere woooooote

    • hehehe, except in number 7? But Kikuyus make up the highest single proportion of incarcerated males in KE, check the conviction records.

  • ann

    Wakikuyu pekee

    • hehehe, except in number 7? But Kikuyus make up the highest single proportion of incarcerated males in KE, check the conviction records.

  • zack

    ….and fell in love with Rasta who, since flowers and chocolate were too mainstream, gave his new fling an AK-47 as a romance gift….

    • Hehehe, that’s what she now says, she is a clergy woman now.

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  • Rongai and its notoriety! Ha! Though, Gachie is the known HQs of thugs in reality. Rasta’s wifey was the real badass….. gift ya AK47 is more than badassery……

    • The trend is clear, matatus, Rongai, Gachie, police…bullet!

    • Anonymous

      Rasta’s gift looked like the movie “kille them all”.badass indeed!