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)
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
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’
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’
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.”
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Last modified: February 3, 2020