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Daily Nation : February 12th 2014
2 coverstory Death in the wilderness: The police officer who would not rest in peace BY STEPHEN MUTHINI twitter@stevemuthiny firstname.lastname@example.org police suspected they were poachers, so would we be interested in pursuing the story? For a newsman, any clue is always potential for a big story, and so, on a cold Sunday morning, I climbed into a company Isuzu D-Max and ventured out into Solio. For many, and especially for the police, this was but just another T he news last month came as fast and dry as it always does. Two men had been shot dead inside a ranch in Laikipia and reported here. Six in two months, and one person was missing. It seemed to me that the KWS servicemen stationed here were better marksmen than those in other parts of the country. Either that, or something very fishy was going on. If you have been to Solio, you know that the track alongside its straight perimeter electric fence stretches to eternity. And inside that fence is what, at least to me, heaven looks like. Virgin savannah grass sprouts from the earth and spreads, like a mammoth Persian carpet, to the horizon. Scrubs and bushes, in their pristine indigenous splendour, hug each other like kids A G3 rifle lay near Constable George Nderitu’s body when we arrived at the scene of his death deep in a ranch in Laikipia last month. “Look at this one,” a KWS warder said in jest, pointing at the lifeless body below us. “He goes poaching while dressed as if he is headed to church. ’Must be an amateur.” An amateur indeed, we all seemed to agree as we gathered around the two men. Otherwise he would have dodged the bullet that felled him. Near the rifle was a GSU-issue bag, a long sword, a bunch of keys and a matatu receipt. Was this man a poacher, or the victim of coldblooded assassins? story about poaching. It had to be. Because, for some unexplained reason, poachers had managed to make it to news headlines for 12 uninterrupted months despite concerted efforts by the authorities to stem their bloody trade. Many were cooling their heels in remand prisons across the country over the smuggling of game trophies even as we struggled to keep pace with a Kenya Wildlife Service Land Rover ahead of us. So, yes, this had to be another poaching misadventure. But as I sat inside the car, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was about Solio that attracted such incompetent poachers. Too many deaths were being on a basketball court, glistening in the morning sun as we drive by to see two dead men. A herd of black rhinos grazes near a dam, unperturbed, unlike us, by the deaths of those two men. Everything is calm. Calm and cool. But over the hills, somewhere in the distance, two men spent a cold night under a shrub. Dead. After what seems like forever, the Land Rover screetches to a halt and a man jumps out. We follow suit. A few metres ahead, a number of police cars have formed a beeline that seems so out of place here. Their blue-and-white paintwork breaks the extraordinary monotony of an otherwise good GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: Joseph Odindo GROUP MANAGING EDITOR: Mutuma Mathiu FEATURES EDITOR: Bernard Mwinzi REVISE EDITOR: Mary Wasike SUB-EDITOR: Naliaka Wafula PHOTO EDITOR: Joan Pereruan CHIEF GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Roger Mogusu GRAPHIC DESIGNERS: Nzisa Mulli, Andrew Anini, Dennis Makori, Alice Othieno, Michael Mosota, Ken Kusimba, Hassan Ibrahim, Benjamin Situma, Joy Abisagi, Virginia Borura, Teddy Murimi, Linus Ombette REPORTER: Joy Wanja COVER GRAPHIC AND CONCEPT: Hassan ibrahim Mwera neighbourhood, while the jungle green of the KWS cruisers blends effortlessly with life as vestal as it gets. Everyone is armed. And tense. Between two thickets just a few meters from the electric fence, two middle-aged men lie on their backs about two metres apart. I move closer to take in the bloody scene. Their hands are stretched straight along their bodies and their eyes stare into the heavens. In their eternal sleep, they look so calm. So ‘cool’. And so cold. There are no ghastly wounds visible from a distance as one would expect. Instead, only their chests have bloodstains. Death, for these two, came quick. Bullets to the chest. Each. Inside the heaven that is Solio. A G3 rifle lies on the right-hand side of one of the suspects, who is wearing a jacket an a pair of black trousers. The other is in a broken suit that looks too elegant a piece to wear to an animal park. “Look at this one,” a KWS warder breaks the tense, mortuary-ish silence. “He goes poaching while dressed as if he is headed to church. ’Must be an amateur.” An amateur indeed, we all agree as we gather around the two men. Otherwise he would have dodged the bullet that felled him. Near the rifle is a GSU-issue bag with the inscriptions GSU-74 on the side. A long sword and a bunch of keys lie next to the bag, while a matatu receipt, in its whitewashed glory, shouts for attention nearby. “How come there is no blood all over the scene,” I try to informally interrogate one of the officers. “Why no broken twigs here and there? There must have been a scuffle, right?” “You ask too many questions,” the man shrugs me off and walks away as a battery of journalists arrives at the scene. We will have to wait for the official police statement from John Kemboi, the area commander. Anything we hear from another source should be taken with a heavy serving of salt. Mr Kemboi is the Kieni West OCPD, and after gathering all the information he needs, he beckons that he is ready. A team of KWS and GSU officers guarding the ranch ambushed three people in the forest at around midnight, he starts. “There may have been three groups, judging from the number of gunshots and the direction they came from, but three people were cornered, two were shot and one escaped,” he says, adding that the suspected poachers may have been targeting rhinos as they were near a dam where the animals graze in the moonlight. Later, Central region police boss J KANYI | NATION Mzee Nderitu Mathenge, left, and daughter Joyce meet pathologist Moses Njue at Nyeri Provinicial General Hospital ahead of a post-mortem examination on Constable George Nderitu’s body last month. Dr Njue said the police officer had been felled by four bullets to the chest at close range. DAILY NATION Wednesday February 12, 2014 is published every week by Nation Media Group Limited. It is distributed free with every Daily Nation. Unsolicited manuscripts, artwork, transparencies are submitted at the sender’s risk. 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