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Why I regret helping police nab most wanted criminal

A Nyeri man risks losing his three-acre farm to a garage owner who is demanding Sh1.2million repair fee for his car which was damaged during a gun battle between police and robbers.

The Peugeot 504 was damaged as he helped police pursue one of Kenya’s most wanted criminal 13 years ago.

On Tuesday April 19, 2005 Andrew Githinji put his life and property on the line to help police gun down Fredrick Kariuki alias Kari, but the government has refused to compensate him despite promising to.

Mr Githinji provided both intelligence and transport to police officers leading to the killing Kari and two of his accomplices at Ihwa trading centre in Tetu, Nyeri County.

Kari, a native of the area, had put together a six-man gang and were plotting to attack a women’s help group that was to hold their monthly meeting. The meeting was supposed to take place in the home of Mr Githinji.

“It was my wife’s turn to host the meeting. But we received information that Kari was in the area and was planning a robbery on the women’s group,” Mr Githinji said in an interview with the Nation.

Kari’s main base of operation was mostly Nairobi and he was reported to occasionally go to his ancestral home where his stepmother lived. His stepmother is said to have overheard a conversation between him an accomplice in his cubicle talking of the robbery plot.

HEAVY GUNFIRE

Very early the following morning, a loud bang would be heard in a nearby forest. At first, residents could not decipher what the sound was but later it was realized that Kari had been testing his gun.

Mr Githinji, after receiving the intelligence, called the then divisional police boss George Wafula informing him of the imminent threat on his home.

“We waited for three hours but there was no response from the police,” he said.

Impatient and scared, Mr Githinji made a drastic measure to drive to Kinunga Police Post to seek security assistance. Using his KXF 632 Peugeot, he ferried two armed police officers to survey his home for any security threats.

On arrival to his home, the intelligence provided turned out to be solid. Six men stood adjacent to his house scoping the compound. Among them was Kari.

“The officers felt outnumbered so they hid and we drove past to get reinforcement from Ihururu chief’s camp. One more officer joined us and we drove back to the home,” he said.

Their arrival at the home of Mr Githinji was met with heavy gunfire from the armed gang. The officers held their ground with the criminals as they sought backup from the Flying Squad in Nyeri.

GUNNED DOWN

With the help of reinforcement the officers managed to gun down three of the gang members including Kari. Three others escaped as police recovered two loaded guns.

The aftermath of the operation was an intensely damaged vehicle of Mr Githinji.

“There were so many bullet holes and the windows were broken. The lights were damaged completely,” he said.

Police towed the vehicle to the police station and as gratitude for his contribution to the operation, the OCPD ordered for the vehicle to be repaired at the cost of his office. The vehicle was taken to Nyeri Modern Garage in Nyeri Town, where other police vehicles were serviced.

The initial cost for the repairs according to the garage owner was Sh40,000. The police however failed to meet the costs. The OCPD was eventually transferred leaving and uncertainty over who would meet the repair costs.

“The garage owner refused to release my car and the police were not paying for it. I sought direction from the administrators but nothing has been done so far,” he said.

In 2007, he wrote to former Minister of Internal Security John Michuki seeking his intervention in the matter.

UNPAID FEES

A letter dated May 22, 2007 shows that the ministry acknowledged the complaint and hailed Mr Githinji as a brave patriot. The ministry gave an assurance to address the matter.

“It is obvious you did put your life at risk in the face of lurking danger to prevent a criminal act. It is however regretted that in doing so your motor vehicle was shot by the gangsters and seriously damaged. Accordingly, the matter will be accorded appropriate attention…” the letter read in part.

Thirteen years after the incident, the repair costs have never been met. The vehicle was left to rust away in the garage as the garage owner refused to release it without pay.

Nyeri Modern Garage is in turn threatening to sue Mr Githinji for non-payment of the Sh40,000 plus storage fee of Sh250 daily charge since 2005.

The total amount the garage is demanding is Sh1.12million which is inclusive of 16 percent tax. The garage owner has also threatened to auction the car and any other property that will help recover the fees.

“I lost my car and now I am being asked to pay all that money. All in the name of patriotism,” Mr Githinji laments.

He is demanding that the government pays the amount and give him his car back.