Why Kieni Forest is a favourite dumping ground for murder victims’ bodies.
Kieni Forest has been prominent in the news in the past fortnight because of the murder of businessman George Mwangi, whose body was found dumped there. The businessman, who was working in Kigali, Rwanda, had been reported as missing on Tuesday, October 11.
The next day, his brutalised body was found dumped in the forest, that is located in Kiambu County.
His wife, politician Gladys Chania, and her worker, Maurice Mbugua, are in custody and are expected to be charged in connection with his murder.
The case has brought the woodland to the national limelight with its morbid fame as a murderer’s favourite site for getting rid of victims’ bodies.
The forest stretches from Kamwangi in Gatundu North Constituency and is easily accessible through the Thika-Mangu-Magumu Flyover road.
The dense forest covers over 14,000 hectares and has indigenous trees near Gakoe Tea Estate.
When the Nation team mooted the idea of visiting the forest to understand why it is a preferred burial ground for killers, one of the detectives who was among the first to arrive at the scene where Mr Mwangi’s body was found, wrapped in a polythene bag, could not understand why.
“Why would you be interested in visiting that area? It is dangerous and, the deeper you go, the greater the risks,’’ he warned
His concerns are legitimate.
Police said a visitor to the area could easily become a victim if he or she comes across a gang either on a killing mission or in the process of dumping a body.
Mr Alex Nyongabo, a Burundian working as a security guard for a construction company that is repairing the Thika-Mangu-Magumu Flyover road, could also not understand why we wanted to visit the forest, which is loved by criminals but hated by local residents.
We found him and his two colleagues cooking by the roadside last Wednesday. When we asked him to accompany us to the forest, he was reluctant to help us, fearing that we could be a group of killers heading into the forest to dump a body.
His concerns were not eased even after we had explained our mission, but he agreed on the condition that his two colleagues agree to come as well.
Last month, he told us, a family from Kiracha spent two days searching for their kin and finally gave up because they could not go deeper into the forest, fearing being attacked by wild animals.
“A month never passes without a family coming here asking us if we have seen a body or noticed a foul smell. Most people who are dumped here do not come from this area; they are strangers. There were many more killings during the electioneering period,’’ he said.
We drove along a narrow road that leads into the forest. We came across fresh elephant droppings, a sure sign that the animals had just passed by and their return could be imminent. We also came across one of their watering points, which had Mr Nyongabo worried that the animals would find us.
“We have to leave. Any time now the elephants may be coming to drink water. They move in herds and it may be risky for us,’’ the security guard warned.
He and his two colleagues, Bonnie Heye and Ngendakumana Sege, told us even police officers fear the forest and have found many bodies dumped in the area.
Kieni Forest was in the news last year in May when the body of Benjamin Imbai, one of the four men who disappeared from Kitengela on April 19, was found dumped there.
A plumber working on water pipes near Gakoe shopping centre stumbled upon the body of Mr Imbai, aged 30. It was later booked at the mortuary on April 20 at 10.37 pm by officers from Kamwangi Police Station in Gatundu North.
Other bodies that have been recovered from the forest and positively identified include those of three brothers — Paul Mutunga, Paul Mwai, and Daniel Ikenye — in 2017. They had been driven from Nakuru and shot dead inside the forest.
Mr Nyongabo said killers preferred the area because it is isolated, with locals rarely frequenting it. Therefore, the chances of a body being recovered are low because it can be eaten by wild animals.
We bade the three guards farewell and proceeded to where Mr Mwangi’s body was found.
We branched off at the Thika-Mangu-Magumu Flyover road and made a right turn through Kihunjio-ini Primary School. People here grow tea and pineapples.
We found our contacts, Peter Githua and Ezekiel Lundu, waiting for us in a nearby shop to take us deeper into the forest.
A narrow road led to the scene, five kilometres from the main road. When we arrived, we found the ash from the burnt carton boxes which were used to cover his body still intact, undisturbed because of lack of rainfall in the area. Everyone we came across in the forest thought we were either on a mission to kill someone or dump a body.
When our driver offered a lift to three women walking home carrying a heavy load of firewood, they were suspicious of our motives. One of them dropped her bundle and fled.
The two who accepted the offer of free transport to the main road kept looking at us suspiciously until we dropped them off near their homesteads. All this underscored the reputation of Kieni Forest as a dangerous place.
Police believe Mr Mwangi was killed on the night of Saturday, October 8. Ms Chania had told the Nation that her husband, who had arrived back in the country in September, had gone downstairs on October 9, then vanished from their home in Mangu, Gatundu North, on Sunday morning, never to return.
Mr Mwangi was supposed to return to Rwanda the week he was found dead.
His farmhand, John Mwangi, is also missing. The prosecution told a Kiambu court on Monday last week that it was suspected that he may have been killed together with his boss and his body dumped elsewhere.
A post-mortem revealed that Mr Mwangi was hit several times on the head with a blunt object. He is expected to be buried soon.
Kiambu Police Commander Perminus Kioi said the county has had 14 murders since mid-September.
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