Obituary

Duncan Wachira: When criminals gifted slay queens AK-47 rifles for Valentine!

Police Commissioner almost went mad hunting down Wacucu, Wanugu and Rasta- Kenya’s baddest crooks

Axis of Evil: The late former Police Commissioner Duncan Wachira formed the elite Alpha Romeo Squad to track and capture Wacucu, Wanugu and Rasta- ‘dead or alive.’

By Undercover Reporter

He was the Police Commissioner when some criminals gave chicks AK-47 assault rifles as Valentine’s Day gifts. Flowers and chocolate were too common. It was also during the tenure of Duncan Wachira, who died at 73 this week, when bank robberies and carjackings were more regular than common cold.  

Indeed, one morning in 1997, cargo man Charles Omondi ‘Chacho’ walked into a strong room at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and walked out with Sh54 million! It was Kenya’s largest solo heist at the time and figures went up when final math was done.

‘Rasta’ the criminal could empty an entire magazine leaving cops scampering for dear life

The Departed: During Duncan Wachira’s burial in Subukia, Nakuru County, Kathleen Wanjiku, his wife of 47 years told mourners: ‘I still feel I was the luckiest woman on earth. You showed me love that I know I will never get anywhere else. You never once made me cry.’

More was to come in the fierce form of the Three Musketeers: Wacucu (Anthony Kanagi), Wanugu (Gerald Munyeria) and Rasta (Bernard Matheri Thuo)-Kenya’s baddest, most wanted criminals-who often embarrassed the police. Rasta, in particular had no heartburn throwing grenades when ambushed at police road blocks. He could also empty an entire magazine leaving cops scampering for dear life.

Wanugu was slaughtered under a hail of bullets alongside his girlfriend whom he used as a human shield

Son of a gun: Rasta, who removed the nails of his victims, was nailed by Alpha Romeo squad dreaded marksman Daniel Seroney in Murang’a County after a year on the run.

Wachira formed the elite Alpha Romeo Squad from the CID (now the Directorate of Criminal Investigations) to track and capture Wacucu, Wanugu and Rasta- ‘dead or alive.’

They all died under crack marksman Daniel Seroney’s relentless pursuit: Wacucu, the ringleader, was shot dead in Ongata Rongai where Wanugu escaped. He wore bullet proof vest. But he was cornered in Kabatini slums in Bahati, Nakuru County after a shoe shiner police informer got suspicious of the new client who always fished out Sh500 note for a Sh10 shoeshine job. It was Wanugu. He was slaughtered under a hail of bullets alongside his girlfriend whom he used as a human shield.

Rasta, who got sick after missing out on his snuff tobacco supplies, was the last man standing

Catch me, if you can: Charles Omondi ‘Chacho’ made the headlines in 1997 and changed the long-held stereotype that thieves were specific to certain communities from Central Kenya. The figure above rose by over Sh10 million when victims did the math.

Rasta, who got sick after missing out on his snuff tobacco supplies, was the last man standing. The man who once gave his chick an AK-47 assault rifle as Valentine’s Day gift, was also said to bribe cops for info on his trackers. Rasta, who removed the nails of his victims, was nailed by Seronei in Murang’a County.

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Duncan Wachira -who shares both names with a deceased Kenya Air Force Commander- suffered a heart attack last year. His family exhausted funds as he underwent treatment at the Apollo Protocol Hospital, India.  He left a Sh5 million medical bill which police were asked to shoulder.

Wachira’s two years as Police Commish is Kenya’s second shortest, but one of the most colourful for dramatic crimes and daring crooks

Eyes wide shut: It was the era of placing bounty on the heads of crooks for info leading to their capture, but some ends were comical: Omondi Chacho, who was out of circulation for a year, was arrested after cops were called on a man beating his wife in Buruburu estate in 1998. It was Chacho!

The late Wachira’s career was punctuated by pivotal moments in Kenya’s history: The August 1, 1982 coup attempt, ethnic clashes, criminal daredevilry, the onset of terrorist attacks. But his two year reign from 1996 to 1998 is Kenya’s second shortest for a Police Commish after Edwin Nyaseda’s one year stint to 2003.

But it was the most colourful for dramatic crimes and daring crooks. Like the band that walked away with Sh96 million from Stanchart Moi Avenue in broad daylight in 1996. So keen were they to get salt away the loot when one of their own returned to pick bank notes falling off the bank sack, they shot him dead and sped off!  

Crook directed traffic along Kirinyaga Road over lunch hour while armed atop a Pick-Up after shooting at cops in hot pursuit

Inglorious Bastards: For helping quash the 1982 coup attempt (above), cops like Duncan Wachira who was the Divisional Commander in Nakuru, the seat of Moi’s Kabarak home and the Nakuru State House, rose through the ranks. In his case, to Police Commissioner.

Then there was the crooks who directed traffic along Kirinyaga Road over lunch hour while armed atop a Pick-Up after shooting at cops in hot pursuit.

Besides crooks, police were a law unto themselves. In fact, 11 cops stood trial after shooting two Kenyatta University students during a riot in December 1996. The trial made history. Cops had never been tried before. Sadly, they were later acquitted.

For Duncan Wachira, it was baptism by fire which did not come any hotter than the August 7, 1998 Bomb Blast in Nairobi

Darkness at Noon: Duncan Wachira’s wits were tested to the limit during the Bomb Blast in Nairobi one morning on August 7, 1998, the year the late President Daniel arap Moi replaced him with Philemon Abong’o, the first man from the lakeside to hold the post at the time and for four years to 2002.

For Duncan Wachira, it was baptism by fire which did not come any hotter than the Bomb Blast besides accusations of routine torture of political dissidents in undisclosed locations,  arbitrary murders of civilians by police. Matters came to a head with the 1997 ethnic clashes in Molo, raid on a police station in Likoni, Mombasa.

Before then, Police Commissioners had only been sourced from the Mt Kenya region

Lunatic Express: Duncan Wachira was Police Commissioner when the force marked 100 years-since starting out as a unit protecting the stores of British East Africa Company and railway warehouses as the Uganda Railway snaked from Mombasa to the Interior. Besides police, the railway also brought muhindis, chai, chapati, mandazi, dukas, rats, a cash economy and all Kenya’s major towns.

Before then, Police Commissioners had only been sourced from the Mt Kenya region since independence: Bernard Hinga, Ben Gethi, Bernard Njinu, Philip Kilonzo, the bible thumping Shadrack Kiruki and Duncan Wachira-whose had joined Kenya Police as an assistant inspector at 22 in 1969.

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Wachira’s star began shining during the August 1, 1982 abortive coup attempt as he was the Divisional Commander in Nakuru, the seat of Moi’s Kabarak home and the Nakuru State House.

For helping quash the coup, cops and military bosses not implicated rose through the ranks: Wachira became Provincial Police Officer in North Eastern Kenya, Provincial Police boss in the then Eastern Province and Nairobi, the Traffic Commandant, Senior Deputy Commissioner of Police. And then Police Commissioner.

Duncan Wachira Kabuthe, father of three, grandpa of two was buried in his Kirimara Farm, Subukia in Nakuru County on October 28, 2020.

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