When John Magondu, the commander (OCS) of the Silibwet Police Station in Bomet Central sub-county, Bomet County, parked his car at the usual spot at night and went to sleep over the weekend, he thought he would find it there the following morning.
But he got a rude awakening early the next morning as he left to go to work. He had become a victim of crime.
He was shocked to find his car was missing from the parking lot, and he was left holding useless keys in his hands.
The man who receives, processes and investigates crimes before handing over the files to prosecutors, he was now the one reporting a crime.
Mr Magondu headed to the Bomet divisional police headquarters, a short distance from the scene of the crime, to report the theft.
He led police officers to investigate the crime, which included his fellow officers questioning him about what happened.
The Nation has learnt that the stolen vehicle – a white Toyota DX 102 station wagon with registration number KAR 957W – had not been recovered by the time this story was published.
"Preliminary investigations show that the caretaker of the building next to where the car was parked reported [hearing] movements at around 4.30am but did not know whose vehicle was being driven out or whether the driver was the owner or criminals" said Bomet Central sub-county Police Commander Musa Imamai.
Mr Imamai said the vehicle was parked on a roadside near Brooklyn Hospital, a short distance from the county headquarters, as the residential houses do not have parking bays.
The incident has sparked fears among residents that a vehicle-theft gang that previously hit the region had resurfaced after a lull of over three years.
"It is interesting that the criminals targeted a senior police officer and stole his vehicle at a parking yard close to the governor’s offices, county commissioner’s office, police headquarters and an Administration Police camp,” said Kipkemoi Barsumei, a former Bomet mayor.
Mr Barsumei said security agencies should protect residents and their properties.
“Whether they had been monitoring and trailing him or they struck and got lucky the first time is a matter that raises serious concern," Mr Barsumei said.
The gang, which ran a syndicate in Bomet, Narok, Nakuru, Kisii, Nyamira, Kericho, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma and Kakamega counties, was dismantled in 2019 and 2020.
Some of the suspected ringleaders were arrested and charged with stealing vehicles that were recovered in Kitale, Eldoret and Nyamira.
Outgoing Bomet County Police Commander Esther Seroney recently urged the public to volunteer information to security agencies on suspected criminals operating in the region.
"We have not had much criminal activity in the region, which is attributed to cooperation between the police, administrators and members of the public. Any tip-off to the police is treated in confidence," Ms Seroney said in Longisa, Bomet sub-county.
A Toyota Probox was stolen at night a month ago in Mogogosiek, Konoin constituency, and has not been found.
In Kericho town, a Toyota Harrier stolen from the parking yard on Tengecha Lane was recovered before it was driven out of the town because of quick action by the owner, who raised the alarm and shared it on social media pages.
Police in Kericho arrested three suspects in January this year suspected of being part of a car theft and sale syndicate.
Three years ago, more than 17 vehicles were stolen in Bomet County by a gang that operated in the South and North Rift regions and Western Kenya.
Some 23 vehicles were stolen in the South Rift in 2019, with Bomet County the most affected. Some of them were tracked to far-flung counties, with a few still with their original number plates and others having numbers that had been tampered with.
Police flushed out the cartel members and most faced cases in courts across the region.
In April 2020, vehicles recovered per records at the Bomet CID offices were: Toyota Proboxes KCM 688C, KCL 852X, KCL 560Q, KCB 720U, KCB 960B, KCT 283M and KCL 630A, a Toyota saloon KAT 527T and a Toyota Fielder KCH 506R.
“The manhunt and subsequent arrest of the trio followed a stolen car report booked on January 16, 2022 at Litein Police station, where a KCQ 318K Toyota Probox vanished from a car park,” the DCI stated at the time.
The suspects allegedly hid the vehicle for a week as they sought to secure fake number plates and sell it to unsuspecting members of the public.
“Armed with forged documents and replacing the original registration plates with KCU 994X (from the original KCQ 318K), the three suspects emerged at Kipchimchim trading centre where they hoped to dispose of it,” stated the DCI.
Detectives from the Londiani and Kericho police stations, who had been trailing the suspects, pounced on them as they sealed the deal with the prospective buyer.
Several suspects were arrested and charged after buyers produced motor vehicle sale agreements, with some having not completed the transaction as they had only made partial payments.
Toyota models are popular in the black market as they are dismantled and sold as spare parts.
Fake logbooks are used to sell stolen vehicles, especially in rural areas, where buyers are not keen on scrutinising ownership documents.