My close shave with thieving 'mchele' gang inside Ruaka house

For Nosim Naserian, a photographer, the events of March 19, 2023, will forever remain etched in her mind.

Photo credit: Courtesy | Nosim Naserian

For Nosim Naserian, a photographer, the events of Sunday, March 19, 2023, will forever remain etched in her mind.

It all started the day before, when Ms Naserian got a phone call from a man who said he wanted a photoshoot for his son the next day.

Ms Naserian, who is in her late twenties, has widely advertised her business – together with her number — on the internet.

“We talked about the payment, the duration of the photoshoot, which would be three hours, and the time. At around 10pm, he called again, this time letting me know that the photoshoot would be at his ‘baby mama’s’ house in Ruaka,” she said.

“I told him since the venue was far from my studio, which is located in Jamhuri shopping centre, he would have to pay for my taxi.”

The caller agreed and even told Ms Naserian that it was not necessary to carry her big lights since the house had enough lighting.

The following day, Ms Naserian ordered a taxi and upon arrival, she let the man know. He sent his alleged baby mama to make the payments, which she did in cash.

Something made Ms Naserian take a photo of the so-called baby mama.

When they got into the building, there was no security guard at the gate.

The woman led the way to the lifts, explaining that her house was on the fifth floor, but Ms Naserian, who says she is scared of lifts, declined. She instead took the stairs in the company of her host.

While entering flat number 509, Ms Naserian noticed that the house was decorated with only three balloons, which were strategically placed. Additionally, the house was spotlessly clean.

There was another woman there, introduced as Jemima, a friend of the host.

Ms Naserian requested to have her speed lights and camera batteries charged.

Did not drink hers

As she sat down on the couch, the host went to the open kitchen and served juice for all of them. Ms Naserian politely declined the drink offer.

Using experiences shared by other victims, Nation.Africa has learnt that the juice is usually spiked with sedatives, known as mchele (rice) locally, so that the victim blacks out before the thieves make away with their expensive equipment.

At that point, Ms Naserian remembered she had not sent anyone the photo she took of the host, and needed to do so “just in case”.

“I asked for the Wi-Fi password and then gave my phone to the said baby mama to key in the password. Shockingly, she did not know ‘her’ house’s Wi-Fi password,” recalled Ms Naserian.

The woman claimed that someone had changed the password, and called to ask for it.

Ms Naserian, who is naturally chatty, complimented the woman on the beauty of the house and innocently enquired about the rent.

“Aaaah ... it is too expensive ... Sh60,000,” she was told.

Ms Naserian realised that the woman was not sure what the rent was.

After an hour, Ms Naserian called the client, the man who wanted the photoshoot, to remind him that he had just two hours left.

“We are at Village Market finalising things,” the man responded.

“Just remember you booked three hours and one hour is already gone,” Ms Naserian reminded him.

She then got a video call. “I went to the dining area and realised no one had eaten from it for a while. I brushed it off. Since the television was loud, I decided to go to the balcony,” she said.

Constantly use bleach

“There, I saw a big washing machine and next to it were white bedsheets like those in hotels.”

After the call, Ms Naserian went back to the couch and maintained the small talk with the two women, mostly complimenting them about the house.

“You can go check out the bedrooms,” the host urged her.

Shocked by the “polite gesture” Ms Naserian remained put. She checked the time; another hour had gone by.

“I decided to call him again. He asked me how much we had agreed on so that he could pay, but I requested him to pay through my studio’s Pay Bill number. He then asked to speak with Jemima, which I found strange, since his ‘baby mama’ was in the vicinity,” she explained.

The man asked Ms Naserian to accompany Jemima to pick up the money “since he was not far from the house”.

Ms Naserian asked Jemima to bring in the camera batteries so that she could pack them.

But as she stood to leave, Jemima told the baby mama, “take care of her bags,” assuming that Ms Naserian was leaving the equipment at the flat as they went to get her money.

Startled, Ms Naserian asked them, “You think I can leave my equipment here? They are worth a lot.” Ms Naserian then carried her bags.

She reassured them that once she received the money she would return for the shoot.

Attempted to convince her

While at the door, Jemima again attempted to convince her to take the juice she had been offered earlier.

“I tried to get Jemima’s photo but could not do it without her noticing. At that point, I was scared because I knew these were con women,” she said.

Jemima asked Ms Naserian to take the lift, but she refused, saying she would take the stairs just as she had when she arrived.

Jemima took the lift while Ms Naserian went down the stairs.

When she got to the ground floor, Jemima was not there. She then went to the security guard and asked him whether the apartments were Airbnbs or purely residential.

“The people you were with upstairs did not tell you?” he asked, arousing more suspicion in Ms Naserian.

Minutes later, Jemima arrived and they left. 

Ms Naserian asked Jemima why the man would not bring the money to the flat.

“Jemima gave some long story of how the baby mama is never wanted in the family, but I brushed it off,” she said.

Having walked for quite some time with seemingly no particular destination, Ms Naserian stopped at some shops, saying she wanted something to eat.

“Let’s go inside, I will buy you food,” Jemima offered.

“Why would you want to buy me, a stranger, food?” Ms Naserian silently wondered.

Chips 'mwitu'

Ms Naserian said she would have the chips mwitu (chips sold by street vendors) instead.

Jemima told her she was not comfortable standing and went down the road to look for a better place where they could eat.

“She left and I waited there for around 30 minutes. She did not come back,” Ms Naserrian narrated.

She called a family member who ordered a taxi for her. She knew she would be safe in the taxi.

Once inside, she asked the driver to go down the road to where Jemima said she was heading.

“We did not see her. We went back to the apartment wanting to get to the bottom of what just happened,” she said.

While filming the security guard, Ms Naserian asked him who the two women were.

“At first, he was shifty, but he told me that they booked the room in the morning and as soon as she left with Jemima, the ‘baby mama’ also left,” she said.

Ms Naserian got back into the taxi and left, lucky to have survived the schemes of the gang but traumatised by the whole events of the day.

When Ms Naserian’s story went viral on social media, a man named Brian Ayieko shared on Twitter that he went through the same ordeal on the same day.

Attaching screenshots of the conversation, Ayieko noted that he was also lucky to have escaped the thieves in Mirema, Nairobi.

“In one of the attached pics I have tried to detail the most I can remember. I was lucky they did not steal from me. The lady in the picture had the same outfit when we met. Anyway, be safe out there creators,” reads his tweet.

Ms Naserian reported the matter to police, who are investigating.


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