What he went through was akin to a short movie where he is the main actor. What he initially thought was a lucrative transport venture drove him into the hands of hijackers
Re-enacting the scenario that saw him lose his Sh 5 million truck, Julius Mwaura is vivid, recalling the hour, the moments, at times brushing aside premonition.
“I wish I trusted my gut feeling,” he says with sadness.
On Friday last week, the transporter was lured by a “client-turned out be a robber” who wanted to ferry building stones to Barnabas area in Nakuru.
For hours, the culprit spent several hours waiting for Mr Mwaura’s vehicle registration number KDA 386T.
“He told my fellow transporters that my vehicle was in good condition to make the long journey to Nakuru. At around 10:00 am he managed to contact me,” he recalls.
For several minutes they argued about the price before they settled on Sh24,000 for the transportation deal.
“Together with my loader, we eased off from the parking yard and headed towards the Darugo area where we were to load the stones,” he says.
But after arriving at the quarrying site, Mr Mwaura ignored the first red flag.
“The man pretended not to know the exact loading point,” he narrates.
But to keep the transporter busy, the hirer of the vehicle made a call with Mr Mwaura receiving Sh10,000 to fuel the vehicle with the remaining amount to be settled after the delivery of the cargo.
“All through, the thug was playing mind games and wanted us to load the cargo in the late hours. Actually, it happened and we left the site at around 4:00 pm,” he says.
Before they left, the man who was part of the gang insisted they pass through the forested Gakoe area but Mr Mwaura this time trusted his instinct,
“I knew the road was not safe going by past incidents and I flatly declined to use the route,” he says.
He momentarily threw the thugs' plans in disarray, but determined to steal the vehicle from him, the hirer (a decoy for the thugs” hatched another plan.
“When we stopped to fuel the vehicle, the thug stepped out and made several calls without our knowledge…he was dexterous and calculative,” he continues
Mr Mwaura and his loader decided to use the escapement route where they arrived at Maai Mahiu at around 7:00 pm their purported “client” was still in their vehicle.
“To my dismay, he insisted on sending my loader a roll of bhang…I dissuaded him as I questioned how he could dare smoke in our presence,” he remembers.
But, unperturbed, the “client” nonchalantly slipped into the darkness and returned, smoking the outlawed substance, as he quipped. “Mimi bangi lazima nivute ndio niweze kufanya kazi (I must smoke bhang to effectively discharge my day’s duties).”
After the bhang smoking episode Mr Mwaura felt unease, questioning the rationale of undertaking the trip but, again, he kept summoning inner strength.
“I started doubting my resolve but kept trusting my initial judgment….I need to service my loan and such opportunities are rare,” he remembers.
After leaving Maai Mahiu, they finally arrived in Barnabas area with the client making calls. “He assured us we need a good number of young energetic men to quickly offload the cargo,'' says Mr Mwaura.
“We drove off the main road as he pointed to the purported offloading point,” he says.
Unwittingly, the transporter has been baited…the so called young men were his fellow thugs. “We were tricked and fell for the line, hook and sinker. It was like a bad dream that we were waking up from,” he recalls.
They were harassed, beaten and made to lie in the cold. “I was shaking to the core… my loader too had been beaten into submission,” he adds.
“We were both tied and left in a nearby thicket and warned not to raise an alarm. Shell shocked and helpless, we watched as the thugs drove off with my vehicle,” he says.
But Mr Mwaura managed to crawl and using his teeth, untied his loader. “He too managed to untie me and we headed to the police to report the matter,'' he adds.
Despite the happenings, he is thankful that the thugs did not harm him after he “cooperated with them.”
But he is regretting not trusting his intuition. "I ignored all the tell-tale signs and I paid the ultimate price," he admits
Gilgil deputy sub county police commander Henry Mbogo said detectives were following up the matter and were yet to make an arrest.
“We are still investigating but nothing concrete yet. But I would urge transporters to remain vigilant when going about their business,” he cautioned.
The incident occurred barely a month after police in Naivasha arrested seven suspects among them two women in connection with hijacking incidents along the Naivasha-Maai Mahiu highway.