What you need to know:
- From the Biblical times of Samson and Delilah, authorities have preferred using women to entrap dangerous men.
- While some may argue it is a sexist notion to use women as a tool in security practice, experts say with professionalism it is the perfect tool.
- In most cases, women used as bait are usually accomplices in the crimes of the gangsters with a knowledge of their movement and activities.
- Men tend to focus on the sexual favours they could get from the woman in the long run causing them lower their guard.
From the Biblical times of Samson and Delilah, authorities have preferred using women to entrap dangerous men.
Lovers of espionage themed movies and crime thrillers will agree that placing women undercover or using them as bait is quite a common and effective tactic as per the scripts.
In the real world, for hundreds of millennia, the tactic remains a favourable tool employed by top security agencies worldwide, and Kenyan police have grown fond of one of the oldest trick in the policing and investigative playbook.
While some may argue it is a sexist notion to use women as a tool in security practice, experts say with professionalism it is the perfect tool.
“There is no legal barrier or ethical questions as long as the police remain professional. This is not a new tactic but in fact dates back to Biblical times and has worked with some of the best agencies. It is one of the oldest tricks in the book and is quite effective,” says security expert George Musamali, a security consultant based in Nairobi, running Executive Security Services.
Used as bait
Interestingly, Mr Musamali says that the tactic can be applied on either genders where men are used to lure out dangerous female criminals. However, the frequent application with women can be attributed to the proliferation of men being involved in crime as compared to women.
In most cases, women used as bait are usually accomplices in the crimes of the gangsters with a knowledge of their movement and activities. In the long run, they end up being a liability to the criminals, but much to the advantage of crime busters.
Experts believe the effectiveness of the tactic is anchored on a very basic and simple reason - sex.
According to Mr Musamali, the idea behind the tactic is quite simple; men tend to have a sense of trust for women and are likely to lower their guard around them.
“Men are susceptible to women. As a man, the most dangerous person to give your personal security and that of your installation is a woman. Men tend to focus on the sexual favours they could get from the woman in the long run causing them lower their guard,” he says.
This theory has proven right with top security and intelligence agencies globally.
Locally, undercover police have been using women to track down and lure some of the most dangerous criminals in the country. While few of the criminals are arrested, most of them end up dead.
From the historically infamous Gerald Wambugu Munyeria alias Wanugu and Simon Matheri Ikere, to the more recent cases of Elias Kiriithi Gichukia and Michael Mwaniki alias Mwanii, their reign of terror was ended with a woman at play in each.
Investigations into a recent disappearance and subsequent murder of three men in Mathira, Nyeri County have since shown that the same tactic could have been employed to lure them into their capture and death.
While the brutal killings of Joseph Gakubu, Alex Mwangi and Evans Maina last month remain a puzzle, details from police sources suggest that the trio was eliminated in gangland execution style, and a woman played a key role.
The three are now suspected to have been living shady lives and had reportedly planned to abduct a local businessman. An unidentified woman was said to have been working with them and was supposed to lure the target into a trap for the three-man gang.
The unidentified woman, however, fell out with one of the gang member before they could execute the mission. She is said to have tipped off the businessman who in turn alerted police. The woman would then turn against her accomplices and lay a trap for them instead, leading them to their capture and subsequent murder.
According to relatives of one the victims, Mr Gakubu was at the time of their disappearance called by a woman only identified as “Marion” offering him a welding job in Nyeri town.
Mr Gakubu is said to have asked the other two to join him.
They were reportedly picked up by unknown people in an unmarked car in Karatina Town. Their bodies were found three weeks later at Thika Level Four Hospital mortuary. .
In 2017, police in a rather crude tactic lured Michael Mwaniki alias Mwanii, the gang leader of Kayole’s dreaded Gaza Gang, out of hiding by killing his wife. Dubbed Nairobi’s prettiest gangster, Claire Njoki Kibia had refused to give up her gangster husband to the police.
This resulted in her execution with police maintaining she was a robber as well and an accomplice of the Gaza gang leader.
Following her death in the hands of infamous vigilante cop Hessy, Mwanii went on a rage war with police as retribution for his wife’s death. This made him careless and his hunger for revenge led to his death four months later in Ruiru.
Multiple murders, robberies
In a more recent case, Central Kenya’s most wanted gangster Elias Kiriithi Gichuki was shot dead at Blue Valley in Nyeri Town last year after police used one of his girlfriends to track him down and lay ambush for the man wanted for multiple murders and robberies.
Mr Kiriithi was described as tactful and resourceful; practically a man with the proverbial nine lives of a cat.
His trust for a woman would see his downfall come sooner that he would have anticipated.
Together with one of his most trusted lieutenants, Mr Kiriithi had planned to ambush the owner of a local entertainment joint in Majengo slum. They are said to have been after money and a firearm from the businessman who is a licensed gun owner.
What Mr Kiriithi did not know is that detectives had managed to turn one of his many girlfriends against him and were tracking his movements for close to a week. Police were aware of his next target and for the first time were ahead of Central Kenya’s most slippery gangster.
As of the night of October 9, 2019, using his phone number, detectives had managed to pin his exact location in one of his hideouts in Ngangarithi Estate. He was being hosted by a woman as he planned out his next job.
A few minutes to 8pm the following night, as was his tactic, he set out to lay ambush for the businessman near the entertainment joint just outside Nyeri Town. But detectives had already set up a stakeout for the duo by the time they arrived on a motorcycle.
As soon as he arrived, the officers made a move for him and Mr Kiriithi responded by opening fire. His accomplice took off on the motorcycle leaving him behind.
Armed with a Ceska Pistol he had stolen from an antiterrorism agent in Ruiru two weeks earlier, he took cover outside a shop engaging police in a gunfight.
Although outmanned and outgunned, he put up a fight for close to 20 minutes, firing an entire magazine at the police officers. He was in between magazine change when police finally overpowered him and gunned him down.
Mr Wanugu is a name familiar to most Kenyans as the infamous gangster became one of the most wanted criminals alongside his accomplices Anthony Ngugi Kanagi alias Wacucu and Bernard Matheri in the 1990s. During his time, Mr Wanugu was accused of carjacking, bank robberies and homicide.
By April 1996, he had become a primary target of a police unit code name Alpha Romeo Squad.
On June 27, 1996, the squad ambushed him at his rented house in Kabata-ini shopping centre in Nakuru town.
When Alpha Romeo Squad leader Daniel Seronei caught up with Mr Wanugu, he was enjoying drinks with friends, among them his girlfriend. Ordered to surrender, he fired back at police using his girlfriend as human shield. He was killed in the gun battle.
In a not so different scenario, Simon Matheri was ambushed while having supper with his wife at a rented house in Athi River. He had his guard down and despite defying orders to surrender to three police units that had surrounded the home, his wife eventually succeeded in convincing him to turn himself in. He did this seemingly in an effort to protect his family from being killed alongside him.
He was shot dead outside his house while still handcuffed.
And when women are not being used by police as bait to catch criminals, some are used by gangsters to execute crimes as they are less suspicious.
For instance, following the cinematic heist at KCB Bank Thika Branch, police managed to get a lead on the hideouts of the suspects in the theft. Reports suggest a woman was used to rent out a hideout in Juja, paid the fees but never moved into the house.
Despite the effectiveness of the tactic, some of the women have been left to live a life of fear and misery as they suffer the blowback of having to give up the gangsters. Most end up suffering stigma after being left exposed for their collaboration with police and criminals.
A spot check on some of the cases shows that police abandoned the women they used in their missions leaving them exposed to affiliates of the gangsters they eliminated.
While experts support the use of women to get to gangsters in the war against crime, they maintain sometimes local agencies lack the resources and sometimes ethics to execute the missions professionally.
“There is the good and bad in this tactic. When done professionally we see the positive side. When done unprofessionally by officers who only focus on their mission success then it becomes dangerous to the lady. The ideal way to execute it is to ensure that the woman’s involvement remains anonymous,” Mr Musamali says.
He adds that such sensitive operations should be executed carefully to ensure that the woman used as bait is protected.
“If she is exposed then that is why we have the Witness Protection Agencies where officers can say they used a woman to get to a dangerous person and they feel her safety is compromised,” he says.