Police trace fugitive Kevin Kang'ethe's phone signals to Machakos, Nairobi and Kiambu

Kevin Adam Kinyanjui Kang’ethe

Kevin Adam Kinyanjui Kang’ethe arraigned at the Milimani Law Courts on January 31, 2024, in connection with the murder of his girlfriend Margaret Mbitu in the US in October 2023.

Photo credit: Richard Munguti | NMG

Machakos, Nairobi and Kiambu counties are some of the places where Mr Kevin Adam Kangethe, a murder suspect wanted in the United States of America (USA) for killing his girlfriend, has been since he escaped from Muthaiga Police Station, the Nation has learnt.

Mr Kangethe, who managed to evade arrest in the US where he killed Margaret Mbitu in October 2023, also hid from police officers in Kenya for three months until he was arrested as he left a busy nightclub in Westlands on January 31, 2024.

However, he escaped from Muthaiga Police Station and since then, detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) have been on his trail but are yet to apprehend him.

"A few hours after he escaped from Muthaiga Police Station, his phone signals were traced to Machakos County. Officers are also aware of the people he contacted during that period," said a detective attached to the DCI, speaking in confidence as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Security experts are now poking holes in the whole affair, accusing the police of laxity and saying corruption is the main reason why suspects like Mr Kangethe manage to escape from police cells.

Margaret Mbitu, 30, was found dead in a parking lot at Logan Airport in Boston, US. 

Photo credit: Missing Person Poster

Mr Kangethe is said to have walked barefoot out of Muthaiga police station exactly six minutes after officers allowed him out of cell number four to discuss some legal matters with his lawyer. Police identified the lawyer as Mr John Maina Ndegwa.

The murder suspect had on October 31, 2023, allegedly ended the life of his girlfriend identified as Ms Margaret Mbitu before dumping her body in a private motor vehicle and boarding a plane to Kenya.

Police in the state of Massachusetts then said that the body was found in the car, which was well parked at Logan International Airport. 

Have a conversation

In six minutes, the suspect disappeared while his lawyer remained in a room where they were supposed to have a conversation, which is also used by detectives from the DCI to interrogate detainees.

The walkout led to the arrest of four police officers who were on duty when the suspect escaped. Muthaiga is one of the police stations where several plainclothes police officers operate outside the premises.

Ms Esther Njeri, the Officer Commanding Station at Muthaiga Police Station, who was recently transferred from Lang'ata, was in a meeting with other officers when the suspect escaped.

If Mr Kangethe is extradited, he will face charges in the US, where federal law allows only two sentences for first-degree murder: life imprisonment or the death penalty.

This is not the first time that prisoners have managed to escape from a police cell, leaving officers on duty to explain what happened.

According to Kenyan law, any person in lawful custody who escapes is guilty of a misdemeanour.

"In the case of an accused person who has pleaded guilty and has been convicted on such a plea by a lower court, no appeal shall lie except the extent or legality of the sentence," Kenyan law states.

The general penalty for conviction of any offence, including defamation, is a maximum of two years imprisonment and/or a fine.  

Mr Kangethe's escape is not the first in the country, and such incidents have occurred frequently.

On February 1, eight remand prisoners due to appear in court escaped from Koru Police Station in Muhoroni, Kisumu County.

The detainees were from Kodiaga Prisons, and ten were taken to the station cells while awaiting arraignment. The other two were handcuffed making it easier for them to be re-arrested.

One of the many escapes that have caught the attention of the country's authorities is when six juveniles escaped from custody. The incident took place on September 11, 2023.

The six escaped from police custody in Malindi, Kilifi County at midnight and, interestingly, none of them have been found to date. One was charged with cattle rustling at Vitengeni police station.

Another was charged with threatening to cause a breach of the peace at Malindi police station and the third was charged with causing grievous bodily harm at Malindi police station.

The fourth was charged with robbery with violence at Malindi Police Station, while the other two were charged with theft at Kijipwa Police Station and the other with burglary at Kilifi Police Station.

"The six had been brought from different stations within Kilifi County and were remanded in custody pending the hearing of the cases at the Malindi Magistrate Court," reads part of a police statement on the matter.

On February 1, 2024, Mr Benson Muchiri, a businessman charged with murder following the mysterious death of his employee at one of his shops in Molo, Nakuru County, also escaped from lawful custody.

Muthaiga Police Station

People walk past the entrance to Muthaiga Police Station in Nairobi on February 8. Kevin Kang’ethe (inset), who is accused of killing his girlfriend in the US and fleeing to Kenya, escaped from the station. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Mr Muchiri was in the custody of officers at Molo Police Station when he escaped under unclear circumstances.

During his arraignment at the Nakuru High Court, Mr Muchiri fell ill and was taken to hospital by the court. He was then taken to Nakuru Hospital, where he was admitted and placed under police guard.

Mr George Musamali, a security expert, told the Nation that the two main reasons why prisoners usually manage to escape from police custody are laxity on the part of the guards and corruption.

He said most incidents of people escaping from police cells involve high-profile people with serious cases like Mr Kangethe's.

 "For example, in the case of Mr Kangethe, how would an officer casually treat such a suspect when he knows that the matter is serious?" asked Mr Musamali, adding that it was inappropriate for the officers to allow the suspect to walk without handcuffs.

However, he said it would be interesting to know that even the officers who were on duty that night and were arrested for the escape were only set up.

He advised that such a suspect should have been detained at Kileleshwa or Gigiri police stations. He also said that the General Service Unit headquarters in Ruaraka also has a police cell.

This was echoed by his counterpart, Mr Hezekiah Ojuok, a security consultant and trainer, there are two main ways of escaping from police custody. First, it could be through a breach where outside parties and/or inmates use tools to break through the cells. Or by using weapons to force officers on duty to release the inmates.

However, having been in the sector for three decades, this phenomenon of inmates escaping from custody is not unusual, as it happens from time to time and the highlight of each escape is given prominence depending on who escapes from custody.

"When there is an escape without a break, the officers stationed at the incident book, often two in number, should be arrested and investigated for negligence.

"However, if there is no rupture, there is a possibility that some money has changed hands to ensure that someone is in custody," he said.

Whenever there is a break, the officer commanding the station is tasked with conducting a thorough investigation to establish what exactly happened, with the findings guiding the next corrective steps, he said. 

The Nation contacted the Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome and service spokesperson Dr Resila Onyango, but they did not respond to our messages or phone calls.