prison break

A convict escapes from prison.

| File | Nation Media Group

The long history of Kenya’s prison breaks

The escape of three terror convicts from jail on Sunday is the latest of a series of prison breaks that have rocked the country in the last 10 years.

In September this year, 14 prisoners who included murderers and those jailed for robbery with violence, escaped from the highly guarded Nanyuki GK prison. Police said the inmates used a hacksaw to cut the main doors that separated their cell and the perimeter wall. Eight were soon recaptured.

In July, one police officer was injured from a gunshot when eight inmates broke out of the Vihiga prison in western Kenya. On June 5, 2019, 19 robbery with violence suspects jumped to freedom from a moving police lorry as they were being taken to the Industrial Area Remand Prison, Nairobi. 

It was the second highest number of convicts or remandees to escape from custody, after the April 2004 prison break at Naivasha Maximum Prison where 28 inmates escaped.

 On May 3, 2019, a robbery with violence suspect was shot dead after he attempted to wrest a firearm from a police officer while being transferred from Kangundo Police Station to Machakos GK Prison. 

 On March 17, 2019, a convict with mental illness serving a life sentence at Manyani Maximum Security Prison in Voi escaped, only to be arrested two days later as he tried to sneak back into the prison.

February 7, 2019: Seven suspected narcotics traffickers and five robbery with violence suspects escaped from Makongeni Police Station in Thika. The suspects cut the cell’s ventilation grilles to escape.

 November 28, 2018: Six remandees at Migori GK Prison escaped by jumping from a moving police vehicle and disappeared into a nearby sugar plantation as they were being moved from Rongo Law Courts to the prison.

 June 18, 2018: Two prisoners serving between 10 and 15 years in jail escaped from the Malindi GK Prison on foot and sent a text message to a journalist to break the news, claiming that they were being tortured.

 August 16, 2018: Timothy Lesereti, who was serving a three-month sentence was allegedly aided by a prison warden to escape Maralal GK Prison.

 December 11, 2017: Francis Musyoka Mutuku, an ex-GSU officer on death row escaped from Siaya GK Prison into the nearby bush.

 February 22, 2017: Five prisoners escaped on the Machakos-Kangundo road after jumping from a prison vehicle taking them to Kangundo Law Courts.

 January 19, 2017: Six prisoners aged between 15 and 21 escaped from the Garissa Police Station. They were facing different charges ranging from defilement to stock theft.

August 4, 2016: Four convicts, among them a hard-core criminal indicted for killing a fellow inmate, escaped from the Kibos Prison. They allegedly cut the window grilles of their cell before climbing over the five-metre high prison wall using blankets and bedsheets.

 April 18, 2016: Three inmates facing robbery with violence charges escaped from Isiolo GK Prison through a ventilation hole in the cells.


February 25, 2016: Caroline Wanjiru Munene, facing a charge of stealing a gun from a police officer in Itabua, Embu, escaped from Embu GK Prison.

 January 24, 2016: Wardens at Kamiti Maximum Prison shoot in the air to thwart an attempt by an inmate serving a life sentence to escape after he got out of his cell.

 December 30, 2015: Four suspected robbers and drug traffickers scaled the wall of Siakago court cells and escaped, before one was rearrested. They hid in a thicket. Three of them disappeared.

 May 23, 2015: Three criminals serving life sentences escaped from Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. The convicts were Joseph Kinyanjui, John Kamau Gathoni and Isaac Karanja Mwangi.

 October 8, 2015: An inmate at Kamiti, William Muiruri Meta, escaped from the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) where he was receiving treatment for injuries he incurred at the hands of a prison warden. He was serving a 14-year jail term for robbery with violence.

 July 14, 2015: Five prisoners, among them three Britons, linked to terrorist groups, escaped from Bungoma Prison. Two who vanished were capital offenders, while the foreigners were in remand for being in the country illegally and were being questioned over possible links to terrorism.

 May 23, 2015: Three prisoners serving life sentences escaped from Kamiti prison. Joseph Kinyanjui, John Kamau Gathoni and Isaac Karanja Mwangi escaped by cutting grilles during a blackout at the prison.

 January 31, 2015: Five inmates of Eldoret Prison in Uasin Gishu escaped after overpowering two armed wardens in a prison vehicle taking them to the Kabarnet Law Courts in Baringo. Some of the escapees were death row inmates.

 December 17, 2014: Peter Kamau Ndung’u, a Bachelor of Commerce student and Naivasha Maximum Prison inmate on life sentence, escaped while he had gone to sit an exam at the University of Nairobi. A robbery with violence convict, Ndung’u had been held up as the poster boy of prison reforms when his name hit the headlines in 2010 after he breezed through his accountancy exams while behind bars. He is still on the run.

 March 20, 2012: Gilbert Mwangi Ibrahim, a robbery suspect who was serving a three-month jail term, escaped from Embu GK Prison mysteriously. He had only served about one month before he fled.

 October 26, 2011: Six remand prisoners, among them four capital offence suspects, escaped from Eldoret GK Prison. The remandees went through the ceiling and drilled a hole in a prison block.

 October 14, 2011: Five capital offence suspects escaped from Embu Remand Prison while being taken to court. Richard Mbogo Ndagara alias Ibilisi, an escapee who was rearrested, told the court that a police officer had aided their escape.

 September 21, 2011: Six hard-core criminals attempted to escape from Kamiti prison. The prisoners had cut the grilles in their cells and had already come out when a warden on duty spotted them.

 August 7, 2011: Two remand prisoners were shot during an escape by six inmates from police custody in Webuye. The remandees faced capital charges that included robbery with violence and murder. Among those who escaped were gunmen who had attacked Cabinet minister Soita Shitanda and Kimilili MP Eseli Simiyu.

 October 2010: 13 inmates escaped from the Busia GK Prison, leading to the arrest of seven prison wardens. Eleven of the escaped prisoners had been charged with robbery with violence, while two had been sentenced to life imprisonment. 

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