Top spy’s death, secretive ways and strange change in routine

Yurop Choma Zone

Yurop Choma Zone restaurant on Nyerere Road in Kisumu City. Inset: The late Tom Adala who owned the restaurant.

Photo credit: Alex Odhiambo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Tom Adala had informed his workers that he would check in this weekend.
  • Staff said whenever Adala was at the restaurant, he was generous to clients.

A senior intelligence officer, who police claim died by suicide on Tuesday, was planning to expand his popular restaurant in Kisumu City, according to staff who described him as generous but secretive.

Tom Mboya Adala, who was an assistant director at the National Intelligence Service (NIS) headquarters in Ruaraka, Nairobi, was also the proprietor of Yurop Choma Zone.

He regularly visited the restaurant every weekend, according to his employees but had curiously kept away over the past couple of months.

Adala had informed his workers that he would check in this weekend because he was working to expand his thriving business.

Whenever he was at the restaurant, staff told the Nation on Wednesday, he was generous to clients and freely mingled with the crowd, which meant that he never had any particular sitting place.

To relatives, friends and staff, Adala was jovial and never hinted at having deep personal problems. It was, therefore, shocking for them to learn that depression had driven him to suicide.

Police said the son of the late Adala Otuko, who was the first Kenyan ambassador to Russia and Ker (chairman) of the Luo Council of Elders, had shot himself in the head in his house in Nairobi and left a suicide note explaining his tragic actions.

When the Nation visited Yurop Choma Zone on Wednesday, a day after news of his death became public, the place was a beehive of activity as customers savoured roasted meat.

Outside, car wash operators were scrambling for customers. The business-as-usual mien of the premises belied the grief that came after the death of its proprietor.

In between short breaks at the busy restaurant located on Nyerere Road near Da Vundu Bar in the lakeside city, workers managed to squeeze time to pay tribute to an employer they held dear. He not only had offered them a source of income but treated them like family.

“I knew Tom through my brother Maurice who helped me secure a job at his restaurant. He interviewed me in his vehicle where he expressed concern that the business was slow. I advised him on how to improve the business by introducing the Point of Sale (POS) system,” recalled Mr Fredrick Oduor, who is one month old in the job as a cashier. The system helps seal financial accounting loopholes. 

According to Mr Oduor, a Tourism and Hospitality professional who was employed at the eatery three months after graduating from Maseno University last year, Adala was to visit the restaurant this weekend.

“He was planning to expand the premises to accommodate the growing number of customers. He was to come next week and had alerted us that we would have a meeting,” said Mr Oduor.

Mr Jack Ralik, a chef, knew Mr Adala way before he set up the hotel on October 22, 2023.

Mr Ralik was working at Adala’s Backyard joint in Nairobi’s Kilimani Estate before it closed its doors. He was the only chef who prepared special meals for him.

“He loved nyama choma, fried matumbo (tripe) , chicken and fish,” said Mr Ralik.

Mr Ralik added: “It appeared strange to us that, while he used to visit every weekend from Nairobi previously, this time round it took more than two months before he came back.”

According to the police, Adala had been battling depression for some time.

But for the staff at this restaurant, his demeanour did not portray one who was suffering.

They described Adala as jovial, but very secretive, perhaps because of the nature of his job and, therefore, did not share much with his subordinates.

Alikuwa anatolea watu form sana akiwa area na kupatia watu thao thao (When he was around, he would really spoil his customers and freely dished out thousand-shilling notes to anyone who asked),” said Mr Oduor.

Another worker, Ms Cynthia Nyateng, said her boss had made friends from all walks of life and whom he would treat generously during the weekends he was around.

“He never sat at one particular spot in the hotel; he would join his clientele anywhere because he was a man of the people,” said Ms Nyateng.

Mr Ralik described Adala as friendly, understanding and accommodative. Their boss, he said, respected staff regardless of their position and he would come through for them whenever they faced financial difficulties.

He nurtured young people from various estates in Kisumu who had a talent in art and music.

Adala is said to have shot himself dead inside his residence in Kirichwa Villas in Kilimani Estate in Nairobi.

Police officers who visited the scene said they established that the 54-year-old shot himself using a pistol on the right side of the head. The bullet exited on his left side.

His nephew, Mr Francis Oduor, who lived with him, informed the police that he last saw his uncle on June 3 around 10pm as he went to sleep in his room upstairs. His nephew said Adala also retired to bed in his room downstairs.

On Tuesday, he woke up to do his morning chores. Shortly thereafter, their house-help, Ms Caroline Amanda, arrived and prepared breakfast for them.

But Adala was nowhere to be seen. Mr Oduor climbed upstairs to check on him in his room but he was not there.

He asked their watchman, Maurice, who was at the gate, if Adala had gone outside. But the watchman said he had not, according to the police report. 

After checking the compound, Mr Oduor found Adala lying dead inside the servant quarters.

It was then that senior police officers and NIS officials were alerted and they visited the scene.

The police recovered a Glock 19 pistol serial no ZKG 589 with one spent cartridge and a magazine loaded with three rounds.

In his bedroom, another spare magazine was recovered loaded with 13 rounds and a suicide note (written on a black note book) placed on the bed, according to the police report. 

The body was taken to Lee Funeral Home and an inquest file has been opened.