Chief Inspector John Njoroge Kamau
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Controversy follows ex-flying squad boss John Njoroge to the grave

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Chief Inspector John Njoroge Kamau (left) argues with Homa Bay MP Peter Kaluma over the arrest of Suna East MP Junet Mohamed (centre) outside Nation Centre in June 14, 2016.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In life, he lived in notoriety, for years marked as one of Kenya’s most dreaded policeman with powerful connections. In death, controversy has refused to leave him.

The burial of retired Flying Squad officer, Chief Inspector John Njoroge Kamau, who died on March 8 while undergoing treatment at a Nairobi hospital, has been put on hold after a woman claiming to be his wife went to court to challenge her exclusion from the funeral plans.

Irene Ruguru Ngotho claims she is Njoroge’s widow and is expecting his child but has been isolated by his family despite earlier commitment by the late detective’s brother and nephew that she would be involved in the funeral.

She claims that she was married to Njoroge and they had leased a matrimonial home in Nairobi’s Jacaranda Gardens estate but were putting up a family home on three plots they jointly owned in Juja.

She avers that before commencing construction of their matrimonial home, Njoroge had asked her to swear an affidavit of marriage.

The woman further claims that she was with the late Njoroge when he fell ill on March 8, and rushed him to AAR Kiambu hospital where she paid all the bills and that the deceased nominated her as his next of kin during the admission process.

In the court documents, Irene reveals that Njoroge’s brother Joseph Kamau, who is a former boss of the Criminal Investigations Department (now Directorate of Criminal Investigations) recognised her as his (Njoroge’s) wife and interacted her many times.

She says that when Njoroge died, the former CID Director’s son Eli reached out through an email requesting her to authorise the family to process a burial permit.

The woman further claims that in a meeting with Njoroge’s family at a hotel along Kiambu Road, she was informed that she and he unborn child would be recognised as Njoroge’s wife and child but have no claim to his estate an assertion she declined and walked out of the meeting.  Irene says she was shocked that she was not included as a wife in the obituary published in the newspapers forcing her to go to court. 

In death, like in life, hefty light-skinned Njoroge, who walked with a limp, was dogged by controversy. He was a hero to some for his crime-busting abilities, but a villain to those who knew about his excesses in the course of police work.

Njoroge is believed to have pushed his weight around by virtue of his relation with the former head of CID, other senior officers and influential politicians. 

Njoroge had been a permanent fixture at the Nairobi Area based Flying Squad offices that even when he attained retirement age, the National Police Service entered into a contract with him to continue serving well past his time owing to his institutional memory.

Whenever you saw Njoroge anywhere outside the station, he would most probably be hunting down suspected gangsters — or being used to carry out a controversial arrest, according to those who worked with him.

For example, it was Njoroge who led a team of police officers to arrest Suna East MP and opposition stalwart Junet Mohammed outside Nation Centre on June 14, 2016 over hate speech allegations.

The detective was seen pushing legislators James Orengo and Peter Kaluma during the arrest drama in front of Nation Centre.

The Njoroge-led team later arrested legislators Ferdinand Waititu, Moses Kuria, Johnston Muthama, Timothy Bosire, Kimani Ngunjiri, Aisha Jumwa and Florence Mutua who were then held for four days before being released. 

As head of Flying Squad operations, Njoroge wielded a lot of power and influence and was feared by many, including his senior colleagues who dreaded crossing his path. 

At Nairobi Area, he operated from a wooden office away from the main bloc in which the Flying Squad boss had an office. He is said to have on many occasions overruled the boss and operated as he wished with backing from senior police officers.

He will be remembered for his unique and ruthless way of operating as an officer.  It is Njoroge and his team who raided controversial medic Mugo wa Wairimu’s Millan Health International Clinic in Kayole and charged him with rape and operating without a license.

According to a Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) report titled ‘The cry of Blood’, shortly after Joseph Kimani Ruo who had been charged alongside Maina Njenga for being a member of the proscribed Mungiki group, corporal Njoroge whisked him away and he has never been seen again. 

Media recordings show Kimani Ruo and Njoroge at the Law Courts shortly before he disappeared, never to be seen again.

It is believed that police abducted and later killed Kimani Ruo. 

When Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s Toyota Kluger car was stolen and smuggled into Kenya where it was intercepted in Gilgil, it was Njoroge who returned it to Uganda and handed it over in 2019.

Likewise, when a BMW car in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s convoy was stolen in 2014 and smuggled into Uganda, it was Njoroge who was dispatched to Uganda to recover it.

Njoroge was also involved in a shoot-out with two suspects implicated in a robbery at former Cabinet Minister Maina Wanjigi’s Karen home after he traced them to their Kibera hideout.

Former police driver Bernard Kirinya, who was executed in cold blood for leaking police operational details to human rights activists, had implicated Njoroge in not only the extra-judicial killing of robbery suspect Matheri, but more than 30 other victims while he was attached to the controversial detective.

Kirinya’s affidavit of police extrajudicial killings was so damning and detailed because it mentioned the names of all police officers involved and their actions.

Njoroge and an Inspector Maina feature prominently in the alleged execution of several suspects in their detention. Kirinya’s affidavit detailed how Njoroge and his colleagues were used to execute many people either for being members of Mungiki sect, criminals and rubbing senior members of government officials the wrong way.

Kirinya linked Njoroge and Maina to 24 executions including that of Kimani Ruo, Maina Njenga’s wife.

Njoroge was an understudy of dreaded Chief Inspector Timothy Kamunde. He would later use the same tactics Kamunde used in his operations that earned Flying Squad the dread it spewed.   

In 1992, the then Director of Criminal Investigations Noah arap Sang merged the Anti-Motor Vehicle Theft Unit and Anti Robbery Unit to establish what would be for a long time known as the Flying Squad. This was to counter runaway carjacking and bank robberies that plagued the country.

Criminals in the likes of Gerald Wambugu Munyeria aka Wanugu, Anthony Ngugi Kanago alias Wacucu and Bernard Matheri Thuo aka Rasta and later Simon Gitau aka Saitoti and Godfrey Mulwa Kitheka among others plied their trade daringly, almost overrunning law enforcement.

The media branded the unit ‘Dreaded Flying Squad’ because of its infamy in brutally handling suspected criminals. So dreaded was the unit that the sight of their Peugeot 504 station wagon car driving through the shopping centres or estates would send shivers down the spines of even the most hardened criminals.

At some point, owing to the infamy, it was decided to move the team of detectives led by the late legendary detective Timothy Kamunde to Makuyu towards where many carjacked vehicles disappeared. Kamunde was in his own right an effective crime buster who ruled.

Kamunde’s name was synonymous with torturing of suspects and it is rumoured that apart from AK 47 rifles and pistols, in his official car were hacksaws, machetes, ropes, chains and iron rods. He is said to have been so feared that he would give a suspect a fully fuelled police vehicle to go and bring his accomplices from their hideout. The suspect would obediently do so.

Kamunde, popularly referred to as ‘Mzee’ is also remembered for an incident in a Nakuru court where a suspect attempted to question him while the officer was giving evidence. The suspect reportedly begged the magistrate to send him to custody instead of setting him free. Kamunde had dared the suspect to repeat the question outside the court. The wailing suspect refused to leave the court premises.

Other police officers who worked with Njoroge include former Special Crime Prevention Unit boss Richard Katola who died after a long illness that paralysed his body, Zebedeo Maina who was killed in a friendly fire by a colleague while on a kidnap rescue mission in Kitui, Daniel Seroney who was among Flying Squad officers dismissed from the force for alleged misconduct.  Nicholas Kamwende, Njue Njagi, Reche Nyaga, Musa Yego, Sammy Githui, Said Kiprotich, Jackson Owino are some of the senior police officers whom Njoroge worked under.