, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 14 – Police in Nairobi are increasingly worried at the danger posed by a new breed of carjackers who have resorted to injecting their victims with unknown sedation drugs during the ordeals.
In the past two weeks alone, police said they have dealt with four such cases where motorists were carjacked, sedated, and robbed before they were dumped and their vehicles stolen.
The cases were reported at Buru Buru, Kileleshwa and Industrial area police stations where victims range from taxi drivers with newer car models and private motorists.
"It is a major challenge because this group of criminals are out to make our work difficult, they want victims to blackout and take long to report the incidents so that they are not caught easily," police chief for Embakasi division David Bunei said.
In the reported cases, it emerged that the criminals wanted to sell the cars locally or in neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Tanzania or Burundi and Rwanda where there is a ready markets for stolen vehicles.
When targeting taxi drivers, the criminals operate in groups of three that usually pose as customers and are interested in newer cars – which easily attract buyers.
When targeting private motorists, they usually strike in groups of four and mostly go for motorists driving alone in their cars, according to statistics available at the Flying Squad headquarters in Pangani.
The unit is primarily charged with tracking down stolen vehicles and motor vehicle thieves.
Although both men and women have fallen prey to this sophisticated group of thugs, police are quick to point out that women are an easy target because they panic and are known to cooperate fully with thugs whenever they are threatened unlike men who are likely to resist.
With ready syringes filled with the sedatives, the thugs order their victims to lie face down in the back seat, inject them before driving around waiting for the drug to take effect.
Once it does, the carjackers abandon their victim[s] at isolated points – mainly in forests – or on the roadside, before taking off knowing well it will take time before the incident is reported to the police or car-tracking companies.
"We have had cases where we receive complaints even a day after a carjacking occurred. Such cases pose a major challenge to us because reporting time is a very vital ingredient to any investigation," one CID officer said.
One such incident occurred on Sunday night, when two men and a woman who came out of a club in Umoja I estate approached a taxi driver and asked him to drop them in Umoja II, about three kilometers away.
"It was 2am and I was parked outside a bar, where I usually park to wait for customers. It had been a busy night because people were watching the World Cup final so I was prepared for good returns when three people approached me," Erick Mwiti, 28 who has been a taxi driver for two years said.
"The woman appeared drunk, and since they asked to be dropped a short distance away, I did not have reason to doubt them, they did not even bargain over the Sh300 I was charging them," he said.
One man occupied the front passenger seat while the woman and another man sat at the back.
"A short distance away, as we approached Umoja II, the man seated behind me pointed a pistol on my neck and ordered me to stop, I obliged and the other one took control of the vehicle and I was bundled to the back seat where I sat between the man and woman," Mr Mwiti told Capital News in an interview.
Still recovering from the shock of the ordeal, Mr Mwiti recalled how he was frisked and robbed of his mobile phone and some Sh5,000 before a syringe was pulled out and injected on the left side of the neck.
"It was painful, but I could not scream because they threatened to shoot me. I could hear the vehicle moving so fast and they were talking both in Kiswahili and Kikuyu. I heard them say that I should be dead asleep within few minutes," he told us.
A couple of minutes later, the gangsters checked on him and realised he was still awake, thanks to miraa which he had been chewing the entire day.
"I heard one of them say I should be given another jab so that I could sleep immediately, so I pretended that I was dead asleep, that is when one of them checked on me and suggested I be dropped off in Kayole," he said.
But in the end, they ended up dumping him at Njiru, after tying his legs and hands before they took off with his vehicle, a white Toyota saloon.
Nights guards at a nearby site, helped untie him and offered him a mobile phone which he used to contact a relative and the owner of the vehicle.
The man was later treated at a clinic in Umoja and is still recovering from injuries he sustained during the struggle as the gangsters injected him.
It is the owner of the vehicle who contacted Tracer recovery and rescue, a tracking company based in Nairobi which asked him to make a formal report at the Buru Buru police station to enable them commence the search.
"We asked him to report the incident formally because that is the procedure, we then located the vehicle on Mombasa road and it was moving at a very high speed," David Sang, Operations Director for Tracer said.
Highway Patrol police officers at Salama on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway were then issued with details of the stolen car.
"Our officers at Salama spotted the vehicle and coordinated with their counterparts who had been dispatched from Nairobi," the head of the traffic unit Munga Nyale said.
A police officer who was involved in the operation said the car stopped at Sultan Hamud for re-fueling before they proceeded with the journey but again stopped at Emali where the occupants parked it and entered a restaurant.
"We laid an ambush outside and within less than half an hour, two men and a woman emerged and we arrested them as they got into the car," the officer said.
"The suspects who were arrested in Emali were brought here at the station and the vehicle is here as well. They are being interrogated and will be going to court very soon," Buru Buru divisional police chief Kipkemoi Rop said.
Police said they recovered a syringe, a mobile phone and money including that stolen from the taxi driver which will be used in court as evidence against the suspects.
The vehicle was still parked at the Buru Buru police station on Wednesday as police finalised their investigations before they release it to the owner.
They said they would also submit samples of the substance found in the syringe to the government chemist for further tests.