Joseph ‘Jowie’ Irungu was charged with the gruesome murder of Monica Kimani in 2018 and has been in Kamiti Prison ever since.
Popularly known on social media as Jowie, Mr. Irungu is facing trial over the murder of businesswoman Monica Kimani, who was found dead in a bathtub in her house in Nairobi’s Kilimani area with her hands tied and her throat slit.
The former mercenary who has been languishing in prison for the past year now says prison has given him a glimpse of a life he would never wish on anyone, and that life behind bars has shown him who his real friends are.
Jowie who had proposed to former TV personality Jacque Maribe a few weeks before his arrest says he has been deserted by those he thought were close to him except his family and a few friends and that some prison warders are “outright bullies”.
According to a report by Nairobi News, his elderly parents have been travelling from their home in Nakuru County to visit him in remand at Kamiti Maximum Prison every week without fail.
This is despite the fact that, because he is in solitary confinement, his visitors are allowed to chat with him for just 10 minutes, and they have to wait for long to get clearance. “At least every Tuesday, my parents come to see me. They travel from Nakuru to Kiambu every week,” he told the Sunday Nation in his first interview since he was first implicated in the murder of Ms Kimani.
“Since this is a maximum-security prison, you can imagine someone who left Nakuru at 6am to come and see you early is given only 10 minutes to talk to you. And it’s strictly 10 minutes.”
Jowie recently revealed that he is one of only nine prisoners kept under isolation at Kamiti. That means he never gets to speak to any other prisoner throughout his stay or interact with fellow inmates in any way while inside the precincts of Kenya’s largest detention facility. Even wardens from other areas of the prison, he said, are not allowed to get close to his cell.
Solitary confinement means he cannot be transported to hospital-like most other prisoners. A medic is brought to him instead. Being in solitary confinement also means the time he is out of his cell for the day can only be spent sunbathing and reading books between the three meals. If he wants a book to read, he has to make an application in writing, give it to the officers guarding him who will, in turn, give it to the officers in charge of the library. If the application is approved, he gets the book.
His confinement status means he is alone most times, confronting the ghosts within him and sometimes fighting the gutsy mosquitoes of Kamiti. “Staying here has made me realise that mosquitoes can be ruthless,” he said with a chuckle. “Mosquito nets are a luxury. Your work is to fight with the insects, crushing them against the wall.”
Jowie says friends from as far as Dubai have been coming to visit him in prison and that, despite the miles they cover across the oceans, they are not allowed to be with him for more than the standard 10 minutes. “Some of my friends think they’ll have 30 minutes or one hour of speaking with me. They are given 10 minutes and wonder: ‘We took a flight to come to talk to you for 10 minutes, surely?’” he lamented. “Now is when you know people who care, people who matter, people who have your back,” he said.
Should he wish to make calls using the welfare phone provided, he said, he is entitled to a maximum of five minutes.
“We are Kenyans, and our greetings last five minutes. With that, I can’t say anything with my lawyer or ask him for one thing or the other. What can you say in five minutes?” he posed.
Given the tough conditions in jail, Jowie has been counting the days he has been locked up. They stood at 431 when he was last in court on Thursday (21.11.19).
Jowie took that chance to directly address the judge about his plight, saying the fact that he had not been convicted left him entitled to bond. “I am really suffering,” he pleaded.
Keen to persuade the court to deny Jowie his bail application, the prosecution painted the picture of a man who is well versed in handling advanced weapons, but who, for lack of a source of income since 2017, lived on the benevolence of others.
The prosecution referred the court to viral photos of Jowie posing with large guns for which he did not produce a licence. Describing him as a dangerous man, the prosecution said he posed great danger to witnesses should he be released.
Witnesses have told the court hearing his case that Jowie often introduced himself as an undercover security operative working with Interpol.
On Thursday, the court will hear the application for his release on bond and is expected to make its determination the same day or later. The judge had denied him bond in a ruling of October 30, 2018, on grounds that he might interfere with witnesses.
When he was put in jail, Jowie was placed under protective custody, owing to the fact that he was nursing a gunshot wound. The court, however, released former news anchor Jacque Maribe, Jowie’s co-accused, on Sh2 million bond or Sh1 million cash bail, with three sureties.
A few weeks ago, Embakasi MP Babu Owino and some of Jowie’s friends including former Capital FM producer Joe Muchiri called on the release of Jowie on social media. According to the legislator, the judiciary has been unfair and is being used by ‘powerful and monied’ individuals to defeat justice, who are released on bail and the ‘poor’ detained.