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Details emerging about why James Munene might have been killed.

James Mwangi, aka Willy's bullet-riddled Mercedes after he was assassinated last Wednesday when it was sprayed with over 50 bullets. Right: The late Mwangi beside his car. 

Details are emerging about the assassination of the motorist killed in a hail of bullets last Wednesday near Vincentian Retreat Centre in Thika along the Thika Superhighway with reports indicating he had links with law enforcement agencies.

32-year old James Mwangi Munene died after gunmen in another car sprayed over 50 bullets into the Mercedes-Benz he was driving towards Nairobi.

While family members cannot explain what he did for a living, sources indicated he could have been a police informer.

Mwangi’s operations were said to be clandestine, accompanying officers for operations and at times going to the extent of presenting himself as a police officer.

He was known within the police circles as Willy and was a familiar face at the Nairobi Area DCI offices, Flying Squad and Kasarani police offices. He could easily be mistaken for a police officer.

In his Kasarani neighbourhood, Mwangi was known by neighbours as a crime buster. He was always on the speed dial of police officers dealing with major crimes.

Sources paint a picture of a man who felt he was living on borrowed time.

Before his death, Munene reportedly erased photos from his social media account, fearing they could be used to trace him. A source acquainted with him says he was aware that 'they' were coming for him.

(Related story: The identity of slain Thika Road driver revealed.)

A closer examination of his life reveals a complex character of a man whose flirtations with both criminals and police leaves anyone guessing as to who finally 'got' him. The source also claims he had intimated that certain law enforces had told him to 'take care' as they could 'finish him.'

There has been speculation that Mwangi was either killed by the same police officers he worked with or criminals.

On the night he was shot dead, Mwangi is said to have been driving back from Thika, where he was said to have met some informers about the crackdown on contraband sugar. His car is said to have veered off the road, under a hail of bullets, whose impact nearly yanked off the passenger seat.

The number of bullets, according to various accounts, was anywhere between 40 and 100, a clear indication that Mwangi was not meant to survive.

The source says information he was giving to police on criminal activities was being traced back to him by criminals and Munene suspected that rogue officers were setting him up.
Nothing was stolen from his car.

The father of one was reportedly waylaid by three men in hoodies, and who were driving a black vehicle. But it appears his wallet was ransacked and ATM and ID cards removed.

The source said it was police who called his sister after retrieving her number from his phone though it is not clear how the police accessed the password that protected phone.

Mwangi’s family is preparing for his burial at their Gakindu home in Mukurwe-ini on Saturday.

Details on the nature of work Mwangi did, even among his family members, have been scanty. His mother Jacinta Wangari said that her son worked with the government.

“I do not know what exactly he did. I just know he worked for the Government,” she told the Standard on Tuesday.

But while she was in the dark on the nature of her son’s business.

Her elder son Erastus Maina maintained that the victim was a police informer.

Wangari learnt of her son’s death from one of her church friends who visited her on Thursday and said he had seen on Facebook that someone had been shot and was in a white Mercedes "like Mwangi’s".

“I was shocked and called another of my sons, who asked me to give him time to talk to the police so that he could tell me exactly what happened. That was when I knew it was true,” she recalled.

(See also: Unknown assassins spray a lone motorist with 90 bullets in Thika.)

In his rural home, the most conspicuous thing about Mwangi was his Mercedes Benz, one which even the local bodaboda operators identified him by.

“We don’t know him well, but we usually see the white Mercedes around town and we saw on Facebook that it had been shot at,” one bodaboda operator at Gakindu Shopping Centre said.

Other acquaintances described Mwangi as a happy-go-lucky fellow, who loved to shoot pool at his favourite bar off Thika Road.

According to the family, Mwangi had never expressed any fear for his life even though he was cagey about his affairs. He married recently and had a two-year-old child.

“He came home frequently. He was here last month to attend a former classmate’s funeral. 

Sometimes, he would pass and tell me that he had to leave because he had been called to work,” said 

In his last visit, Mwangi brought his mother two sweaters and a shawl that she had not even unpacked yet.

Wangari says Mwangi was the most prosperous of his siblings and the one they relied on whenever they needed financial assistance.

She said Mwangi, a third born in a family of eight, had seen most of his younger siblings through school since 2002 when he left for Nairobi after completing secondary education.

“He was the one who was helping his father with the medical bills and when we talked on Monday, he sent me money so that I could buy sweaters for some of his younger siblings who are in high school,” she said.

His father has been sick for a year and seven months and is bedridden," Wangari said.

Maina said their last communication with Mwangi was about their father’s poor health. It was Maina that the police contacted when they needed someone to identify Mwangi's body. He was the one who broke the news of Mwangi's death to the family.

“It was very shocking for me. I was very fond of him. I was called to Thika to identify his body and write a statement," he said. But despite his execution, Maina said:

“He did not talk about his work so much but he has never told any family member about any threats to his life”.

Maina said his brother was “well known in Kasarani and among police officers”.

Across social media, users who were familiar with Mwangi made reference to his interaction with the police.

One said he went by the nickname “Mwangi CID”, while another recalled that he had helped her trace some con men who had defrauded her.

“I know him. He was, I guess, an undercover police officer, if I'm not wrong,” a Facebook user known as Justus said.

Another said “Everyone in the neighbourhood (Kasarani) knew that Mwangi was working with the police”. 

There have also been questions about the source of Mwangi's money.

He was living in a rental house in Roysambu, paying Sh. 23,500 per month.

Though he was not known to hold a formal job or operate a business, in February he spent about Sh6 million to buy a Mercedes.

One relative said he kept changing vehicles, adding that he had at least three top of the range vehicles.

A copy of Mwangi's eulogy shows he was a businessman till 2013 when “he was employed by government.”

A driver who plies the Kasarani route said “Willy”, as he was popularly known, spent most of his time with cops.

When reached for comment, Kiambu DCI Amos Teben said:

“A team of detectives from DCI headquarters is investigating the incident. We don’t know if he (Mwangi) had any links with police and the motive of the shooting. We know he was shot by unknown people.”

Only a handful of relatives and neighbours attended a Monday meeting to plan Mwangi's funeral held in Nairobi. Those in attendance were tasked to raise Sh350, 000 to finance funeral expenses.

(Source The Standard 4/7/2018)

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