Kenyan police called suspected serial child killer a 'vampire' but a mob beat him to death after his escape
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By Rael Ombuor, Rachel Chason, Amy Cheng
Nairobi - When an alleged child serial killer this week escaped from a Nairobi prison, it sparked alarm across Kenya and a national manhunt.
Three days later, he was found by schoolchildren - then beaten to death by a mob in his hometown.
Masten Wanjala - who police said had confessed to killing at least 10 children over a period of five years - allegedly posed as a soccer coach who drugged his victims before executing them. On some occasions, he drank their blood, according to law enforcement.
He was arrested in July in connection with the murder of a 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy and then confessed to a spate of other killings, police said.
Wanjala, who had not been convicted, was supposed to appear in court on Wednesday in connection with two of the alleged killings. But authorities said he did not appear for the morning roll call - and then it became apparent he had escaped, making front page news around the country.
The fugitive was spotted Friday by children on their way to school who recognized him, said Kenya Police spokesman Bruno Isohi Shioso.
The villagers in Wanjala's hometown Bungoma, which is about 250 miles from Nairobi, then decided to take matters into their own hands, Shioso said, killing the 20-year-old man in an act of "mob justice." They acted so quickly once Wanjala was identified that it was not possible for authorities to intervene, Shiosa added. "Police can't be everywhere."
"The law of the jungles as applied by irate villages prevailed," tweeted the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
In Kenya, the case has sparked concern about how police allowed Wanjala - who authorities had referred to as a "bloodthirsty vampire" - to walk out of their custody.
"Things just happen," Shioso said, when asked how Wanjala had managed to escaped from Jogoo Road Police Station. "Once we complete the investigation, we should have a clearer picture of what happened."
Three police officers were arrested on suspicion of aiding Wanjala's prison break, according to the Star newspaper. Their lawyer didn't immediately return a request for comment. The Washington Post could not identify an attorney for Wanjala.
Wanjala's father said earlier this week he was "surprised" to hear that his son had escaped, according to the NTV Kenya news channel. "I have not seen him," Robert Wanjala added. "And I'm not interested in seeing him."
Following news of his son's lynching, Robert Wanjala apologized to the victims' family members, telling NTV that he was "heartbroken but ready to bury" his son.
Grace Adhiambo, the mother of one of Wanjala's alleged victims, said she was so astonished when she learned of Wanjala's escape that she went to her local police station to confirm it was true.
"When I heard he was dead, I felt so relived," said Adhiambo. The body of her 13-year-old son, Brian Omondi, was found on the outskirts of Nairobi by police.
For Tony Opindo Wala, the father of another of Wanjala's alleged victims, news of his death brought mixed feelings. Wala, who said Wanjala repeatedly called him asking for money after abducting his son, said he suspected that Wanjala did not work alone.
"He went away with a lot of information," said Wala, whose 13-year-old son, Charles Opindo, disappeared in June. "We just wanted to know how he did it. How did he lure them, what kind of deaths did they experience? . . . We do not have closure in that regard."
Felister Wayua Musau, whose 12-year-old son was among Wanjala's victims, said her main feeling was of helplessness.
"We have forgiven him," she said, "because what else can we do?"
The Washington Post