• They tied four watchmen who were on guard before stealing 30 bags of coffee.
• One guard suffocated after mouth and nose were sealed.
A security guard has been murdered and coffee worth Sh1 million stolen from Muthure factory in Kandara, Murang'a county.
The deceased had been in the company of three colleagues on Tuesday night when robbers, about 20, raided. The gang tied them up, sealed their mouths, then proceeded to steal 30 bags of grade 1 coffee.
Subcounty criminal investigations officer Richard Mwaura on Wednesday said one of the guards suffocated. The seal on his mouth also covered his nose, hence had difficulties breathing. Mwaura questioned why the factory ignored an advisory to seek police protection whenever coffee is harvested.
"We are not taking this incident lightly because we have several times asked factory managers to seek protection once they have berries in their custody, especially before they start packing," he said.
"It seems they have been ignoring our advice. This is, however, a matter under investigation but we are asking all managers to heed this advice so we can stop the thefts."
Mwaura said the police are ready to provide protection at no cost. He also appealed to members of the public to allow them to conduct investigations and establish those behind the crime. He made the remarks as farmers bitterly complained that their hard work has been in vain.
"After all the work we've done, our sweat has ended up in other people’s hands while we are left with nothing,” Macharia Mwangi said.
He said the thefts have now taken a more dangerous twist, noting that the incident will make it difficult for the factory to employ guards. Macharia asked the government to consider controlling the number of licensed coffee millers, saying heightened competition fuels theft.
He further urged the government to act in hast and establish the source of the guns the robbers wielded. "The guards said three of the robbers had guns. We are asking the police to hasten the investigations before they attack another factory or cause harm with the weapons," he said.
The farmers said thefts only worsen their situation after they were paid just Sh34 per kilogramme last year. Barely two weeks ago, a gang stole about 150 bags of coffee worth Sh6 million from Gathinja factory in Kahuro subcounty.
Farmers accused the management of masterminding the theft that occurred at 5am, saying officials had breached a directive by the county security team not to store coffee in bags without notifying the police.
The cases have been widespread. Not even Geitwa factory in Kiharu and Kiawanduma in Mathioya have been spared in recent incidents.
Elsewhere, farmers from Thanga-ini factory in Kigumo have suspended three factory officials accused of being part of coffee thefts at the plant. Chairman Hiram Mwaniki said the factory has been attacked six times, resulting in immense losses to the farmers who rely on coffee for survival.
“Thieves recently made away with 10 bags of coffee. That's why we called for a meeting to discuss how to safeguard our produce,” he said, adding that they received Sh20 per kilogramme last year and have yet to recover from the losses caused by thieves.
(Edited by F'Orieny)