From shooting to strangling: New trend in killings linked to police

In Summary

• The body of Ramadhan Bakari was found with strangulation marks days after being arrested by the police.

• The body had visible injuries, including marks around his neck.

A police officer tries to control protesters who had disrupted transport on the Ukunda-Lunga-Lunga highway in Kwale on Sunday,August 30, 2020.
ENFORCEMENT: A police officer tries to control protesters who had disrupted transport on the Ukunda-Lunga-Lunga highway in Kwale on Sunday,August 30, 2020.

Ramadhan Bakari, a 17-year-old Form 2 student from Balozi High School, was strangled to death in a suspected extrajudicial killing.

Prior to that, he was severely tortured as his body bore injury marks on the head, arms and legs. The injuries to his head were also serious enough to have led to his death as they had caused bleeding in the brain.

Blunt trauma, which is mainly associated with being beaten by a blunt object, is the most likely form of violence that led to the injuries visible on his body. These were the findings of an autopsy December 29, 2020, by two senior pathologists at the City Mortuary. 

Bakari and a friend were allegedly arrested by police officers on December 10 at their home in Eastleigh Section 1 in broad daylight — around 4pm. Witnesses even said they knew the officers as they operate in the area and are known to them.

Although the friend was released a few hours later after his family followed up, Bakari was taken away. His family was informed much later about the arrest and also made a follow up at Pangani police station. Officers at the station denied arresting him.

So the frantic search for Bakari began. For the next few days, the family followed up with various police stations in the area including Muthaiga, Kamukunji and Central. In all the police stations, they denied holding such a person.

About two weeks later, a friend of a friend of the family who works at the city mortuary saw Bakari’s story on television, including his picture. He advised the family to visit the morgue to check there.

On Christmas Day, the family visited the morgue and alas! The body was there! He was no more. His body had visible injuries, including marks around his neck.

HAKI Africa had been working with the family for days before the discovery of the body and assisted to have the autopsy performed. Besides the government pathologist, HAKI Africa also got a private pathologist to be present and represent the organisation and the family at the autopsy.

The police and Ippoa were also present. It was at the autopsy that the revelation of strangulation was made.

There was a clear mark around the entire neck and on checking the inside part, the pathologists confirmed the mark was a sign of force exerted around the neck either by a rope or wire.

The horror is that this was not such first incident with strangulation marks.

On following up, HAKI Africa confirmed that before Bakari’s case, there were at least two other recent cases of individuals found dead with similar strangulation marks after allegedly being picked by persons believed to be police officers. Could it be that those involved in the killings are resorting to new ways of murdering their victims?

Shooting is traceable as the bullet remains, if found, could be linked to a gun and subsequently, the shooter allocated the gun. However, strangulation only points to a killing but leaves nothing to trace the killer. 

Bakari’s case is now with Ipoa. The autopsy report is a major part of the evidence and will inform the next steps in seeking justice for the family. However, we must interrogate the new trend that is now being used in cases linked to police.

In the case of Bakari, besides strangulation, there were other clear injuries inflicted on him.

There’s a possibility his murderers first beat him up to weaken him before finally choking him to death with a rope or wire. Whatever the sequence of the injuries, the clear fact is that it should not be happening in our country. It is a despicable crime.

The authorities must move swiftly to end this emerging trend in the New Year. Since the officers who arrested Bakari are known, they must be investigated to ascertain the role they played, if any, in his death.

Killing, whether by strangulation or otherwise, must be stopped and those responsible put behind bars for life.