Illicit brew kills two inmates at Kamiti

Inmates quest to celebrate Christmas day with an illicit brew turned tragic when two prisoners died and three others went partially blind after consuming a combination of chemicals.

Kiarie Karanja, a death row inmate at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison and Duncan Mwiti alias Murothi died at the Kenyatta National Hospital where they were rushed on Saturday after complaining of headache, stomach ache and loss of eye sight.

The inmates smuggled the chemicals and clandestinely brewed a lethal illicit brew which they kept in Kamiti prison’s ‘B’ block cell number 10 that houses convicted criminals for days before selling it to their colleagues from other blocks.

Karanja was lodged at Kamiti’s ‘G’ block cell while Mwiti was lodged at the general ‘B’ Block cell number 10. Prison authorities suspect that the lethal brew was consumed during the day because few death row inmates who stay in a different block got access to it.

The two were among several inmates who visited ‘B’ block on Christmas day and purchased some of the chemical laced illicit brew that had been brewed in cell 10 by prisoners who connived with a prison warder.

Three others were treated at the Kenyatta National Hospital and were discharged on Sunday morning and sent back to Kamiti prison.

According to the Commissioner of Prisons Mr Isaiah Osugo, it is suspected that convicted inmates who work in the industries smuggled turpentine, spirit and a thinning agent in small quantities to their cells and later used it to brew an illicit drink that they imbibed on Christmas day.

Mr Osugo said that the inmates only started complaining of partial blindness, stomach ache and headaches on Saturday when they were rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital for treatment.

“It looks like they smuggled spirit, turpentine and thinner from the workshop into their cells and brew the illicit drink in preparation for celebration on Christmas day.

“Five of those who complained of illness were taken to hospital but two unfortunately died while the other three were treated and are recovering their eye sight. They must have opted to do that because we have been strict of late and stopped the smuggling of any contraband into the prisons countrywide,” Mr Osugo said.

The Commissioner of Prisons visited the sick at KNH before he went to Kamiti Maximum security prison where he cautioned the inmates and warders against consuming illicit brews or smuggling contraband into the prisons.

He said prison authorities were more strict than before adding that there was need for more stringent rules to stop such incidents being repeated.

“We are more strict than before in ensuring that illicit drinks don’t get into our prisons. But we need to be stricter than we are today. Prisoners must be thoroughly searched and searches must be intensified,” the prison boss said.

By Sunday afternoon, a prison truck was still ferrying some for check up at KNH but no more casualties were reported.

One year ago, some inmates died at the Naivasha prison after consuming chemicals smuggled from an industry within the prison’s workshop.

The incident comes hardly two months after prison authorities came under scathing attack for the death of a death row inmate and the injury of eight others during a search for contraband at Kamiti Maximum security prison.

One hundred and two mobile phones, electric cookers, rolls of bhang, cigarettes, mobile phone charges, knives, iron rods and a laptop were seized during the operation.

However, the then officer in charge of Kamiti Prison Ngaira Mutevesi and other senior prisons officers were interdicted to pave way for investigations into the circumstances leading to the death of the inmate and injury to others.

Meanwhile, all contraband goods seized from prisons countrywide will be destroyed on Thursday (December 31) at the Nairobi West prison.

The Commissioner of Prisons revealed that the contraband, including mobile phones, rolls of bhang, cigarettes, knives and alcohol will be set ablaze then.



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