In June of 2010, a 32-year man from Nairobi was arrested for having involvement in a string of kidnappings. However, unbeknownst to investigators at the time, they had just detained Kenya’s most prolific serial killer…
Catherine Chelengat was a 32 year old mother of one, in 2008, when she disappeared.
She had just finished college at the Kabete Technical Institute earlier that year, in Nairobi, the capitol city of Kenya. Catherine lived in a suburb of Nairobi called Karen, where she had several family members living nearby.
The day that Catherine disappeared - November 2nd, 2008 - seemed like every other Sunday. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the neighborhood that Catherine was staying in, according to one of her relatives, a man named Wesley Rotich.
Wesley was the last relative to see Catherine alive, as she left his home in the early evening:
"It was on a Sunday. She left my house around 9:00 PM, saying she was going to spend the night at her brother's house."
Catherine departed to visit with another family member, but never arrived. Worried friends and family tried to retrace her steps in the coming days, weeks, and months, but they found nothing.
Wesley Rotich, the same relative that saw her last, described what happened next:
"We heard nothing from her captors for the next three months. They called us on [the] phone and demanded Sh30,000 (shillings). We pleaded for time as we did not have the money. We reported [it] to police at Karen."
The extortion attempt came three months after Catherine's disappearance, in the early months of 2009. The family of the missing mother did not have the money on-hand, so they begged for time. The figure on the other end seemed to show very little pity, but ultimately allowed them to pay a smaller amount: Sh15,000. The ransom was paid through M-Pesa, a money transfer program.
Sadly, it did not result in the safe return of Catherine Chelengat.
The young mother had already died, killed months beforehand by a killer who worked just down the block from her family. He was a security guard, who worked at the local water utility office building, which was less than fifty meters away from the home where Catherine had last been seen. He would later claim to have encountered the woman walking along the road, when he approached her and held out an open hand.
"She was just walking along the road. I just shook her hand and she followed me."
You see, this killer - who would later become known as Kenya's most infamous serial killer - claimed to have a special ability. He would later tell police that he had a magic touch, and was able to lure women away to private locations, where he would murder them indiscriminately, before drinking some of their blood. Their blood, he alleged, fueled these supernatural powers of his, which then inspired him to kill again.
The body of 32-year old Catherine Chelengat would not be found for over two years; during which time, the killer continued to lash out at women and children, ultimately amassing near two dozen victims over the span of a half-decade. All of which, he claimed, were sacrificed as part of a cult ritual - a cult, he had been forced into against his will.
This is the story of Philip Onyancha.
Philip Ondari Onyancha was born in western Kenya in 1978. He was just one of several children to his parents, Samuel and Esther Onyancha. Philip's family owned a farm in the region near Kericho; a tea farm they still tend to today, decades later, which is just outside of a rural village.
Because of lax record-keeping, and Philip himself becoming cryptic about his youth, we know very little about his early years. However, according to Philip's later claims, he says that his childhood was marred by a couple of horrific incidents.
Philip claims that, in his youth, he was molested by a worker at his family's home. This happened a handful of times, and left Philip traumatized. He also says that it damaged his psyche, making him believe that he could get anything that he wanted if he used force.
Later, this apparently led to Philip watching and looking at a lot of pornography, which caused him to have a significant struggle with his own burgeoning sexuality.
This was unfolding behind the scenes, though, as Philip seemed to show a lot of promise in primary school. He attended Changoi Primary, and did well enough to earn good grades. When applying for upper-etchelon high schools in the region, his primary school headmaster wrote in his admission forms that he was:
"A well-behaved boy whose ability is above average."
Philip was admitted to Kenyatta Mahiga High School, over in Nyeri, close to 300 kilometers away from home. Kenyatta Mahiga was regarded as one of the best high schools throughout all of Kenya, and would allow Philip to go through Forms One through Four - the four years of secondary school - and set himself on the path to university.
During his first year away from home, at the private Kenyatta Mahiga High School, Philip earned himself a reputation for being a promising young student. He showed enthusiasm in not only his academics, but loved to participate in extracurricular activities and seemed to enjoy himself outside, engaging in sports and other athletics with his peers.
Mercy Thirimo, his English teacher at Kenyatta Mahiga, said about Philip:
"He was an eloquent, bright young student who spoke with a lot of authority and excelled in his studies."
Going into his second year of school, though, trouble was on the horizon.
Some of Philip's more troublesome behaviors began to present themselves in Philip's second year. Gone was the Philip of Form One, who showed a lot of initiative and tried to prove himself to the older children. Entering his second year, he seemed to let his age get to his head incredibly early, and - seemingly - began to take it out on his vulnerable classmates.
Onesmus Mwangi, a math teacher at Kenyatta Mahiga that also served as the school's deputy head teacher, later recalled Philip's behavioral shift:
"When he arrived here, he was a very dedicated student who led his class for several terms. But when he got to Form Two, he appears to have lost his marbles after he was suspended for bullying Form One students."
It would later be learned that Philip wasn't just being accused of bullying. Rather, he had been accused by one Form One student - a younger boy - of sodomy.
It's hard to say how valid this accusation was, because I only discovered this due to a later inteview with Philip himself. None of the English-language articles that go into Philip's past have really explored this accusation, only stating that he had been accused of the more blanket term, "bullying."
Nonetheless, the accusation seems to have been halfheartedly investigated, and found nothing substantial to support it. After a two week suspension, Philip was readmitted to school, and resumed his studies.
However, after returning, Philip was never the same. Mercy Thirimo, his English teacher that had once lauded his enthusiasm, remarked that he was changed after returning to Kenyatta Mahiga:
"He returned to the school but he had lost his lustre."
Even Joseph Mwaura, Philip's biology teacher, noted the change:
"This formerly energetic boy who participated in ball games and athletics was never the same again. We watched him spiral into a pale shadow of himself."
It's hard to tell, years later, whether or not the accusations against him at the time had any merit. But upon returning to class, Philip was remarkably different. Instructors had to force him to pay attention in class, and he seemed to be struggling to apply himself to his academic work. He even stopped participating in extracurriculars entirely.
Over the next couple of years, the school continued to experience issues with Philip. His behavioral issues became more apparent, and he lost his formerly-calm and collected demeanor. He seemed more twitchy, he was quick-to-anger, etc.
It is also worth noting that, throughout this time period - as Philip began to come to the end of his secondary education - the school itself was receiving whispers of some kind of devil worship. Every school has its own fair share of random gossip, but the rumors seem much more malicious, in retrospect, when it involves the occult. Former-students and school officials would remark on this years later, but - at the time - they had nothing tying these rumors back to Philip. To them, he was just a disgruntled kid eagerly awaiting graduation.
Philip sat for his KCSE in 1998. That is, he sat for his Kenyan Certificate of Secondary Education - the Kenyan equivalent of the high school diploma. He ended up graduating with the GPA equivalent of a C-minus, but never collected his certificate. I'm serious, he just never picked up his certificate, instead choosing to roll the dice by re-taking the test some time later.
Philip went to another school for his fourth year, Form Four, and earned his KCSE there. However, instead of continue his education at a college or university, he instead decided to enter the work-force, eventually becoming a security guard.
He lived in the village near his family's farm, in western Kenya, but eventually moved back to Nyeri - the same city where he had gone to secondary school years earlier. It would later be learned that Philip was forced out of his family's village when he was accused of attempting to rape a neighbor, and he moved back to the only other region he was familiar with.
Philip says that this wasn't true, however. He claims to have made the move to Nyeri - nearly 300 kilometers away - because he was hearing voices. Voices that he had been hearing since high school, who had been growing in volume and intensity, and were encouraging him to make rash decisions. Including the decision to kill.
Over the next decade or so, following the conclusion of his secondary education in the late 1990's, Philip Onyancha entered the workforce.
He worked primarily as a security guard, who was employed by G4S, a global security firm. As such, Philip was often moved around, and began to work as a guard at various companies, as well as private residences.
He eventually married, to a young woman named Lydia Nyaboke. In the mid-2000's, following his move to Nyeri, the two married and moved to Nairobi, where they lived in a small, one-bedroom house, along with a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, and two children. One of the children was Philip and Lydia's, a son that was born in the year 2008.
When the child was still an infant, Philip's wife, Lydia, began to grow suspicious of his odd behavior. She had always known him as a kind and compassionate man, but he began to spend odd hours out-and-about; in particular, staying out unusually late and hanging out with unknown acquaintances. Eventually, in June of 2009, she even called him out on this, later telling reporters:
"I thought he had another wife and even asked him to let me go if this was the case."
However, despite her fears, she stuck with Philip, who insisted that nothing was wrong. He said he remained committed to Lydia and their infant son, and he continued providing for their young family.
Outside of the home, Philip struck neighbors and acquaintances as a seemingly-normal guy, who randomly did strange things. Neighbors say that they barely spoke to Philip, if at all; but if they did, he seemed... odd. He would say weird things, and lash out in certain ways, like turning off the main power breaker to the entire neighborhood. When neighbors complained about this type of erratic behavior, he responded by threatening to hire someone to kill them. When he did more usual annoying neighbor stuff, such as playing his music loudly late at-night, nobody complained or questioned him, because they were afraid of some kind of reprisal.
Many ascribed his odd behaviors to him living in a small environment, with no real room to breathe. However, others noted that a small growth was visible on the back of his head: a tumor, which had slowly grown into the size of a small orange at around the time his behavior started deteriorating.
Going into 2010 - the year that Philip Onyancha turned 32 years old - he was still working for G4S as a watchman. However, over the first few months of the year, his attendance had started to become spotty, and he was noted as being absent or missing from his post on multiple occasions. He had not expressed any other kind of weird behaviors during his years with for the security firm, but... multiple unexcused absences is a hard thing for an employer to look past.
It came as no surprise then, when he was fired in March of 2010.
When a killer strikes, they usually lash out close-to-home. Most investigators start their investigation inside the family, and work their way out.
Occasionally, though, it becomes apparent that these crimes are not done by anyone with a personal motive. These are people driven by something within, and they usually attack those who can't fight back.
In June of 2009 - at around the same time that Philip Onyancha's wife began to suspect something was going on in his life that she didn't know about - a boy in Nairobi went missing. The boy, named Samuel Wanyonyi, was a lot like Philip had been in his youth: enthusiastic about his education. In fact, he had moved to Nairobi to live with his aunt, because he was attending a prestigious school in the region.
But after only three months, Samuel went missing.
He was gone for only three days, before a note was left on the doorstep of his aunt's home. The note demanded Sh40,000 be sent to a phone number through M-Pesa, a money transfer program.
Sound familiar? Because it is. This is the exact same thing that had happened to the family of Catherine Chalengat, a missing mother that had disappeared from the region months prior, in November of 2008.
The family of Samuel Wanyonyi refused to pay the ransom, because they simple didn't have it. That was when a second letter arrived at their Nairobi home, along with some items of Samuel's clothing, which he had been wearing when he went missing. This time, the price had been reduced to Sh10,000. Still, though, the family couldn’t - or wouldn’t - pay it.
After this, the letters stopped arriving. So did the harassing phone calls, which had been tormenting the family into paying a ransom for a family member they believed was already dead.
All the while, a local man named Philip Onyancha had been helping out with the neighborhood searches for the Samuel, offering to help with the large mobs of volunteers looking for the boy. He even told the family of the victim that the handwriting on the hand-written letters looked like that of a female; which, we know now, was an attempt to remove himself from suspicion.
In 2010, the city of Thika - which sits about an hour north of Nairobi - experienced a significant uptick in violent deaths. In particular, eight six workers were killed over the span of the year, but a couple of high-profile deaths early on put this industrial city on high-alert.
In January of 2010, the body of a sex worker named Hellen Nyambura was found in a room at the Rwambogo Bar and Restaurant. Her body had been left there for several days. It would later be learned that the killer stopped by to view her body close to a dozen times, before it was finally discovered. Even then, the killer waited in a gathering crowd outside to watch the police extract it from the room it had been lying in.
Police originally stated that they believed she had died of epileptic shock, before learning the shocking truth months later.
Then, just about a week later, a similar crime happened in a separate area of Thika.
On February 2nd, 2010, 25-year old Jacquelin Wambui met up with a client, before heading to the Suitable Lodging House: a low-scale motel mostly known for sex work. There, she also met her unfortunate fate, and her body was found the next day: naked, and with her neck broken.
Throughout all eight of these murders, police struggled to identify any leads. They were able to trace back the victims to particular places and times, but because of the seemingly-random nature of the crimes, there was little for detectives to do. They remained unsolved for the foreseeable future.
In April of 2010, a nine-year old boy named Anthony Muiruri went missing from his family's neighborhood of Dagoretti: a western suburb of Nairobi. Following his disappearance, weeks passed with no word.
But then, just like the prior kidnapping victims, a note arrived at the home of his family. The note demanded an amount to be paid in ransom, for the safe return of nine-year-old Anthony. Unlike the prior victims, the family of Anthony were actually able to pay, and followed the instructions: which told them to send the money through M-Pesa, and provided a mobile phone number to send the money to.
Unbeknownst to the kidnapper, however, the money was being tracked through the program by the police. It wasn't until the first week of June 2010 - nearly two months after Anthony's disappearance - that his family would learn he was already dead. His body was found heavily decomposed, meaning that he had likely been killed just a short time after going missing.
However, they finally had an answer, and knew what had happened to their young son.
That was because police had the culprit in custody: a 32-year old man named Philip Onyancha. Who, within a day, had confessed to killing nearly twenty people.
On June 5th, Philip Onyancha was arrested by police, after multiple pieces of evidence put him in their sights for a recent abduction.
Using Safaricom call data records, investigators were able to track the money being paid to the alleged kidnapper of a nine-year-old boy. When they found the suspect, they were then able to determine that a handwritten ransom note left at the scene of the abduction was written by Onyancha himself.
Following his arrest, Onyancha confessed to killing nearly twenty people. This number varies based on the publication, but it has consistently been reported as being at least seventeen, with the most recent speculation settling around nineteen victims. All of which were women and children, whom Philip described as being weak and vulnerable to his attacks.
In Onyancha's confession - which you heard a piece of before the break - Onyancha described how his crimes had escalated over the years, originating from his time in high school. He claimed that in his first year at Kenyatta Mahiga High School, a female teacher had recruited him into a murderous cult. Once initiated into the cult, he was responsible for killing one-hundred people; at which point, he would be blessed with an untold amount of riches.
As part of the cult's practices, however, he said he had engaged in practices deemed barbaric and audacious. After killing each of his victims, he described drinking blood from their bodies; usually, from their necks.
Despite claiming to have never met other members of the cult, Onyancha claimed to have had some accomplices to the kidnappings he perpetrated. These two men, Tobias Aradi and Douglas Obiero, were arrested shortly after Onyancha's confession, for having involvement in a kidnapping ring that would help Onyancha kidnap victims and hold them for ransom.
Often times, they would be held for weeks - or even months - before ransom notes would be sent out. And every single time, when those notes were sent out, they were already dead at the hands of Philip himself.
Richard Katola, the Head of the Special Crimes Prevention Unit, told the media about these two accomplices:
"We are interrogating them, and from what we have established, they were accomplices of this man. They will definitely stand trial with him."
Despite having two potential accomplices arrested, accused of organizing a kidnapping ring with Onyancha, investigators were eager to get to the bottom of the cult allegations made by Philip. If it was true, that there were others like him trying to murder one-hundred victims, it would be making their jobs much harder in the near-future.
However, Philip claims to have never met any of the other cult members. This meant that police needed to find the woman that Philip alleged had initiated him into the cult: a teacher from his days back in high school.
Of the people shocked by the news, none was hit harder than Lydia Onyancha - Philip's wife. She had been married to the man for several years, and the two had a young son, who was just two-and-a-half years old at the time of his arrest.
Lydia later told a reporter that she knew something was wrong when police visited their home, and picked up Onyancha for an interview. She originally thought it was a work-related matter, but was kept in the dark... until the very next day, when she saw the news.
"I was in the house the day he was arrested, but I was shocked when I learnt the next day the crime he had committed."
While reading the newspaper, Lydia discovered that her husband - Philip Onyancha - was a serial killer. She claims that as soon as she saw this, she passed out.
As the news began to spread, Lydia was forced to leave her home, along with her two-year-old son, for fear of retribution by victims families. She left for her familial village, just hours before an angry mob stormed into the Onyancha home, and threatened to burn it down.
It would later be noted that this mob was only deterred by police, who intervened just in-time.
However, Lydia would not return to the home, instead choosing to remain behind in her family's village, over in western Kenya. There, she had to mourn not only for the life she and her son had lost, but the lives lost in Philip's wake.
"I feel sadder for the families of the victims. I keep praying to God to console them and I apologize on his behalf to all of them."
Over the next several days, word of Philip Onyancha's actions spread throughout - not only the region of Nairobi, Kenya's largest city - but throughout all of Kenya.
Within a few days, he had become the nation's most infamous - and most feared - killer.
Publications described him as having the "eyes of a fox," and his soft-spoken, casual demeanor often drew comparisons to Ted Bundy. It was also noted that he had a large, orange-sized tumor on the back of his head, something that led to several theories about his mental health and behavioral issues.
Following the news of his arrest, Philip led investigators on a tour of his crime scenes, where he claimed to recall each crime as if it just happened. In some of the cases, the bodies of his victims had been found, and were either unidentified or their cases had simply been left unsolved. Philip's testimony was enough to bring those cases back to the limelight, and give them some sense of resolution.
This trip took Philip out from Nairobi to the Central Province and Rift Valley, where Philip described killing victims and leaving their bodies in isolated, undisturbed areas. This even included some cheap lodges and motels, where Philip admitted to killing several sex workers.
As you can guess, the reaction from the public was... less than ideal. Angry mobs followed around the police cruisers, and gathered around each crime scene, waiting for Onyancha to show himself. In some cases, furious onlookers even brandished weapons or nooses, threatening vengeance.
In those first few days, at least four bodies were found. These were victims that had gone missing in the preceding few years, and whose families had received no word of their whereabouts since.
This included two bodies found in Karen, a western suburb of Nairobi. Onyancha led police to a home where he had worked as a security guard. In an attic, police found the bones of a deceased young woman, who Phillip claimed he had picked at-random while working. He had simply seen this woman on the street, and her life was ended.
Philip then led police to the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company office building, at a nearby Karen shopping center, where the body of another young woman was found in an exposed sewer drain. This would later be determined to be the remains of Catherine Chelangat, the 32-year old mother of one, whose story I told you in the introduction. She had been missing for two years at this point.
In addition to finding the bodies of victims, Philip also gave investigators some resolution for unsolved cases. This included the unresolved deaths of Hellen Nyambura and Jacqueline Wambui, two sex workers from Thika, whose bodies had been found just months prior, inside cheap motel rooms. Philip led investigators to the cramped, dirty rooms where both bodies had been found, and claimed responsibility for their murders.
Despite providing investigators with many answers, regarding unsolved murders and kidnappings, there were many throughout Kenya that still had tons of questions. They wanted to learn what had driven this once-promising young man to become the nation's most infamous serial killer, and if there was anything they could do to prevent it elsewhere.
Also, journalists were eager to know more about this cult that Philip Onyancha claimed to have involvement in; claims that seemed to fall on deaf ears.
On what had encouraged him to start killing, Onyancha told local reporters - including those with the Kenya Daily Nation newspaper - that he felt a "powerful and unstoppable" urge to kill. He said he derived pleasure from strangling victims and drinking their blood.
Their blood, he said, fueled him, and gave him supernatural abilities that allowed him to subdue victims much more easily in the future.
When asked why he had targeted mostly female victims, in addition to children, Philip stated:
"When the urge comes, they are the easiest victims."
"When I meet my target, even if she tries to resist she can't. I only need to greet her, shake her hand and she becomes confused, kind of. One time in Nairobi, I managed to make a lady follow me only by talking to her, but because I did not greet her, she survived."
"I always went for the weak in society. You know women and children are always weak and vulnerable which makes them an easy target."
Despite claiming responsibility for the killings, Philip almost tried to shirk responsibility by claiming that it wasn't him who had directed the killings. Again, he said, he had been initiated into a cult that forced him to do these evil things.
"My target was to kill 100 women. I managed 17 and there were 83 to go."
"After agreeing to join the cult, I graduated automatically. From then on spirits would send me to go and kill."
"In the cult, it was like in a stage, and to go to the next level, I had to kill a lot of people and also meet the leader of the cult."
"I feel relieved, I am happy to have confessed all this. It was troubling. It was not my wish to do these evils, I know it is a crime to kill and it is against the Ten Commandments of God, but you see I was not myself."
"I regret a lot. I share the pain with the grieving families but then it was not my fault, it was the spirits in me. I will not repeat what I have been doing because my initiators warned me that if I ever reveal it to anyone or confess, I lose the spirits and the power. I am now back to my senses."
Elizabeth Wambui Kimani was 40 years old at the time of her arrest, in June of 2010.
She had been a young school teacher at Kenyatta Mahiga High School, teaching Christian Religious Education classes between 1995 and 1997 - Philip's first few years at the school.
Following this, she had requested a transfer to the city of Thika, citing medical reasons. There, she had taught at Karuri High School in Banana Hill from March of 1998 to July of 2002.
Due to the language barrier, I have not been able to learn much more about Elizabeth Wambui in those interim eight years, but it seems like she lived a pretty quiet life. That is, of course, until she surrendered to police just days after the arrest of Philip Onyancha. She would be held in custody for the next two weeks, before actually being charged with any crimes.
When she finally was, on June 24th, she was charged with administering an unlawful oath to Philip Onyancha... but the prosecutors were apparently weighing more charges.
By the time that Elizabeth Wambui was charged, on June 24th, 2010, several details of Philip Onyancha's confession had already spread through the media.
Philip had claimed that back in high school, when he was just a teenage boy, Wambui - one of his teachers - had developed an unhealthy obsession with him. He said that she would invite him over to her house, where she would offer him food and drink... which had been laced with unknown ingredients and concoctions, implying that he had been drugged.
During one of these encounters, Philip claimed, Elizabeth had lacerated his chest when he was in a dulled state, and took some of his blood. In return, she had allegedly put some kind of black powder - similar to ash - on the open wound.
Following this, Philip Onyancha alleges that Elizabeth Wambui was able to take control of him through black magic rituals, encouraging him to go out and kill. He says that she often appeared in his dreams, telling him what to do, and that her hold over him continued to escalate in the years after high school, leading up to the mid-2000's. By 2006, he stated, she was able to force him to kill, telling him that he needed to kill at least one-hundred people before he could be fully integrated into her cult.
Unsurprisingly, this entire series of events was denied by Elizabeth Wambui.
During interviews with investigators, Elizabeth Wambui was allegedly not very cooperative, and - at times - seemed combative. She even denied knowing Philip Onyancha entirely, but police were able to connect them together through their connection at Kenyatta Mahiga High School.
One police official told the media that:
"We have not made any head way, we are going at her pace because she seems disturbed and sometimes, she chooses to just keep quiet."
For the next year, Elizabeth Wambui remained in-custody, awaiting trial. It is theorized that prosecutors and investigators were eager to try her ahead of Philip Onyancha and his kidnapping accomplices, as it would establish a foundation of guilt for the accused. So, ahead of the actual perpetrators, Wambui was charged with administering an illegal oath, and her trial was set to begin in September of 2011.
The trial moved quickly, and the wind was sucked out of the prosecution's sails when their key witness - self-proclaimed serial killer Philip Onyancha - testified that his prior claims about Elizabeth Wambui was false. When the ruling finally came down, Kibera principal magistrate Fridah Nyakundi addressed Elizabeth Wambui directly:
"You have been acquitted of the charges levelled against you.
"Although evidence adduced before this court shows that a relationship existed between the accused and Mr. Philip Onyancha, the prosecution did not prove beyond any reasonable doubt that an oath was administered.
"Even if it could have been administered, no one would know if it was meant to commit murder. This is because oaths are done in secrecy."
Despite the setback suffered by Elizabeth Wambui's acquittal, prosecutors were still hoping to quickly launch into their case against Philip Onyancha and his accomplices, Tobias Aradi and Douglas Obiero. Combined, they were looking at at least eighteen murder cases, which included charges of kidnapping, sexual assault, and much more. Their case spanned throughout Kenya, including the cities of Nyeri, Nakura, Thika, and Nairobi.
Their victims included Catherine Chelengat, a 32-year old mother of one that had been randomly selected by Onyancha himself; Jacqueline Wambui and Hellen Nyambura, sex workers that Onyancha had murdered inside motel rooms; as well as Anthony Njirua and Metan Baraza, nine-year-old boys that had been abducted and held for ransom.
Other victims, including some bodies that Onyancha had led investigators straight to, remained nameless, their identities unknown.
Because this type of serial killer investigation had never been seen in Kenya before, the investigation would carry on for several years.
In 2010, Philip Onyancha's mental health became the subject of a court case, as prosecutors petitioned to try him for murder charges under the normal rule of law. If he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial, they would have to try him under a different set of laws, so they called in psychologists and mental health experts to evaluate him.
Citing the depravity of the crimes and a number of other factors, the defense tried to have him ruled mentally unfit. Unfortunately, they were overruled by the judge, who sided with the prosecution, and allowed the trial to proceed against Onyancha unimpeded.
Later that year - in 2010 - Philip Onyancha stood trial, but for a different case entirely. In a Kibera court, he faced charges of attempted rape and assault of a woman, stemming from a incident unrelated to his murder charges. Of this accusation he was actually found guilty, and sentenced to twelve years in prison... which, because of the circumstances, he would serve in a maximum security facility.
Over the next several years, the prosecution would continue to build up their case against Philip Onyancha and his associates. However, because of Philip's 2010 conviction, he spent the duration in the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, where he has seemingly tried to turn his life around.
Shortly after his conviction, he had surgery to remove the tumor from the back of his skull. Then, he began working towards becoming a preacher: a job he hopes to hold onto, should he ever get released from prison.
In addition to working as a preacher, he also works as a bookkeeper for the prison, which has helped him pass the time until his trial.
Speaking of which, in 2014 - nearly four years after being arrested - Onyancha and his accomplices entered a not-guilty plea in their upcoming trial. That same year saw another round of mental evaluations, which ruled that Philip Onyancha remained a threat, and would likely re-offend if he were to be released from prison.
In 2017, still awaiting trial for the murder charges levied against him, a prosecutor urged a High Court judge to make a special ruling in the case, and order Philip Onyancha jailed at the "pleasure of the president."
This would, in essence, keep him behind bars until state experts could rule him sound of mind. This petition was inspired by three separate psychiatric examinations, which found him likely to commit similar offenses should he ever be released.
That leads us into this year, 2018. In January and February, the prosecution was asked to submit their final paperwork leading up to the trial, which would finally bring murder charges against Philip Onyancha and his two accomplices.
A date was set for April 5th - a so-called "judgment day" - in which the judge would decide whether the case would move forward... or whether it had to start over from the very beginning.
High Court Justice James Wakiaga ordered a brand-new trial for Philip Onyancha, ruling that the previous hearings against him - in which the courts had ruled on his mental health, and even his 2010 conviction for sexual assault - were mistrials.
Justice Wakiaga stated that Philip Onyancha should have been tried under section 162 of Kenya's Criminal Procedure Code, instead of section 166. Section 162 dealt directly with those who were suffering from mental illness, and carried with it different sentencing guidelines, procedures, and more.
The Justice also found that the prosecution had, over the years, tried to supress mental health findings, thus ensuring that the case against Onyancha would proceed as-planned.
The case was then forwarded to the Head of Criminal Divisions, where it arrived at the desk of Justice Jessie Lesiit. It remains there, as Philip Onyancha and his associates continue to await trial.
The case against Philip Onyancha remains an open-ended affair. It's actually a case I was made of several months ago, and I have eagerly been awaiting news ever since.
But this story has taught me that, occasionally, the gears of a judicial system can move slowly. And none move slower than in Kenya, where this eight-year-old investigation and prosecution now has to, basically, start over from scratch. As such, it is unlikely to reach a resolution anytime soon, due to the various moving components, and the multiple jurisdictions where the crimes took place.
Philip Onyancha and his alleged accomplices - Tobias Aradi and Douglas Obiero - are still awaiting trial. The prosecution had built a pretty convincing case for at least three murders, but we can only guess on whether or not that number will change in the coming months and years.
To this day, Philip Onyancha remains feared among the Kenyan people, becoming known as the nation's most infamous serial killer. In fact, he is credited by some reports as being the first serial killer to rock the nation, but it is unlikely that he will be the last.
I hope to bring you updates on this story in the near-future, but until such time, the story of Philip Onyancha - as well as the stories of his countless victims - remain unresolved.
Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan
Published on October 14th, 2018
Magna Ingress - "Anahata I"
Other original music created and composed by Ailsa Traves