An agonising nine-month search for a missing kin turned into unbelievable joy after Constable Reuben Kimutai Lel, who went missing on December 20 last year, was found at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) on Thursday last week.
During the entire period, 269 days, Constable Kimutai remained in a coma following an accident, with both his colleagues and family members not aware of his whereabouts.
The officer from Jogoo Road police station, and who was attached to Makadara Law Courts went missing just a day after he started his annual leave.
Investigations later revealed that he was hit by a vehicle along Jogoo Road on December 20 at around 9 pm where he sustained serious injuries.
According to records at the KNH, Kimutai sustained a fracture on the left leg and also head injuries as a ‘male unknown adult’.
Upon being taken to the hospital, his condition did not improve and was unable to talk before he eventually crashed into a coma which would go on to last 9 months.
“Kimutai had been granted leave on December 19 and was preparing to proceed to his rural home on leave before he disappeared,” a colleague said. “He was later declared a deserter by the service,” he added.
Not even those who worked close with him knew what had happened, and where he was. Three of them -Inspector Japheth Ochoro, Inspector Susan Oola and Sergeant Josephine Musyoka -were listed as witnesses in the case where he was accused of deserting duty.
However, about two weeks ago, the father of seven started regaining consciousness but could not talk clearly.
Joan Jeptoo, the officer’s niece said they had literally searched everywhere, including mortuaries, in vain.
“I got a call from his colleagues and since I was the only family member around, I rushed to the KNH. I was directed to Level 6 at the orthopaedic ward where I found him,” the niece said.
The hospital told K24 Digital that his identification and subsequent contacting the family members posed a great challenge since the officer could not talk and information available was also very scanty.
The KNH head of Medical Social Work Kelwon Kandie said the hospital then took his fingerprints and found out that he was coming from Timboroa, Keses, Uasin Gishu County.
“We got scanty information about his home particulars. When he started talking, he could only utter some incoherent words,” Kandie said.
He said he was attached to a “court next to the main road” but could not remember the name.
Meanwhile, the search for the officer went on with nobody knowing who he was and what had happened, nor his identity. After 9 months in a coma, not only did he wake up but said he remembered most of the things.
The KNH officials then contacted the police headquarters who then informed the hospital that the officer was being sought for deserting duty.
To the police, Kimutai had absented himself, without leave or just cause, and was to be arrested and charged in any court where he deserted or was found.
The family on the other hand was almost losing hope of finding their kin, and was threatening to sue the police service. Upon being informed of the development, some family members proceeded to the KNH and voila! There he was.
“He could only recognise my voice, as a family member, but not my name. I felt elated. It had been a long painful journey and we had even lost hope. We feel relieved and thank God,” Jeptoo said.
Investigations by K24 Digital revealed that his senior colleagues stuck to the regulations and never went out of their way to look for him in various facilities.
Almost a month after he went missing, -on January 19 this year –the matter was officially booked at Jogoo police station, Occurrence Book (OB) number 3/19/1/2021. The officer was thereafter officially declared a deserter.
Later on March 3, a decision was made and a charge sheet was drafted.
The charge sheet read: “On the 19th day of January 2021 at Makadara Law Court in Makadara Sub-County within Nairobi Region, being a police officer attached to Makadara Law Courts absented himself from duty without leave, for a period of 10 days.”
On March 22, the charge sheet was registered in court and received by the Prosecution but it indicated the suspect was “still at large”
Under section 94 of the National Police Service Act is liable, on conviction, to summary dismissal for a term not exceeding two years.
“His colleagues probably thought that he would surface after being declared a deserter. After he failed to surface, the charges were withdrawn from the Makadara Law Courts,” an officer who sought anonymity said.
Kimutai’s niece said a day after they found him, they began the process of clearing from the hospital. “He had an NHIF cover and the bill was manageable,” she said.
The officer was then discharged and investigations by People Daily revealed that the case had been pending before Makadara court. A warrant of arrest was issued and the case was scheduled for a mention next month, October 12. However, upon realization that the officer had been hospitalized following an accident, the case was withdrawn under section 87(a) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
Records from KNH indicated that Kimutai was admitted as a patient number 211237, at Ward 6A.
“He was admitted as Augustine Meto, but did not have any identification documents,” KNH said.
“When he started to regain some level of consciousness, contact tracing through the National Bureau of Registration identified him as Reuben Kimutai Lel. The name indicated on admission was therefore changed in his hospital records,” a brief from the KNH to court dated September 16 read.
“The patient has been at Kenyatta National Hospital since the night of December 20, 2020, to date (September 16, 2021). He has recovered from the fracture, but he has not fully recovered his memory,” the brief added.
The National Police Service spokesman Bruno Shioso said the matter was under investigation.
“This is an issue requiring investigation and factfinding. The purpose of factfinding is to establish the truth to serve justice to parties seeking justice. If it’s established that the officer didn’t desert or absent not out of own fault, then justice shall be served to him,” he said.
Shioso said all cases of missing persons incidences are investigated in a standard way. “All sources of information are exhausted, including families, friends, colleagues and all suspicious angles and leads followed to logical conclusion. This is a standard operating procedure,” he said.
The spokesman added that in case an unidentified person was found by officers, necessary investigations should be conducted through biometrics tracing including media appeals amongst others.
“When positive results are not forthcoming it doesn’t mean that a person has been dumped yet he or she has been taken to a medical institution under the care of trained medics and caregivers,” he added.