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The day my son went missing

A-year-and-a-half since Susan Wanjiku last saw her five-year-old son, she holds onto hope. But each day gets harder

It was March 6, 2016, on a Sunday morning that Susan Wanjiku last heard from her son Simon Kimani. Three years and seven months old then, Kimani woke up as usual, had breakfast and as was routine, took off with his autistic 24-year-old brother, Samuel Kamau for their morning walk.

“My eldest son is autistic. The two loved each other to bits, every morning they liked to walk around the estate, in Korogocho, Grogon A near Daniel Comboni Primary School and would come back home in time for lunch,” narrates Wanjiku.

The two always knew their way around the area, they were liked by neighbours and sometimes they would be offered food. So, when they did not come home by lunchtime, the family was not bothered. It is when they did not return by sunset that her greatest nightmare began to unfold.

“We started looking and asking around and when we did not find them, my emotions started turning on overdrive, these were two boys whose words could not be relied on, yet the sky was growing darker, and even the neigbours had last seen them in the morning,” Wanjiku says.

Together with her six other children and neighbours, they conducted a thorough search in the neighbourhood and far away, to no avail. The search was carried over into the morning. Still silent, still unseen. A day turned into two then a week and two weeks later, after a gruesome search for her children, Kamau was found by a neighbour at Ruai bypass.

“Our neighbour was on his way from a wedding, when he spotted Kamau at a matatu stage. He was telling matatu operators that he wanted a lift to Njiru. We thank God that he was found before he left for Njiru,” she says. Kamau was in a bad state, he had been badly beaten up by unknown people who he kept claiming it was the police.

“Being autistic, we cannot trust his word, but he keeps saying, until today, one-and-a-half years later when the police beat him up, took his brother away from him and told him to tell his parents to find Kimani at the police station,” says Wanjiru. Finding Kamau brought back hope that Kimani could be somewhere alive.

“We thought that maybe someone took him away from Kamau because they thought he stole him given his mental status, and it rekindled our hope of finding him,” she says.

Kimani was the last born and the past year-and-a-half has not been easy for his siblings either. Her husband is just as devastated. Wanjiku, who washes people’s clothes and her husband, who is a scrap metal dealer in Donholm, do not make enough money to make ends meet, let alone look for their child.

She thinks, maybe she could find her child or know about his whereabouts faster if she had a little more money to take her around. She says their desperate search has almost landed her into the hands of a con man who demanded ransom before he brings their son back.

“The stranger called after he heard a radio announcement. He said that he had my son in Nakuru, and that he needed us to send him money that would facilitate their fare to Nairobi as well as other necessities. But when we asked to talk to him, or at least hear his voice, he always told us he was asleep.

Eventually, when we involved the police, he disappeared,” says Wanjiku. On the day he got lost, Kimani, who was also known as Kim or Nyama Ndogo because of his small body frame, was dressed in a brown trousers with white details, a cream vest, a blue sweater with white stripes and brown shoes.

Wanjiku describes him as a polite boy, loved dancing and was left-handed. At the time of getting lost, he did not know how to talk well. She says the pain of losing her son is excruciating, “I would describe this loss as even greater than death.

I’d rather know that my son is resting peacefully,” she says. Wanjiku says a day does not pass without her thinking about her son. “All I want is some closure. I need to know where he is, and if he is not alive, I need to know,” she says.

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