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Mystery persists on identity of stowaway

The tale of a stowaway whose frozen body fell from a KQ airliner into a London garden has turned into a troubling mystery after multiple figures and agencies issued denials and contradictory statements.

Who was he?

First, the parents recognise them, then they don’t and say he’s in Industrial Area Prison for alleged defilement. Except he’s not.

And whatever his name, how could this man possibly get into a high-security area from which direct flights take off to the US on a new, coveted route? An unknown person’s entry could be very embarrassing to the government, KAA and KQ. And economically damaging.

On Wednesday, security analyst Mwenda Mbijiwe told the Star the London garden death could lead to a downgrading of JKIA’s status.

“Whether the Kenya Airports Authority accepts or denies it, this is likely to lead to the downgrading of the direct US flights,” he said.

Mbijiwe said such a security breach is likely to complicate matters for Kenya, which recently secured Category 1 status, making flights possible to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.

Meantime, on Wednesday, the Star learnt that Interior ministry officials visited the family’s mud home in Kakamega, as did Malava subcounty officials to collect details of the family and those of the son, now called Cedric Shivonje.

 “He asked for our personal detail and those of our son Centric Shivonje who is in Nairobi. They told us that the matter will be investigated,” the mother told a reporter.

Questions about the account, inconsistencies and doubts began tumbling out on Tuesday as soon as a Sky News exclusive story was read in Kenya.

In a seemingly exhaustive investigative video and article, UK’s Sky News identified the stowaway as Paul Manasi, 29, an impoverished cleaner for Colnet Cleaning Services at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. That’s where the Boeing 787 took off for Heathrow Airport. That’s where flights take off for New York.

On June 30, the body fell 3,500 feet into a garden, nearly killing a man and creating a crater. He had been hidden in the airliner’s undercarriage and fell when the wheels were released for landing.

The investigation was the work of the network’s Africa correspondent John Sparks and a local journalist.

They said they interviewed Manyasi’s parents, Isaac and Janet [Jennet Khakali], three weeks ago at their mud-walled house in Makhwavuye village, Kakamega county.

In the Sky News clip, Isaac looked at photos and positively identified a small black bag, a pair of sports shoes and underwear as belonging to his son, supposedly Paul. 

“These were his … I recognise them, the shoes,” Isaac told the Sky News team. He passed the photos to his wife sitting next to him. 

The family said authorities never contacted them. They accepted reporters’ condolences.

The mother said she wanted her son buried at her home…”but the expenses”.

But on Wednesday morning, the stowaway’s supposed father, now a stammering Isaac Beti  —  appeared live on KTN News, made an about-face and disavowed the whole Sky News report.

He denied ever knowing a Paul Manyasi or anyone by that name. He said none of his sons has died.

Isaac said that’s what he told Sky News, contradicting the video.

Threatening legal action against Sky News and reporter Sparks, Isaac said his son is called Cedric Shivonje who lives in Nairobi. He even showed his birth certificate.

Isaac said they hadn’t spoken since 2017 when they quarrelled after Cedric refused to help pay school fees for another son.

“We quarrelled over the phone in 2017 after he said he did not have money at the time to help me pay school fees for one of my sons,” Isaac said.

“Shivonje’s number since then has not gone through and I assumed he got angry after the argument and changed his number.”

Is he worried about his son since they last spoke more than two years ago?

Isaac told Sky News, “Yes, of course,” when asked whether he worried about his son.

“Not at all,” he said in his new version, adding he learned Shivonje was arrested and is detained at Industrial Area Prison. He told KTN News that his family planned to travel to Nairobi next week to pursue his son’s release.

As the plot thickened, Industrial Area Prison officials said there was no Cedric Shivonje at the facility; they had no records of anyone by that name.

A check of the Facebook profile of a user named Cedric Junior — whose pictures are similar to those used by Sky News — showed that he last used Facebook on July 14 this year. After the stowaway fell from the sky on June 30.

His profile says he’s a medical student at JKUAT. University management told the star no Cedric Shivonge exists in its medical school records of students. 

Sky-high stakes

The Sky News’ story, assuming it’s true, could cause a huge backlash, damaging the reputation of JKIA, KQ, the Kenya Airports Authority and other agencies. A year ago, the US approved direct KQ flights from JKIA to JFK. — after the most stringent security checks to prevent terrorists’ access.

The integrity of the security procedures of the vital installation cold take a hit. 

KAA and Colnet Cleaning Services, the company for which Manyasi was allegedly working, earlier on Wednesday dismissed the Sky News investigation, saying the man never worked for them.

KAA said no Paul Manyasi ever worked at JKIA and biometrics is not in their database. It does not deny security was breached.

Moreover, the Star has learned that Isaac Beti’s Kakamega home was visited by a ranking national government official on Tuesday “to condole” with the family.

A journalist connected with the Sky News investigation confided to the Star that a KAA officer had called as they worked on the story, appealing “as a Kenyan… “not to burn the image of the airport and the country.

KAA and Colnet Cleaning Services declined to comment for its investigation, Sky News said.

It said on Wednesday, “The identity of the Stowaway is an open and active investigation and any information received will be investigated to ensure a factual conclusion. We wish to reiterate that safety and security in airports remain our priority.”

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