He was arrested in July in connection with the death of a 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy and then confessed to a spate of other killings, police said.
Wanjala, who had not been tried, was supposed to appear in court on Wednesday in connection with two of the alleged killings. But authorities said he did not appear for the morning roll call — and then it became apparent he had escaped, making front page news around the country.
Children on their way to school on Friday recognized the fugitive and raised an alarm, said Kenya police spokesman Bruno Isohi Shioso.
Villagers in Wanjala’s hometown of Bungoma, about 250 miles from Nairobi, then killed the 20-year-old man in an act of “mob justice,” Shioso said.
They acted so quickly once Wanjala had been identified that it was not possible for authorities to intervene, Shioso added. “Police can’t be everywhere,” he said.
“The law of the jungles as applied by irate villages prevailed,” tweeted the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
In Kenya, the case has sparked concern about how Wanjala — whom authorities had described as a “bloodthirsty vampire” — was able to escape police custody.
“Things just happen,” Shioso said when asked how Wanjala had managed to escape from Jogoo Road police station. “Once we complete the investigation, we should have a clearer picture of what happened.”
Three police officers were arrested on suspicion of aiding Wanjala’s jailbreak, according to the Star newspaper. Their lawyer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The Washington Post could not identify an attorney for Wanjala.
Wanjala’s father said earlier this that he was “surprised” to hear that his son had escaped, according to the NTV Kenya news channel. “I have not seen him,” Robert Wanjala added. “And I’m not interested in seeing him.”
After news of his son’s lynching, Robert Wanjala apologized to the victims’ families, telling NTV that he was “heartbroken but ready to bury” his son.
Grace Adhiambo, the mother of one of Wanjala’s alleged victims, said she was so astonished when she learned of Wanjala’s escape that she went to her local police station to confirm it was true.
“When I heard he was dead, I felt so relieved,” Adhiambo said. The body of her 13-year-old son, Brian Omondi, was found on the outskirts of Nairobi by police.
For Tony Opindo Wala, the father of another of Wanjala’s alleged victims, news of Wanjala’s death brought mixed feelings. Wala, who said Wanjala repeatedly called him asking for money after abducting his son, said he suspected that Wanjala did not work alone.
“He went away [died] with a lot of information,” said Wala, whose 13-year-old son, Charles Opindo, disappeared in June. “We just wanted to know how he did it. How did he lure them, what kind of deaths did they experience? … We do not have closure in that regard.”
Felister Wayua Musau, whose 12-year-old son was among Wanjala’s alleged victims, said her main feeling was of helplessness.
“We have forgiven him,” she said, “because what else can we do?”
Cheng reported from Seoul.