The trusted enemy in your house

By Nyambura Michael Mungai

This post in the Standard Newspaper is here to underline a simple fact, “dont get people that you don not know into your house”

This is beacause you could exploit them and get yourself serving a jail term for that, worse still, the individuals could do something that could endanger you or another member of your family. See the following story…

By Michael Oriedo

“I wish I had never called that phone number,” Beatrice says sorrowfully as she reminisces events that have changed her family’s life forever.

A year ago, the businesswoman in Nairobi, was in a desperate situation. Her relative, who had been helping her with household chores, was joining college.

This meant that she had to employ a househelp. Like many people, she sent word to her parents who live upcountry to find her someone who would work as a maid.

Their promises, however, turned negative. Helpless, Beatrice scanned through the classified section of a newspaper and an advert she saw revived her hopes.

A house girls’ bureau in Nairobi. Photos/Michael Oriedo and File/Standard

“I called the number and talked to a woman who informed me that she had several girls,” she recounts.

They later met and Beatrice was impressed with the girl she got. “She was mature, religious, polite and well-mannered. I felt that she was the right person my children and I needed,” she says.

Strong bond

 

Soon, the girl started working.

“She developed a very strong bond with my children. They loved her. I was very impressed,” she recalls.

With that, she won Beatrice’s trust. She became her homemaker and a dependable helper. Beatrice began to allow her to clean her bedroom where she stored most of her merchandise.

Unknown to her, however, she had made the worst mistake. The woman saw piles of imported clothes Beatrice sells.

It did not pass a month before she returned home one evening to find her young children unattended and her stock of clothes and other valuables were missing. Her househelp too was missing.

“I was deeply shocked. I could not believe that the woman I had greatly trusted had turned into a criminal,” she says. The case is still in court.

Beatrice is not the only one who has fallen prey to house helps who turn into criminals. Collins Odero’s wife hired a girl after a friend recommended her to them.

For several months, the family stayed with her peacefully. However, on seeing that she was overwhelmed with work, Collins’ wife hired a woman who would help her wash clothes every Saturday.

This is where trouble began. The woman became a very good friend of their house help. Sometimes she would come during the week, stay with the househelp and leave before Collin’s and his wife returned.

One day, the family returned home only to find the two had virtually swept their house clean. They have not been able to recover the items to date.

And recently, a househelp abducted his employer’s child when the husband and his wife were out of the country.

The housemaid hired a taxi after lying that one of the child she was looking after was sick and that she was taking him to hospital.

He only called later to demand for ransom from the man who was at the time out of the country.

Investigations reveal that many families are falling victims to crimes orchestrated by their domestic servants.

Whereas some of the house helps are committing the crimes themselves, majority are colluding with criminals.

“They give criminals vital insider information which they use to scheme against their employers,” says Raphael Musau, the director of Hawk Eye Technologies, a private investigations firm.

Most of the crimes range from petty theft, kidnapping, house break-ins and carjacking. The house helps, many of who people hire through bureaux, spy on their employers and relay the information to criminal gangs who strike at an opportune time.

Most victims who shared their stories with us recruited their house helps from bureaux scattered in several estates in Nairobi and the city centre.

The bureaus, christened “domestic house girls’ centres”, advertise their services in newspapers, notice boards or paste their posters on trees and electricity poles. These messages consist of phone numbers and the word “house help available.”

Once you contact them, the bureaux will link you with women willing to work as house helps. Ironically, the operators talk good of the people on their employment lists yet in most cases, they have little information about them.

CCI contacted some of the bureaus. In one bureau, a man we talked to told us that he had very trustworthy house helps. However, he was not willing to act as a guarantor to the person we wished to recruit.

“We have honest house helps,” said the man.

“They are between the ages of 20 to 25 and are educated. Our commission is Sh1,200 and their salary is Sh3,500,” added the man.

Unlicensed centres

 

The man informed us that if we wanted to vet the girl we select, we could visit her rural home and meet her parents.

At another bureau in Nairobi’s Eastlands, a woman told us that she has born again girls of between ages 20 and 32.

“My commission is Sh1,500 and you will pay the girl Sh3,500 per month,” said the woman. She assured us that she had ‘vetted’ the girls and they could not steal from us. However, she insisted that we must live with the girl we pick.

CCI has learned that most of the ‘house girls centres,’ are unlicensed and have no capacity to vet the people they offer for employment.

“This is what is contributing to the rising cases of house helps committing crimes. The bureaus only keep contacts of potential employees who they link with an employer and get commission. If the person you employ turns against you, you are on your own,” warns Musau.

However, he says the rising incidents of domestic workers committing heinous crimes have made most people turn to private investigators to vet the people they want to employ.

“You need to know very well the person you want to employ because you are going to live with them. They should not be a security threat,” says Musau. He says to vet a potential house help, investigators trace a person’s employment history and check whether their documents are clean.

“We discovered that most house helps who turn into criminals use false documents. An investigator will check their fingerprints if they correspond to the ones at the national fingerprint bureau. They will also trace their parents and relatives and talk to them,” he says.

Harbouring criminals

 

Therefore, in case the house help commits a crime, they can easily be tracked down. Musau says although some house helps seek jobs while harbouring criminal intentions, there are others who end up becoming criminals because of the way employers treat them.

“When we fail to pay our house helps and abuse them, they will look for short cuts to fend for themselves,” he says.

Deputy Police Spokesperson, Mr Owino Wahongo says not all reports of criminals deeds by house helps are reported to the police. However, he cannot rule out that the crime in on the rise.

“The number of families in need of house helps has increased in the past years. And since many people can not employ their relatives, they are turning to bureaus where they get people with questionable characters,” he says.

Mr Owino says as a country, we need to formulate mechanisms that would help us vet people we employ as our domestic workers.

“It is a sensitive industry that is unregulated. No one knows what the bureaus do since many are not registered. If we can make house helps and security guards go through set guidelines, for instance, acquire certificate of good conduct before getting employment, we shall help eliminate criminal incidences,” he notes.

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