John Kiriamiti, born Batista Wanjohi, is a celebrated novelist whose first book, “My Life in Crime,” became a bestseller even though he was still in prison at the time of publication. He was a notorious criminal whose name was once synonymous with fear among detectives and the police. Kiriamiti was born on Valentine’s Day in 1950 in Murang’a, Kenya, to parents who were both teachers. He is married to a woman named Julian, and they have three daughters. One of Kiriamiti’s daughters, Annrita, is a promising actress and scriptwriter in the entertainment industry.
Kiriamiti’s education journey took him to Thuita Primary School in Murang’a before proceeding to Prince of Wales Secondary School, now known as Nairobi School. He was expelled from the latter school in 1965 after getting into a fight with some white boys who did not want to share facilities with Africans. Kiriamiti did not inform his relatives about his expulsion and did not return to school. He turned to a life of crime after meeting and befriending a group of young men on the streets of Nairobi.
Kiriamiti’s first mission as a criminal was to snatch a bag containing money from a Briton who had just withdrawn it from a bank. With only a machete in his hand, he managed to accomplish the daring mission, and his colleagues fired in the air to create a distraction and help them escape. Kiriamiti later graduated to bank robberies, which he preferred because they earned him more money. He was involved in a daring bank heist that lasted only six minutes in Naivasha, with the late President Moi’s convoy passing by.
Kiriamiti was arrested in 1971 in Nairobi’s River Road and was convicted of a number of felonies, including robbery with violence. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison, where he wrote his first book inspired by the novel “Across The Bridge” written by the late Mwangi Gicheru. The novel, also called “Across The Bridge,” is about a poor man who impregnated his boss’s daughter and resorted to crime after failing in various businesses. After 13 years in prison, Kiriamiti was released, and his book became an instant bestseller.
Kiriamiti was re-arrested in 1987 as a person of interest in the “Mwakenya affairs” case, in which he was accused of tipping special officers about various crimes. He was released in 1990 following the intervention of a local MP. Kiriamiti contemplated returning to a life of crime to seek revenge, but his wife, Julian, intervened and changed his ways. Kiriamiti now visits various prisons to speak against crime and helps to reform street urchins. He has written at least seven novels, including “My Life in Crime,” “My Life in Prison,” “Son of Fate,” and “The Sinister Trophy.”