On Sunday June 30, 2019, at around 3.38pm London time, a stowaway aboard Kenya Airways flight KQ 100 to London fell 3,500 ft, half frozen to the ground. The Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner he fell from had left Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International airport eight hours and six minutes earlier.
Around this time, Kenya was in the process of acquiring rights to start direct flights from Nairobi to New York. If it could be proven that the stowaway was Kenyan and had accessed the plane from JKIA, then Kenya’s quest would have been seriously compromised.
As it turned out, Kenya vehemently denied that the stowaway was Kenyan or from Kenya. Could this denial have been deliberately orchestrated to protect Kenya’s aviation interests? Where was this stowaway from? What was his identity?
Here is what Odhiambo Levin Opiyo, a Kenyan history expert living in the United States wrote on this stowaway who fell from the Kenya Airways plane from Nairobi to London:
At Lambeth Motuary in South West London, lay the unclaimed body of a stowaway who had fallen from a Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi to London.
His only possessions that had been retrieved from the wheel compartment of the plane were shoes, a bottle of Fanta, bottled in Nairobi and some Kenyan currency.
In an effort to trace his origin Detective Sergeant Paul Graves of the specialist crime unit London Metropolitan police was sent to Nairobi three months later in September 2019. Meanwhile pathologist took the fingerprints and DNA from the body and forwarded them to Nairobi.The results came back quickly: no match.
As part of his investigations, Greaves visited slums around the JKIA and Nairobi mortuaries, which were full of unclaimed bodies. Kenyan officials took him on a tour of JKIA and gave him access to CCTV recordings.
Even though Grieves, had concluded the man was definitely Kenyan and also came up with different theories of how the stowaway had sneaked into the plane, Kenyan officials gave senseless responses to counter his arguments. In the end, he had little choice but to take their word for it.
When Graves had exhausted all his leads in Kenya, there was only one thing left to do: make his findings available to the media, in the hope of reviving coverage of the story and triggering someone’s memory. This did not go down well with Kenyan officials who wanted the story to be swept under the carpet.
Grieves eventually flew back to London without making any breakthrough. The only option now available was to bury the young man as an unclaimed body.
On 26 February 2020 was a beautiful morning, crisp and clear, and freezing cold at Lambeth Cemetery. Beside the freshly dug grave was a coffin with a metal plaque, reading: “Unknown (Male), Died 30th June 2019, Aged 30.”
Standing next to it were four workers from Lambeth council, in green coveralls and mud-clogged boots, who were waiting to see if any mourners would arrive before the coffin was lowered into the grave. Beside them a man waited with a digger, ready to fill in the grave.
Meanwhile they talked among themselves about the stowaway’s death. “Considering he fell quite far,” one remarked, “he was in reasonably good condition.”
When they realised that there was no mourner turning up, they began to prepare to lower the body into the grave. Fortunately , one official from the Kenyan embassy, dressed in a black suit and leather shoes arrived barely making it on time. He was the sole mourner.
The undertakers then lowered the coffin into the ground, and inclined their heads for a few seconds. Immediately the body was in the ground, the embassy worker spun on his heels and hurried left.
In the end a nameless man lay in a little plot of Lambeth Cemetery south-west London, in an unmarked grave, identifiable only by a simple wooden cross and a numeric code, far away from his continent.