I Fought a Dirty Cop for my Life in Tanzania
So, I’ve got Wifi and I’m in this café and I’m just texting everyone, and I’m talking to everyone on the phone that I haven’t spoke to in a while, like my mom and dad. Messaging away, and it got dark outside and I didn’t realize that I’d been in there for so long. I don’t know what the crack exactly was with the policeman, but he was lingering around. As soon as I walked outside, he came straight up to me and he spoke in English. It’s quite comforting to see someone who speaks good English. They all speak Swahili and not many people have that good of English in the city center.
I was staying in a hole, a real hole. Because I’d walked quite far to find this café and that, well I couldn’t really remember my way back that much. I remember a bright orange shop that it was near it that I was describing. The policeman said to me, “It’s really dangerous at night. You shouldn’t be walking around on your own.” I’m a white guy, in Dar es Salaam. There was loads of people on the street. I don’t know why, there was just loads of people on the street at night. If there was no one there, I would’ve probably just walked on me own.
He was in uniform, so you think to yourself, ‘Right, okay…’ He whistled over his friend who was stood just a little bit further on than him and said, “Oh, this is my cousin. He’s from Somalia. He’s just here on holiday. I’m just showing him round as well. So, I’ll take care of both of you.”
We start walking and they’re speaking in their own language the whole way. I’m just there walking. I had a fake pocket made on the inside of my trousers, so I put my phone in there, and I’ve just got me cash in me pocket and a bit of cash in my sock. I’m not really paying that much attention to where we was walking. I was just looking at what was around more than anything. Before I knew it, we was in the middle of nowhere and we’d walked quite far. We’d got to a point where, I just remember it being not that dark, but suddenly, nothing, like an alleyway ending, but it was sort of closed off by a small thin street. The Somalian guy was walking a bit funny the whole time. Just, out of nowhere, he pulls a machete out of his trousers which’d been down his leg. Gives it to the policeman and walks a little bit further behind. I’m shitting meself. I’m in between them.
I remember there being a couple of piles of shit, like piles of rubbish and bags and the odd big dust-bin looking thing with just tarps and garbage everywhere. I remember it being really dirty. There was no lights there, but there was quite a highlight from the moon from when you get those odd nights. I started backing off and I’d backed onto a wall because I was shitting meself. He was shouting and screaming in Swahili. I didn’t know what he was saying. And he was going, “Your money! Your money!” “Okay, okay, okay.” I take my money out. The first bit of money that I take out, a couple of notes blew on the ground in a little bit of wind sort of thing and I’m really shaking and worried and I’ve gone into my sock and I’ve got my money out of my sock and I’m like, “Here. It’s okay, right, I’m…I’m going,” and he wouldn’t let me go. He’s sort of pushing me into the wall with his hands and the knife is in the middle of me face. He started putting a bit of pressure there. He’s just shouting, fucking, “Blablabla!,” whatever, in Swahili. And he’s pointing, getting at me earrings. I only had fake earrings in and he said, “Gimme your earrings or I’ll cut your ears off! I’ll cut your ears off!” He’s got his hand on me chest and he’s got the knife in my face and he took knife, like, wacked me in the side of the head with it and it was on the top of me ear. He just slid it back a tiny bit and it nicked the top of me ear.
…I don’t know why, I just, fucking…a reaction, grabbed his hand with my left hand, punched him with my right hand. Punched him again. I’ve got him on the ground and I’ve really got ahold of his wrist and I’m not going to let go of his wrist. He was quite a bit smaller than me as well. So was the other guy, but they had a go at me anyway. I’ve got him on the ground and I’m punching him and going…like the adrenaline was crazy. I remember putting my knee on his arm with the knife cause he wouldn’t let go of it. I was trying to get it out. I remember elbowing and punching him and feeling how hard his head was. It was disgusting. I really made a mess of him. Obviously, all of this happened really quick. I’m saying it as if it that lasted ages. It really didn’t at all. But I remember elbowing him and I remember a scream, sort of an “Aaaah,” sort of a noise. I just remember looking up and I remember seeing a little pen knife that you’ve opened, sort of thing. I remember the other guy lunging at me with it and I remember rolling towards him and pulling my shoulder up and as he’s gone down that one big thrust sliced my arm and then cut up my face, sort of glancing off my shoulder. With me rolling towards him like that, my aim was to kick him, but he got his feet tangled in my feet and he fell over as well.
I remember getting the machete in me hand from the policeman and the other guy just went ‘Whack!’, straight into me hip with the pen knife. It felt like someone had punched it, like ‘Boof!’ I just remember looking at the other guy, he’d got up, and he legged it, absolutely legged it. But the policeman was just completely out on the ground, like…out. Blood all over him.
I was shaking, absolutely shitting meself. I remember even wiping the knife down, thinking, ‘What if they’ve got fingerprints?’ Just shitting myself. Just didn’t know what to do. I remember wiping the handle and throwing it in the rubbish. I remember sliding it under a pile of shit and kicking it right under.
I was running around, desperately, trying to find help, “Excuse me! Excuse me!” No one would… Everyone wanted to look and stare at me but no one would really…I don’t know if they didn’t understand me or what. They didn’t really want to help and point me in the right direction. I was a bit irate as well and covered in blood. Blood everywhere. The cut was quite wide, and deep. I remember finding a clinic…a medical center that was opened. It wasn’t too far away from where it had actually happened. Obviously I’m pretty relieved sort of thing. I’ve gone in there and I’ve written my own details down. Saying, “Oh, I’ve, I’ve cut myself,” and all that. I didn’t tell them what had happened. She said, “Yep, no problem, that’s fine.” Took me in and started cleaning me up straight away, in front of everyone. Obviously it’d probably be a private clinic or whatever.
She’s stitching me arm up. She stitched me face up. I was thinking at the time, ‘It’s probably a fake policeman… I can’t believe that has happened… I’m so stupid…’ And then two policemen in the same uniform walked straight through the front door, looking around, and they saw me, and they walked straight to me. My heart stopped. It was awful. They’ve walked up to me and they’re speaking in Swahili. I can’t really understand them. And they starts talking, and I remember them saying, “You come with us!” He’s got his hand under me arm, trying to pull me up out of the chair while she’s working on me. I don’t understand the language and I didn’t really know what to say. I was…froze… I just really… I was trying to think of something to say that’d get me out of it, but at the same time I just couldn’t, I couldn’t, umm, you know, make any… say anything, to, you know… And I just kept on saying, “I don’t understand! I don’t understand! I don’t understand.” I didn’t know what to say and I was completely froze mentally.
Fortunately, the woman was arguing with the policemen saying that they’re not gonna get paid if they don’t finish, “He’s gotta be in here overnight anyway, you don’t worry.” And they’re rambling on in Swahili and they’re raising their voice and all that sort of stuff and after, probably about half an hour of them arguing, and I’ve got tears in me eyes, right…I don’t know what to do. She looked at me and said, “They’ll come back with someone who can explain to you in English what is the problem and you’re gonna stay here overnight, and we’ll take care of you.” “Okay, okay,” and I didn’t look at them, and I just remember out of my peripheral vision, I just remember them walking out towards the door. I just thought, ‘That is it. I’m gone.’
I said, “I need the toilet. I’m desperate for the toilet,” and she snipped the thing and said, “Okay, you go to the toilet.” So, I’ve gone to the reception and I said, “I’m pretty sure I wrote my wrong passport details down. Can I have my details and I’ll just change a few numbers.” She was busy at the time but she said, “Yea, yea, no problem,” and gave me the sheet. So, I literally got it, turned around and went into the toilet, screwed the numbers up, tore them up, threw them in the toilet, flushed the toilet, and jumped out of the window.
I’m running around outside with no shirt on, trying to find someone who’d help me out to find my ‘bed and breakfast’ where I was staying in. And I didn’t wanna risk being in the country still and going to the embassy and trying to say, “Oh this policeman has done this to me,” or any of that…trying to get legal… I just wanted to get out of there. I thought, ‘I’m better off risking it and going straight to the airport and trying to get out, hoping that they’ve got no details, a name or any of that stuff. Which I don’t think they did. They would’ve had, I’m sure, if I would have left them there at the clinic.
I got a guy on a motorbike and he let me go back to my room and I said, “I’ll pay you when I get there! I’ll pay you when I get there! Umm, problem! Problem!” And he looked concerned, cause like I say, I didn’t have a t-shirt on at the time, and I was running around and I’ve still got blood on me, all down my shorts. I’ve gone into the room of the b&b. I’ve got some more cash. I give him the cash. I’ve packed all my shit up. Checked out of the b&b. Gone to the airport, and the next flight, well, my flight was actually booked for in a couple more days cause I was gonna go to Zanzibar and then come back and fly out to Kenya. I changed my flight. The next flight out went to Dubai and then to New York.
I just…my mind was running away with it. Could they put the pieces together? I really don’t know. But your mind starts running away with itself. I was just in shock. So, I just got the next plane out…to somewhere decent.
I ended up meeting my girlfriend in New York. She was in Europe at the time but she came. When I got to America, I got to New York, stayed with some friends that I’d met in South Africa, and I got in touch with a plastic surgeon and he sorted my face out. He gave me that bio-oil that discolors scars. It made a real good job really. But he couldn’t really do nothing with my shoulder. It was like a shoe lace, what they’d stitched it with.
It’s a very rough place, Dar es Salaam. But to have a massive corrupt thing happen to you is horrible. Cause I knew at the time, that no matter what, I’m not going to legally be able to beat these guys.
I was about 8 hours in the country in total.