At a party in the Hush Hush club, a chic Bristol nightspot, one guest clearly saw himself as the main attraction. Wearing a bright orange hat and winkle-pickers, the man quaffed flutes of Veuve Clicquot champagne and strutted around like a pop star or a Premier League footballer.
Yet Phillip Machemedze, he of the garish ensemble, is neither. No, this married playboy — regularly seen in local clubs with different girlfriends — is a cold-blooded killer and rapist, a man so violent he has admitted hacking the limbs off enemies so that they died slowly in agony.
A paid henchman for Robert Mugabe’s odious regime in Zimbabwe, the party-loving 44-year-old Machemedze has also confessed to smashing a man’s jaw with pliers and pulling out his teeth, as well as sexually assaulting women suspected of opposing the regime.
Not that this has proved any impediment to Machemedze’s good life in Britain. Indeed, the killer was at Hush Hush ten days ago to celebrate an astonishing — and scandalous — victory over British justice, and one with disturbing implications for our national security.
Phillip Machemedze with a girlfriend at Hush Hush nightclub, quaffing bubbly at taxpayers’ expense
Instead of deporting him for his violent crimes — which, horrifically, include stripping a prisoner naked and threatening to make him rape his own daughters — an asylum tribunal has ruled that the murderer should be allowed to remain in Britain indefinitely.
Why? In his wisdom, Judge David Archer ruled last month that, having supposedly fled Mugabe’s regime in 2000, cut all ties with it and subsequently confessed to his crimes, HIV-positive Machemedze and his wife, who live off Britain’s state benefits, will be in grave danger if they are sent home.
There, the Zimbabwean claims he would almost certainly fall into the clutches of his former employees at the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), a 200,000-strong army of spies and thugs employed to keep Mugabe in power at all cost.
Machemedze first claimed asylum last year, at which point he submitted papers admitting his crimes — he said he ‘enjoyed’ his brutal duties — and making revelations about the activities of the CIO thugs he once worked with.
He described how he had served in the CIO from 1996 to 2000, having been trained by Chinese and Russian instructors at an espionage centre in Zimbabwe, and that he went on to abduct, torture and kill Mugabe’s opponents.
He argued that because he was exposing the activities of the CIO, he would be in danger if he returned to Zimbabwe. It was a gamble, and at first it failed when his asylum application was refused.
Last month, however, after appealing, he was more successful.
Accepting that Machemedze was a brutal killer who had willingly tortured opponents, and had not been ‘under duress’ from his superiors to do so, Justice Archer nevertheless stated: ‘Whatever crimes he has committed, he cannot be returned to face the highly likely prospect of torture and execution without trial.’
To the dismay of victims of Mugabe’s regime, the judge added: ‘I find that the appellant’s protected rights under Articles 2 and 3 of the Human Rights Convention will be breached by returning him to Zimbabwe.’
Machemedze claims that if he was sent back to Zimbabwe he would be at risk from his former employees, the CIO, who are employed to keep Mugabe in power at all cost
These articles state that everyone’s right to life should be protected — and that no one should face torture or inhuman treatment. How bitterly ironic, given what Machemedze’s victims suffered at his hands.
Perhaps Justice Archer will live to regret his ruling. For I can reveal today that Machemedze, also known as ‘Kim’, has lied to the authorities and his employers repeatedly ever since arriving in Britain 11 years ago — supposedly on the run after becoming disgusted and disillusioned by the brutality of his CIO work.
Yet, far from repenting and turning his back on his brutal secret work for Mugabe, he has, in fact, remained in the employment of Zimbabwe’s security services since entering Britain on a six-month tourist visa in 2000.
In disclosures that make a mockery of the decision to grant the killer asylum, intelligence records passed to the Mail show that Machemedze has been paid thousands of pounds by Mugabe’s espionage network while living in Britain, raising disturbing questions about his activities here.
Machemedze is believed to have been paid to identify enemies of the regime living among Britain’s 200,000-strong Zimbabwean community. He has even had the £300 monthly school fees for two children, whom he left behind in Zimbabwe, paid for out of CIO funds.
Indeed, one senior member of Mugabe’s intelligence apparatus alleged this week that Machemedze had been on the official CIO payroll until just a few weeks ago, when his handlers in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, first learned he had revealed details of their operations in the course of his asylum hearings.
Later, at a clandestine meeting in Harare, this senior intelligence source showed documents to a Mail reporter — including birth certificates and secret internal communiques about Machemedze — which appear to show he was working for the CIO until April this year.
In one secret document, headed ‘Warning of Blacklisted Security Source’, and circulated to all police and intelligence units inside Zimbabwe, it states that all officers are warned to destroy all files making any mention of ‘officer number 002676 Chief Inspector Phillip Machemedze’.
In doing this, the CIO was attempting to erase all record of his involvement, so there is no paper trail to support his allegations about their murderous activities.
‘He has been working for us all the time,’ said the source, himself a cold-blooded killer and a man I have dealt with many times over the years. ‘He’s only decided to jump now. He was ours — on our payroll.’
Of course, these claims about this high-living benefits claimant could all be smears: after all, Mugabe’s secret police are well-schooled in the murky arts of black propaganda, having been trained by East Germany’s Stasi, as well as the Russian KGB and now the Chinese intelligence services.
Yet none of these shocking allegations surprise those closest to Machemedze, who believe his secret life explains his mysterious behaviour — not to mention unexplained source of apparent private wealth — ever since he arrived in Bristol in 2000.
Victim: Nyaradzai Dumbura was found to be HIV positive after Machemedze and three of his colleagues gang raped her
‘He’s always very arrogant, like he owns the place,’ said one former friend, a fellow Zimbabwean exile who also lives in Bristol. ‘The guy should be sent back to face the music in Zimbabwe.’
Fearing retribution from Mugabe’s secret agents even in Britain, this Zimbabwean exile also revealed that ‘friends’ of Machemedze have threatened anyone with a beating or worse if they speak out about his life here or in Africa. ‘If he can’t be sent back, he should be tried for murder here,’ the exile said.
That is a view shared by Nyaradzai Dumbura, 31, one of the few victims of this thug’s brutality willing to speak out. She has nothing to lose: she was found to be HIV positive after Machemedze and three of his colleagues gang raped her in January 2000, just two months before he arrived in Britain.
With tears streaming down her face as she studied a photograph of Machemedze in Zimbabwe this week, the woman revealed how she was abducted from the house of her aunt, who was suspected of being opposed to Mugabe, and held for four days, during which time she was repeatedly raped and violated with pieces of wood and bottles.
Machemedze was one of the four-strong gang who picked up Nyaradzai and took her to a deserted building, where she was forced to drink her own urine before being raped. She says it was on day three of her ordeal that Machemedze left her with horrific internal injuries after violating her with a blunt instrument.
Almost dead, the young woman was dumped in scrubland outside Harare, where locals found her unconscious and took her to hospital.
Now, she says her life effectively ended that day: she was diagnosed HIV positive soon afterwards, and her internal injuries continue to cause her agony.
‘They wanted to know about opposition people,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know anything — I was just a child. Now I’m finished.
‘Whenever a person mentions the CIO to me, my mind goes numb. I was brutalised and destroyed by this man and his people.
‘I made a police report — I will always remember the official police report number, OB 3171/00. But nothing happened. Nothing.’
Such brutality by thugs is commonplace in Zimbabwe, where secret police operatives are ubiquitous and have helped Mugabe remain in power for 31 years, despite widespread human rights abuses.
The killer joined the CIO in his mid-20s, helping to maintain the control of Robert Mugabe, pictured right with CIO chief Happyton Bonyongwe, left, and Zimbabwean Army commander Constantine Chiwenga, centre
Machemedze enlisted in the CIO in his mid-20s and, after training in Harare under Russian and Chinese instructors, he worked as a bodyguard to Enos Chikowore, a notorious Mugabe supporter and government minister.
On top of his duties as a bodyguard, Machemedze was also charged with identifying opposition supporters and abducting them. On one occasion, he admits, he tortured and electrocuted a white farmer until he passed out.
After arriving here, he worked for eight years on the night shift at the Priory, a Bristol clinic for people with mental health disorders and addictions. Using false papers that appeared to be valid Home Office documents allowing him to live and work in the UK (possibly supplied by his handlers in Harare), he also worked for another Bristol charity, which supports people with dementia, learning disabilities and mental health needs.
He also spent a great deal of time socialising with other Zimbabwean exiles. Indeed, despite his lowly-paid care work (he is now on benefits after his background was exposed), his parties were legendary.
In February, he held his annual birthday party, a lavish affair with free drink and food for more than 100 guests. He was also a regular at bars and clubs for African immigrants.
‘Wherever you went, Kim would turn up,’ one of his former associates told me. ‘He was at every party, but he acted like royalty and often walked straight in without paying at nightclubs.’
His personal life is equally unsavoury. A martial arts enthusiast, his current girlfriend is Patience Matonda, a hard-drinking Zimbabwean exile who married a white Bristol businessman only last year.
‘Patience loves a pint of Stella and a party,’ a friend told me. ‘She also loves a bad boy. And Kim is certainly a bad boy.
‘Everyone knows him. He’s flash — like a gangster or drug dealer.’
Machemedze’s long-suffering wife, Febbie, has also been granted asylum to remain in Britain.
Not surprisingly, Justice Archer’s judgment has prompted an outcry among Zimbabwean exiles in Britain.
Outside Machemedze’s smart semi-detached home in the Bristol suburb of Fishponds, protesters carrying placards this week called for the judgment to be overturned, while others claimed they had suspected all along that he was working for the CIO in the UK, spying on enemies of the regime living in Britain.
Kate Hoey MP has called on the Home Office to arrest the Zimbabwean, saying he is “clearly a dangerous man”
Last night, his lawyer denied all accusations of rape and said that while his client was present when murders were carried out, he hadn’t killed anyone himself.
He said: ‘The past is haunting him. He’s a person in need of protection.’
Asked if the former torturer had continued to work for the CIO since illegally entering Britain, the lawyer denied this and claimed payments made in Zimbabwe were from his client’s ‘pension’ as a former state security employee.
‘He is lying low. He is frightened. He ran away from Zimbabwe because he didn’t want to help the regime. He shouldn’t now be torn to pieces for the past.’
Kate Hoey MP, who is chairman of the All Party Group on Zimbabwe, has a rather different view.
Last night, she called on the Home Office to arrest Machemedze, saying she knew of other asylum seekers in this country who are also suspected of maintaining links to the CIO.
‘Machemedze is clearly a dangerous man,’ she told me. ‘He poses a risk to both Zimbabweans in the UK in particular, and to the British public in general.
‘I call on the police to arrest him on the grounds that torture is an offence of universal jurisdiction under international law, and that his actions wherever they were perpetrated are liable to prosecution in the UK. The Home Secretary should intervene to make sure this happens.’