A New Zealander who spent six months in a notoriously over-crowded African jail over allegations of a Kenyan gold mine heist and whose family believed he was dead for 30 years will stand trial this year.

Francis Edward Strange, 58, was arrested in 2015 after being accused of stealing $630,000 worth of mining equipment, heavy machinery, specialist tools and gold from a mining company.

While in jail, Waikato-born Strange phoned his family back in New Zealand for the first time in 30 years desperately seeking help in meeting his bail requirements.

When spoken to by the Herald in January 2016, his family said they'd believed he had been dead for the past three decades. And so did his first wife, Haya Bar-Noy, until the Herald talked to her in May 2016.


Now, after several judicial delays, Strange is scheduled to stand trial on the charges in Nairobi in 2018.

A source from Kenya told the Herald that Strange was due back in court early next month.

Strange, who denies the charges that carry a seven-year jail sentence, is on bail with strict conditions, including surrendering his passport, and understood to be living in the capital, Nairobi. He did not respond to messages from the Herald.

READ MORE: The curious case of Mr Strange and the Nairobi gold heist

The last contact Francis Strange's family had from him was in 1990. Photo / Supplied
The last contact Francis Strange's family had from him was in 1990. Photo / Supplied

Originally from Paeroa, in Waikato, Strange emigrated from Ponsonby to Australia in 1981.

The last contact his family had was in 1990, when he was living in Sydney. He moved to Tokyo in 1992.

In January 2014, Strange moved from Japan, where he was a teacher and union boss at an English language school, for a promising business venture in Kenya's mining industry.

But the African move turned sour.

In April 2014, Strange took legal action against Mboe Sambu Resources Ltd, seeking a restraining order on their activities, claiming it was operating without a licence.

Nine months later, he was charged alongside Australian friend and business associate Stephen Samuel Paino with breaking into the mine and stealing equipment and gold worth $630,000.

Both vehemently deny the charges.

Paino said he wasn't even in the country at the time of the alleged 2014 theft.

Strange, who is also an Australian citizen and permanent resident of Japan, claims to have been wrongly accused amidst "a world of greed and manipulation".

Francis Strange and Haya Bar-Noy at their wedding celebration in Israel in 1986. Photo / Supplied
Francis Strange and Haya Bar-Noy at their wedding celebration in Israel in 1986. Photo / Supplied

He told the Herald of his horror experiences inside an overcrowded Kisii GK Prison where he says he twice survived attacks on his life before he managed to successfully meet his bail requirements after a legal appeal.

The first alleged attack came in the shower area, Strange claimed.

"It was a Sunday and there were no wardens about. This guy, a convicted killer who'd murdered his father by ripping out his throat, jumped me from behind. He tried to rip my throat out," he said.

Another attack came in the TV room, Strange said.

"I was the only atheist in the prison ... I was standing there with two Muslims and some Christians when this same guy ran up and hit me on the head with a food pot.

"Everybody jumped on this guy and started beating him up. The shout went up, 'Kill, kill, kill' in Swahili and the warders ran out to save the guy."

The phonecall after 30 years to his mother came as a shock.

"We'd all assumed he was dead," she said.

Fearing the contact was part of a fraud, Mrs Simpson asked her other son, Gerard Strange, a Waihi farmer, to check out his story.

"We hadn't heard from Francis for nearly 30 years," Gerard Strange said. "To get this out of the blue, we thought it was a scam.

"He said a couple of things that I'd forgotten about too, and so I rang my mum back and said I was pretty sure it was kosher."

Since then, Strange has emailed his estranged family lengthy correspondence about his case.

If he wins his court battle, Strange said in 2016 that he planned to stay in Kenya and plough ahead with plans to develop a mine extracting minerals, including manganese and iron ore.

"We are going to build a mining city," he said.

"Everybody knows that Kenya needs investment. Kenya needs jobs. There's a lot of people who want to see this happen. But it really is dog-eat-dog here."