A Week In The Life: John Ward, Nairobi - Nightmare of Masai Mara comes to end

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JOHN WARD hates the night flight from Gatwick to Nairobi. He says airlines get away with "dreadful service" because for most people the flight is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to a dream game park destination. Not for him; he has flown to Kenya more times than he can remember over the last 11 years - sometimes two or three times in a month - to doggedly pursue an investigation into the so-far unsolved murder of his daughter, Julie, in Kenya's Masai Mara national park.

"Bloody night flights. I hate arriving in cold, murky Gatwick at 4am then driving three hours home to Suffolk. I hate arriving in Nairobi, finding your baggage is lost... then it's into a taxi and straight to the lawyers office," said John Ward.

Sometimes, he does go on to the game park - but not for a once-in-a-lifetime safari. The Masai Mara is his private nightmare, where his 28-year-old daughter was murdered and dismembered, and her remains hidden. It has been his determination alone that has brought two men to trial this month, after years of battling with police cover-ups, reluctant officialdom, obstructive politics and the inefficiency of a corrupt justice system.

ON THURSDAY, the trial is due to begin. False starts have been typical of the process and provoke little more than an ironic raised eyebrow from Mr Ward, although he is sure to get up at seven in the morning to be ready in court at 9.30am. He has his standard coffee and toast, then waits for "Big John", the Mercedes-driving taxi man who is his regular driver. "Maybe I'll buy a car for the trial," he says. "I spend so much on taxi fares in this country."

First, they drive to the office of the lawyer, Salim Dhanji, where Mr Ward works together with police detectives and the prosecution team on bundles of documents. Together they discuss the case and prosecution tactics. Mr Ward says this is a good "refresher" for him as a witness - "I will be the major story-teller in this case, because others go in and out, look at parts of it, but I am the thread that runs through from beginning to end."

TRUE TO form, the judge arrives in the tiny, packed courtroom well after 9.30 - then there is a flurry of activity from photographers and television cameras around the accused, Simon Makallah, and around John Ward. Sometimes the latter finds the media attention a bit much, although he is meticulously polite and facilitating. Of the scramble in the courtroom, he says it is like "throwing bread in a pond of fish".

When he sits in court, his demeanour changes. A large man, shrewd and decisive, normally with an appealing friendliness and bluff sense of humour, he seems to shrink in the pew-like seats. Dressed formally in a black suit and carrying a briefcase, he no longer looks like a working member of the team, but, with a strangely distant, strained appearance; a grieving father. The case is adjourned until 26 February, to give the court time to join the cases of the two men now accused of the murder.

MR WARD is dropped back at the apartment he has rented for the trial. He calls it shabby - "I don't like it" - but he did not have much choice in getting a short-let, furnished apartment in down-town Nairobi.

Two detectives are due shortly, so he makes tea and sandwiches and gets cold soft drinks out of the fridge. He says he likes the police team, and the lawyer, and considers many of them real friends.

As a multi-millionaire hotelier, he is as at home entertaining in his own kitchen as he is being served like a celebrity. When the detectives leave Mr Ward's "office" at around 5.30pm - documents spread on the coffee table where the lap-top is a token concession to technology - he "clears up the bloody dishes" and says he wonders sometimes what his life has come to.

ON FRIDAY morning, Mr Ward has an uncharacteristically late breakfast. "I tossed and turned until about four in the morning," he says. The trial was on his mind, and a meeting he has next week with his shareholders in London.

He shows no desire to talk about seeing the accused. But then he sharply interrupts to say Makallah's attitude has changed in court."I think he knows this is it," he says.

He has another day of legal work ahead of him, but hopes "we" will be able to have a day off at lake-side Naivasha on Sunday. It turns out to be a solitary plan. "I tend to say we even when I mean me," he says.

Mr Ward still hopes his wife, Jan, will join him during the trial, but is not sure. "She's working on other things, like exhibitions of Muff's [the family nickname for Julie] wildlife photos in London," he says.

Much as he wants her to come, he is pragmatic about his wife's involvement elsewhere. It's "a good thing", he says, she has found something else in life, other than the trial.

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