Julie Ward hearing makes legal history

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THE TRIAL of the Masai Mara game warden accused of murdering the tourist Julie Ward more than 10 years ago made British legal history yesterday when it moved to London.

The two-day hearing of Kenya's High Court, which convened at the Kenyan High Commission in Central London, is the first time in Commonwealth history that a murder trial has been switched to a London High Commission. The sitting was to enable a pathologist, Professor Austin Gresham, who examined Miss Ward's remains 10 years ago, to give evidence because he is not well enough to travel to Nairobi, said the judge, Mr Justice Daniel Aganyanya.

Miss Ward, of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, was found dead at the age of 28 in the reserve in September 1988. Her charred leg and jawbone were found in a smouldering bonfire. Simon ole Makallah, the former chief warden at the Masai Mara game reserve who led a search team to the remains, denies murder. He has not travelled to Britain for the hearing. The woman's father, John Ward, 65, who has campaigned to bring her killer to justice, listened quietly throughout the 85-minute session.

Opening the hearing, the judge said: "My team and I are very grateful and happy to be in this great and beautiful country to share with you the experience of the administration of justice. I'm grateful in particular today that the High Commissioner in London and his staff have made arrangements to accommodate us."

Miss Ward's head had been chopped off and her knee cut in half by a "big heavy sharp implement", Professor Gresham told the hearing. He examined hers remains, which included a left leg, two halves of lower jaw, a small piece of burnt bone, a collection of ashes and a lock of fair hair, in 1988. Dental records verified that the remains were Miss Ward's. Professor Gresham said: "Part of the covering of the top joint was missing and the piece of bone that I received was one half of a kneecap. I concluded that the leg appears to have been disarticulated - that is, cut through the joints. The hinges connecting Julie's jaw to her skull were missing," Professor Gresham told the hearing.

"A sharp implement has to come down on the back of the skull. The head is bent forward and a sharp implement brought down on the neck." He could not say if the injuries were caused before or after death. He dismissed claims by Pravin Bowry, for the defence, that the injuries could have been caused by a blunt instrument as showing "a profound ignorance of human anatomy".

A forensic scientist, Dr Roger Thorpe, who tested items found with Miss Ward's remains, is due to give evidence today.