Ranger on trial for Ward murder

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The Independent Online
AT THE opening of a murder trial yesterday in Nairobi, John Ward once again sat through details of the gruesome killing of his daughter, Julie, and her "probable" rape in September 1988. He had previously exposed a falsified police report blaming her death on possible suicide and wild animals; and then endured a four-month murder case in 1992 against two innocent game rangers.

But this time, the man that Mr Ward always believed had played a part in his daughter's death, Simon Makallah, the former chief game warden of Masai Mara Game Reserve, and now the assistant director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, ison trial for her murder. A second case, against David Nchoka, was dismissed through lack of evidence last month.

Mr Ward's tension was evident - he asked, as one photographer continually flashed close-up portraits: "How many of those have you taken over the last 10 years?" His wife, Jan Ward, did not attend the opening of the case.

Mr Ward looked to the floor as the prosecution described how on 13 September 1988 Julie's left lower leg, parts of her jaw and pieces of her scalp with hair attached were "discovered in a remote place in the Masai Mara Game Park". Her skull was discovered on 20 September and handed over to her father in a hotel room.

Ms Ward's remains were later flown to Britain to an independent forensic scientist,who is now too ill to give evidence in Kenya. The prosecution will attempt to take his testimony in Britain.

There is little that is new to this trial, other than Mr Makallah's vehicle work cards, which detail, according to the independent prosecutor, Salim Dhanji, "his movements and time and distance from any particular location".

Mr Dhanji said that Mr Makallah found Ms Ward's remains too quickly, showing "he had prior knowledge of where the remains were".

Mr Makallah also used extraordinary lies to try to distance himself from Julie Ward's death, Mr Dhanji said. But the catalogue of incompetence, cover-ups and untruths underline the fact this is a case that depends entirely on circumstantial evidence. The frustrations of Kenyan justice are familiar - the prosecution found that a file relating to evidence given by Mr Makallah in the 1992 trial had "gone missing". "That's normal," said alegal observer, rubbing two fingers together to signal bribery.

Mr Dhanji reminded the court that a great deal had been written on the murder, both locally and internationally, which in fairness to Mr Makallah should be disregarded. "This is not a film, or a book, or a newspaper article; it is a trial for murder," he said.

The trial is expected to last several months.