Retrial call as Kenyan is cleared of Ward killing

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A FORMER Kenyan game warden was cleared yesterday of murdering Julie Ward, amid bitter recriminations from the British woman's father. He is demanding a retrial, citing "serious irregularities in proceedings".

Friends and supporters of Simon Ole Makallah celebrated by dancing in traditional Masai tribal robes outside Nairobi's high court.

John Ward has refused to accept the verdict and has petitioned Kenya's attorney general to declare a mistrial. He said Mr Makallah had been allowed to talk regularly to the judge's advisers, the court assessors, which was "strictly forbidden". Mr Makallah's lawyers said heintended to sue Mr Ward for malicious prosecution.

Judge Daniel Aganyana said the evidence against Mr Makallah, now assistant director of Kenya's Wildlife Services, was almost purely circumstantial. The evidence against Mr Makallah was not compelling. "Nothing added to nothing makes nothing. The case was based on purely circumstantial evidence.

"We all share the grief of the Ward family for losing their only daughter in Kenya. Unknown agents of doom caused her death." The judge said `the matter should now be closed".

Mr Ward and British officials had accused Kenyan authorities of bungling the investigation and attempting a cover-up to protect the tourist industry.

Ms Ward's charred and dismembered remains were discovered a week after she went missing in September 1988. Police first said she had been attacked by animals or committed suicide, and a pathologist's report was found to have been tampered with.

The search for her killers had been the abiding mission for her parents, John and Jan Ward. Mr Ward, a hotelier, has travelled all over the world, and spent more than pounds 5000,000 in the hunt. Mrs Ward has been to Kenya a dozen times, she thinks, and she has seen the dark, lonely places where her daughter spent her last days alive. "The reason we have been trying to find out what happened is because it gives Julie's life some value, all human life has value," said Mrs Ward, a slim, courteous and shy woman aged 65, who dislikes the glare of publicity that has accompanied the case from the outset.

"Julie was very, very special to us and of course our memories of her will never fade. We still hope that there will be a call which will lead us to the truth. We do get a lot of these calls, but some of them are just recycling old rumours and bits of nonsense."

These rumours have been a persistently distracting feature of the long- running inquiry, and some have been repeated and given as "facts" in Kenya: that Ms Ward was having an affair with the son of a prominent politician who had her killed, according to one theory; or she was silenced after witnessing smuggling in the Kenya-Tanzania border involving public figures; or she had committed suicide after a tiff with a boyfriend who was white, and the attempt to blame black rangers is merely a racist conspiracy.

The list is long, and in trying to dig through the tales, attempting to find out what really happened, Mr Ward came up against Kenyan investigating authorities, whose performance was a mixture of appalling incompetence and a strong desire to cover up a murder that could only cause harm to the lucrative tourist industry.

When the first reports of Ms Ward's disappearance filtered through to her parents in September 1988 at their home in the Suffolk village of Brockley, they had little idea of what was going on. "That was probably the worst time," Mrs Ward reflects. "I heard she was missing, a dreadful thing for any mother to hear. Fear takes hold of you, you become rigid... you can hardly move. I kept thinking that perhaps she had had an accident while driving and was lying injured in a ditch.

"John had flown out to Kenya and he phoned to say they were claiming Julie had committed suicide. I remember saying `Don't be silly, she would never do that'. Then John phoned and told me that she was almost certainly dead. In a way, that was a relief. I knew that at least she was not suffering terrible things somewhere. The fear went and a sort of misery set in. But you are in denial, you keep on saying to yourself, `This simply cannot be true'."

The fate of Ms Ward was in fact horrific. While out on safari on the Masai Mara she was abducted, murdered and dismembered, and then her remains were burnt in an attempt to dispose of the evidence. Some of these remains were found by Mr Ward.

Over time, the couple, and their two sons, Tim and Robert, have come to terms with the death. "Robert said to me very early on that the words `if only' are banned," Mrs Ward said. "She was 28 years old and she had done nothing to make us worry about her. She had been portrayed in the media as a tomboy, but in fact she was very careful. What happened could have taken place anywhere, in London or Bury St Edmunds...

"Little things remind me of her. The scene at the end of Birds of a Feather, the shot of the home movie, makes me think of the video I took of her feeding her teddy, jumping up and down the steps of her infant school. I used to weep for a long time when I saw that."

There has been a huge amount of publicity in the Julie Ward case. "One of the Sunday papers which ran some disgusting, false sex stories about Julie," Mrs Ward said. "Both John and I were very, very hurt about that. But, at the end of the day, I think about Julie as a lovely person. That's all you can do, cling on to the happy memories."

Comments