Kenya says it may reopen Julie Ward murder case

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The Independent Online

The Kenyan government yesterday admitted there was evidence of a cover-up by officials in the murder of the British tourist Julie Ward 16 years ago and indicated it will reopen the investigation.

The Kenyan government yesterday admitted there was evidence of a cover-up by officials in the murder of the British tourist Julie Ward 16 years ago and indicated it will reopen the investigation.

The Kenyan justice minister, Kiraitu Murungi said a fresh criminal inquiry would be ordered if they uncovered new evidence about the killing in the Masai Mara game reserve. His statement was read to the inquest in Ipswich, Suffolk, into the death of the 28-year-old wildlife photographer.

The inquest has already heard about a claim by the Kenyan authorities that Miss Ward had been killed by animals when senior officials forced a pathologist to retract his report that she had been dismembered with a machete-like knife and her remains partly burnt in September 1988.

Her father, John Ward, 70, who has campaigned to bring her killers to justice, said he was preparing to return to Kenya after alerting the authorities to two new lines of inquiry. He said these point to the involvement of a "highly-placed individual" in the government controlled by the autocratic president, Daniel Arap Moi at the time of Ms Ward's murder.

President Mwai Kibaki, a reforming democrat, was elected two years ago after decades of corrupt rule by Mr Moi. He has said his government was determined to deal with its "dark and ugly past". It has already ordered reinvestigations of suspicious deaths during the Moi regime, including those of a foreign minister and an American missionary.

Mr Murungi, who is in Britain to coincide with the inquest, said the authorities now accepted that Mr Ward, 70, a Suffolk hotelier, was obstructed by officials during his long, unsuccessful effort to bring her killers to justice. Two trials in Kenya led to the acquittal of two rangers from the game park and its senior manager.

The minister said: "It is clear that the efforts made by Miss Ward's father to get to the bottom of the case did not meet an adequate response from the Kenyan authorities at the time.

"There even appears to be some prima facie evidence of deliberate obstruction of his inquiries by some officials in the previous regime. Should any new evidence be unearthed, the government will take all the necessary steps to bring the culprits, irrespective of their status in our society, to book and to ensure justice is done."

Mr Ward said outside the inquest that he was delighted with the Kenyan announcement and "absolutely sure" it would lead to a fresh criminal inquiry.

The inquest has heard evidence that the Kenyan commissioner of police, Philip Kilonzo, and the government's leading doctor were involved in efforts to stop Ms Ward's death being treated as a murder.

Mr Ward said: "It has always been assumed that the original cover-up was because of the Kenyan tourism business. No one has considered that it might have been an individual they were trying to hide. People at the highest level were involved in the cover-up and the individual himself must have been very highly placed."