Ward case was victim of 'clumsy cover-up'

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The father of the murdered tourist Julie Ward accused the British Government of treachery yesterday after a coroner ruled that the investigation into her death in a Kenyan game park nearly 16 years ago fell foul of a "blatant and astonishingly clumsy" cover-up.

The father of the murdered tourist Julie Ward accused the British Government of treachery yesterday after a coroner ruled that the investigation into her death in a Kenyan game park nearly 16 years ago fell foul of a "blatant and astonishingly clumsy" cover-up.

John Ward, 70, said he wanted neither the Foreign Office nor Scotland Yard, which originally helped investigate the killing, to play a part in the new criminal inquiry that he expects to be launched in the coming weeks. He said he believes they helped prevent his daughter's killers being brought to justice.

The Suffolk hotelier will travel to Nairobi shortly to present fresh evidence to the new Kenyan Justice Minister that he says offers the best opportunity of convicting those who murdered Ms Ward, whose mutilated and partially cremated remains were found in the Masai Mara game reserve in September 1988.

The fresh investigation is likely to focus on links between wardens from the reserve and "highly placed individuals" in the dictatorial regime of the former president Daniel arap Moi.

Speaking at the conclusion of the British inquest into his daughter's death, Mr Ward said he was convinced there was evidence that, with the possible help of MI6, the British authorities helped the Kenyans to conceal the murder.

He said: "Since the beginning, the Kenyans had been obstructive and difficult, going out of their way to say it wasn't murder. They tried to organise the [Kenyan] inquest so some other verdict came out.

"There is considerable evidence that the British Government tried to help them in this. It is an act of treachery; we cannot avoid the fact."

The businessman, who has led an unstinting but so far unsuccessful campaign to put his daughter's killers behind bars, was alluding to efforts to construct what Peter Dean, the Greater Suffolk coroner, described as an "unbelievable confection" of alternative theories about how Ms Ward, 28, died, including suicide and an attack by animals.

One of the theories - that she was killed and dismembered by a lightning strike - was put to Mr Ward in a meeting organised by British diplomats in Nairobi with a retired Kenyan police officer who was an MI6 informant.

The inquest heard a claim from Mr Ward that MI6 was concerned at the "volatile" nature of Mr Moi and ordered copies of all diplomatic telegrams from Nairobi amid concern that the then Kenyan president could order the British to leave Kenya because of the investigation.

The coroner, sitting in the oak-panelled council chamber in Ipswich, said the grieving father had been the subject of a campaign to stop his investigations. He said: "It is impossible not to have been moved by the unrelenting dedication of Mr Ward and his sheer determination to seek the truth against what appears to have been a mounting wall of official obstruction and ludicrous misinformation."

The coroner, who recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, said the cover-up had ranged from outlandish theories about Ms Ward's death to the "deliberate falsification" of the post-mortem examination report by Dr Jason Kiviti, Kenya's top pathologist, to change a finding that she had been murdered and dismembered with a machete-like knife.

Speaking about the Kenyan officials, Mr Dean said: "The actions of those in authority at the time could only be explained by one of two things: either a level of professional incompetence the extent of which would border on disbelief or, much more plausibly, a blatant and astonishingly clumsy attempt to cover up the exact circumstances of this death, the reasons for which are outside the remit of this inquiry."

Ms Ward, an animal lover and keen amateur wildlife photographer, had travelled to the Masai Mara from Nairobi to take pictures of migrating wildebeest when she went missing on 6 September, 1988. Her remains, consisting of her charred left leg and severed lower jaw bone, were found a week later beside a fire some five miles from the campsite where she had been staying.

Despite the trials of two rangers and the manager of the game reserve, no one has been convicted of the crime, which was blamed for denting Kenya's income from safari tourism. Rumours about who was responsible have ranged from rebel militiamen to the involvement of one of the sons of Mr Moi, whose family has business interests in the region.

Lincolnshire Police, who were brought in by Scotland Yard four years ago to investigate a complaint from Mr Ward of collusion between them, the Kenyan authorities and the Foreign Office, said they believed the killers could now be prosecuted. Mr Moi was voted out of office in December 2002.

Last week, Kiraitu Murungi, the Justice Minister in the new government, promised a criminal inquiry if fresh evidence was provided by Mr Ward, saying suspects would be prosecuted "irrespective of their status in our society".

John Stoddart, the officer in charge of the Lincolnshire inquiry, who is now Deputy Chief Constable of Durham, said new forensic science techniques, access to Kenyan police documents and co-operation from witnesses who no longer felt intimidated meant the crime could be solved. He said: "We can now find people who are complicit in this crime, who have got guilty knowledge and who can provide the answers to this appalling murder."

Under cross-examination by Mr Ward, the police officer, whose report is due to go to the Independent Police Complaints Commission this summer, said he was convinced there was "significant substance" for the hotelier's suspicions that his inquiries were hindered. Mr Stoddart stopped short of saying this included British diplomats or police officers, adding that his inquiries were continuing.

But Mr Ward said he no longer trusted the British authorities - in particular the Foreign Office and Scotland Yard, which conducted two investigations in Kenya in 1989.

Speaking after the verdict, he said: "It seems that the Metropolitan Police were not as independent as they should have been and were perhaps influenced. I would personally prefer to rule out [of the new investigation] the British high commission, Scotland Yard and the Foreign Office." Asked whether after nearly 16 years of investigations, estimated to have cost him at least £1.5m, he would be taking a back seat, Mr Ward said: "I would hope I will be able to. I only got involved because there was nobody else to get involved."

16-YEAR SAGA

7 September 1988

Julie Ward, 28, disappears while travelling in the Masai Mara game reserve.

13 September 1988

The remains of her leg and jaw are found under a tree.

January 1989

Pathological evidence reveals that her body was dismembered with a sharp, heavy instrument. Kenyan police refuse to conduct a murder inquiry. John Ward, Julie's father, starts his own investigation.

October 1989

An inquest in Nairobi finally rules that Ms Ward was murdered.

January 1990

Douglas Hurd, Foreign Secretary, asks Scotland Yard to assist Kenyan police with their investigation.

June 1992

Two reserve rangers are tried and acquitted of murder.

1997

The case is re-examined by a new team of Kenyan police officers.

September 1999

A gamekeeper on the reserve is tried and acquitted of Ms Ward's murder.

2001

Lincolnshire Police re-examine the case after a complaint from Ms Ward's father about the way the inquiry has been handled,

March 2004

The Greater Suffolk coroner, Peter Dean, says he will hold a full inquest in an attempt to reveal all evidence.

26 April 2004

The inquest begins at County Hall, Ipswich.