Kenyan politician linked to Ward death: Minister 'ordered killing of tourist who stumbled upon smugglers'

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THE FATHER of Julie Ward, the British tourist murdered in a Kenyan game reserve five years ago, will return to the country soon in an attempt to substantiate claims that a senior Kenyan politician was involved her death.

The politician's driver has told John Ward that his former employer ordered Miss Ward's killing after she stumbled across a gang of gun and drug smugglers which he was leading. Mr Ward has not named the man, but it is believed he was a government minister at the time of Miss Ward's death and that he is still a friend and adviser to Daniel arap Moi, the Kenyan president.

'It seemed to me to be a plausible story. I asked a lot of trick questions to see if he knew the area and had been there,' Mr Ward said yesterday. The driver told him that Miss Ward drove along a desolate track in the Masai Mara game reserve on her way back to Nairobi. 'She apparently ran into this group of people who had just completed the handover. One truck had left for Tanzania, the Kenyan truck was still waiting to go. They were standing around drinking vodka. She was molested and eventually the politician said get rid of her.'

The former minister's alleged link with the murder came to light when the driver made a statement to Kenyan opposition leaders about his employer's crimes. Mr Ward subsequently interviewed him at a 'secret safe house' in August. But the following evening the house was raided by Kenyan police, and the man went into hiding. 'I received a message before Christmas saying he was back in Kenya and willing to talk. I don't know if I can persuade him to make a statement.'

At a judicial commission of inquiry two years ago, the politician was named as a prime suspect in the murder of the Kenyan foreign minister, Dr Robert Ouko.

Mr Ward, 60, a hotelier from Bury St Edmunds, has spent nearly pounds 400,000 investigating his daughter's murder in September 1988. Miss Ward, 28, was hacked to death and then burnt. Police originally suggested she had fallen on a fire while being eaten by wild animals, but, amid allegations of a cover-up, an inquest a year later concluded she had been murdered.

After two game wardens were cleared of her murder in June last year, the trial judge accused the Kenyan police of bungling the investigation and said there was more evidence against three other men, all prosecution witnesses: Simon Makallah, the park's then chief warden; David Nchoko, a campsite clerk, and police constable Gerald Karori. The case was reopened last March, but Mr Ward yesterday dismissed it as 'an absolute charade'.