Aristocrat denies murder of Kenya game warden

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The Independent Online

The fatal shooting of a Kenya Wildlife Service warden at an estate owned by British aristocrats, the Delameres, has reignited interest in one of Kenya's oldest colonial families.

The fatal shooting of a Kenya Wildlife Service warden at an estate owned by British aristocrats, the Delameres, has reignited interest in one of Kenya's oldest colonial families.

Thomas Patrick Gilbert Cholmondeley, son of the fifth Baron Delamere and a Kenyan citizen, denies murdering Samson Ole Sisina, who was investigating the illegal trade in bush meat at the Delamere farm near Naivasha this month.

Yesterday, in the high court in Nakuru, north-west of Nairobi, Mr Cholmondeley, 37, stood impassively in cream trousers, blue jacket and blue shirt and tie for the hour-long hearing. He was remanded in custody until 6 May by Judge Muga Apondi. The maximum sentence for murder in Kenya is life imprisonment without parole.

Fifteen Masai elders outside the building shouted protests when they saw Mr Cholmondeley being driven to court in the comfort of the front seat of a police Land Rover. Normally, suspects are taken to court in the back of a truck.

"This is not justice; why is he being treated differently from anyone else?" one of the elders shouted, claiming the farmer was being treated leniently because he was a wealthy white.

The case has stirred echoes of the colonial era of White Mischief, because Baron Delamare's stepmother was Diana, Lady Delamere, who outraged white Kenyan society in the 1940s by her love affair with the Earl of Erroll. His murder in January 1941 was never solved, a case recalled in the book White Mischief.

The accused's grandfather, the legendary Hugh Cholmondeley, the third Baron Delamere, was prominent in establishing Britain's colonial presence in Kenya. He fell in love with the country during a hunting expedition, and set up the beef and dairy interests his grandson now runs.

The Delameres have lived in Kenya's Rift Valley for a century and have had close links to governments under British colonial rule and after independence in 1963.

Police said Mr Sisina, a Masai, and two other game rangers in plain clothes had accosted workers preparing to cut up a buffalo carcass at a slaughterhouse on the Delamere farm. Buffalo hunting is banned without a hard-to-obtain licence.

On Monday, a Masai leader threatened to organise his tribesmen to invade Mr Cholmondeley's ranch. The Masai claim all the land occupied by Kenya's white settlers and their families was deceitfully taken from them in 1904, soon after Britain colonised the country.

The tribesmen say successive governments have not addressed their grievances. Last year, they launched a campaign to reclaim their land by peaceful means.

Kenya is battling an upsurge in game poaching, with hunters trapping animals not for their horns or their hide, but for their meat. KWS experts say up to a million animals are dying in snares each year.

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