British businessman shoots gunman dead to thwart robbery at Nairobi racecourse

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A British businessman shot and killed one gunman and wounded a second yesterday when he foiled a robbery attempt at a racecourse in Nairobi.

Bob Holt, a former aide of the late media tycoon Robert Maxwell, was held up at gunpoint and ordered to open the racecourse's safe - but the four robbers did not reckon on him being armed with a .38 calibre revolver because of a previous attempt on his life.

While the robbers held up staff and took cash and jewellery, Mr Holt, chief executive of the Jockey Club of Kenya, chose his moment before pulling out his gun and shooting two of the gang in quick succession. One died on the spot and the other, who is still at large, fled with two accomplices in a stolen Nissan car with diplomatic numberplates.

Blood was splattered on the walls and computers of the offices where the shooting took place. Speaking outside the offices, Mr Holt declined to comment before making a statement to police. However the racecourse chief of security, Shadrack Maluki, described the robbery.

He said two smartly dressed men entered the Jockey Club offices at the racecourse at 10am and held hostage Mr Holt, a receptionist and a promotions manager. The men, who were armed with at least one gun but were not masked, demanded the takings from last Sunday's race meeting, estimated at about 200,000 Kenyan shillings (£1,700).

After taking a bag of money the robbers moved the hostages into a different office and began to steal their jewellery. At that point Mr Holt pulled his gun from his pocket and shot one of the robbers twice in the chest. Then he turned around and shot the other man, who had been removing rings from the other employees' fingers.

The first robber died on the spot while the other, who was wounded in the chest, managed to stagger to the waiting car. They sped out of the compound, menacing security staff and shooting into the air. "There was blood spilling out of the side of the vehicle as they drove off," said Richard Ngui, a security guard.

Mr Holt handed over his revolver, which was licensed, to police detectives for ballistic examination. Mr Maluki said he expected the gun to be returned soon.

"The robbers were real professionals, acting just like diplomats," he said. "It was a very brave thing Bob did. The killing was entirely justifiable. He only shot in self-defence when a weapon had been pulled on him." Kenyan police were appealing for information on a heavily bloodstained vehicle seen leaving the racecourse.

Mr Holt's former wife Linda, who runs Capitol Radio in Nairobi, said: "We are all very concerned about what happened, but the police said he handled it very courageously. Being held up at gunpoint on a Tuesday morning is not the sort of thing you expect. We're all very relieved he's OK."

Yesterday's events mark the latest chapter in a fascinating life. As a young man, Mr Holt rode bicycles professionally on the Continent. For nine years, he worked in a variety of executive positions for Robert Maxwell before becoming managing director of the East African Standard in Nairobi in the early 1990s.

While there, the paper ran a story that upset some sections of the Asian community. According to a close friend, who asked not to be named, one potential assailant decided to take it out on Mr Holt, firing a shot that narrowly missed his head.

The Kenyan government offered him protection and provided a bodyguard for up to six months. "He was also given a gun and taught how to use it by the bodyguard, who had in turn been trained by the Israeli secret service," said the friend.

"He was told never to draw his pistol unless he intended to use it. I'm shocked that he has been involved in such an incident, but not surprised that he defended himself. He's a confident man, but not arrogant, and he's a quiet character but very brave."

He left the newspaper at the end of last year and was asked to join struggling Swindon Town Football Club as its chief executive. Despite his best efforts, however, the club was too far in debt and went into administration after two months.

The club's staff were relieved yesterday when told the news by The Independent. Robin Humby, Swindon Town's management accountant, said: "While he was here he was not a man to be trifled with. His stay was always going to be brief. He resigned after two months because there was nothing more he could do for us."

He left in February and had been helping the Kenyan Jockey Club to restructure its finances after a difficult spell. According to the friend, he was working only for expenses and his love of the turf.