British couple stabbed to death in Mombasa

Police arrest suspects in blood-spattered car, before murders were discovered

An elderly British couple were stabbed to death while on holiday in Kenya by two men they had been donating money to, police said yesterday.

The bodies of Norman and Rita Joel, of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, were found dumped in the village of Mwakirunge, 16km from Mombasa. An autopsy revealed that both Mr Joel, 70, and his wife, 67, died from multiple stab wounds.

Both Mr and Mrs Joel had been frequent visitors to Kenya for nearly 20 years, owned a home in the country and were known to have given money to local communities.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the British High Commission was made aware of the deaths on 15 October, but could not confirm when the murders took place. According to Kenyan Police, the retired couple were killed a day after arriving in the country.

Two men were arrested prior to the discovery of the bodies, after a patrolling policeman spotted them driving a bloodstained car. Police believe the murders took place in the car, which had been rented for the couple by one of the suspects. The alleged murder weapons have also been recovered.

Kenyan police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said: "We have two suspects in custody. The suspects were known to the couple, as they had been receiving monetary assistance from them."

Mr Kiraithe added that one of the suspects confessed to the murders, while the second suspect denies being involved. Both are due to be charged with murder on Tuesday, following psychological evaluations. Police described the couple, who were thought to be doing charity work as part of their trip, as "repeat visitors" to the country, who "have been coming to Mombasa for quite a while".

Jon Casey, 28, a neighbour of the Joels in Leigh-on-Sea, said that they loved Africa and had been visiting Kenya for more than 15 years.

"They were frequent visitors to Mombasa, they had a holiday house out there and they had been going there for many years," he said.

"They were not a well-off couple but in Kenya theirs was the only house with electricity. They helped fund a well in the village," Mr Casey added. "They were westerners so I suppose they were a target... Their house was robbed last year when they were out there."

Mr Kiraithe declined to comment on reports that the couple had died during a botched robbery, but said: "When visitors arrive like this and do some charity work, people might imagine they had some cash on them."

The couple's family have been informed of their deaths, and are said to be preparing to fly the bodies back to the UK. Mrs Joel's son, Richard Bryant, was too upset to speak about the tragedy, declining to make a comment to reporters.

A Facebook group has been set up in memory of the couple by Mrs Joel's granddaughter, Lisa Bryant. "RIP Nan Rita and Tony" has over 30 members, with family and friends leaving tributes to the couple. One message from Ms Bryant, reads: "R.i.p Nan and Tony who sadly passed away the 16/10/09 keep looking over all your friends and family and keep us all strong love you so much and will be missed very much x x x".

Two Britons living in Kenya were killed during robberies at their homes last year, and a group of British and Irish tourists were attacked and robbed by a gang near Nyeri, central Kenya, while on a guided tour in October 2008.

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