Masai fury as aristocrat's murder charge dropped

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The case against a British aristocrat accused of killing a Kenyan game warden at his estate in the Rift Valley appears to have collapsed.

The case against a British aristocrat accused of killing a Kenyan game warden at his estate in the Rift Valley appears to have collapsed.

Citing lack of evidence, the attorney general moved to drop murder charges against Thomas Cholmondeley, 37, son of the 5th Baron Delamere, and a descendant of one of Kenya's first white settlers.

The case has stirred memories of the colonial era, as Baron Delamere's stepmother was Diana, Lady Delamere, who outraged white Kenyan society in the 1940s by her love affair with the Earl of Erroll, made famous by the book White Mischief.

Mr Cholmondeley had pleaded not guilty to shooting dead a plainclothes warden, Samon ole Sisina, on 19 April. If convicted, he would have faced the death penalty, or a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

Mr Sisina, a Masai, was reported to have been plainclothed, but armed, as part of an undercover investigation into the illegal trade in game meat when he was shot on Mr Cholmondeley's ranch, one of the largest in Kenya.

Authorities at the court hearing said a confrontation had arisen after three wardens had detained Mr Cholmondeley's farm workers for skinning a buffalo that had been shot dead.

Yesterday, the high court judge, Muga Apondi, said he would rule today on an application from the attorney general, Amos Wako, to drop murder charges against Mr Cholmondeley. Prosecutors have also called for an inquest into the case.

Mr Cholmondeley is understood to have been intending to argue self-defence. His lawyer, Fred Ojiambo, said: "I support the attorney general and welcome his decision, as he did not dance to the tune of the public."

The recommendation to drop the case is likely to cause anger among the Masai population, many of whom consider that Kenya's white settlers stole their land from them at the turn of the century, soon after the British colonised the country. The Masai argue that even after independence successive governments have done nothing to address their grievances, and last year launched a campaign to reclaim their land using peaceful, legal means.

Last month, a Masai tribal leader accused the Delamare family of oppressing his people for generations, and threatened to organise tribesmen to invade their ranch in retaliation for Mr Sisana's death.

Fifteen Masai elders stood outside the high court in Nakuru last month when Mr Cholmondeley made an earlier appearance. He had been driven to court in a police Land Rover, whereas 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 at the time.