Sequel to White Mischief as aristocrat kills again

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The Independent Online

Tom Cholmondeley, heir to Kenya's vast Delamere estates, has been arrested after killing a suspected poacher on his land, just a year after he narrowly escaped facing murder charges for shooting dead a wildlife ranger.

This second killing will once more raise tensions in the Rift Valley between local communities and the Delameres, the oldest of the white settler families in the region of Kenya that became known as Happy Valley for the decadent lifestyles of the white elites who lived there.

Police arrested Mr Cholmondeley and his colleague Carl Jean Pierre Tundo, a former Safari Rally driver, after the shooting on Wednesday evening.

Mr Cholmondeley told the police he had been taking an evening walk on his 100,000-acre Soysambu farm with Mr Tundo, when they came across five men armed with machetes, bows and arrows, carrying a dead impala.

When they were asked to stop, they set dogs on the two farmers and Mr Cholmondeley claims he shot one of the men, 37-year-old Robert Wambugu, in the resulting skirmish. He also shot the two dogs and then reported the incident to the police.

Simon Kiragu, chief of police in Naivasha, said: "According to Tom, the suspect was conducting illegal trade in the farm when the shooting incident occurred. The man ... died on his way to the Rift Valley provincial hospital."

Both Mr Cholmondeley and Mr Tundo are being held at the police station in the town of Nakuru. The police said they recovered a .303 assault rifle and five rounds of ammunition from the suspect.

Mr Cholmondeley, son of the fifth Lord Delamere, attracted controversy after he shot a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger, Samson Ole Sisina, at his Soysambu farm in April last year. Mr Ole Sisina and two colleagues had gone to the farm in plain clothes to investigate allegations of illegal wildlife trade and was killed after Mr Cholmondeley opened fire on him believing him to be a robber.

Mr Cholmondeley was arrested and held in jail for a month, but was later freed without facing trial. The prosecutors said at the time that there was not enough evidence to proceed.

The Masai community to which Mr Ole Sisina belonged threatened to invade white-owned farms in the aftermath of the case, and the director of public prosecutions, Philip Murgor, was sacked shortly afterwards.

A commission of inquiry that was set up after the charges were dropped is yet to deliver a ruling and many Kenyans still believe that the authorities are keen to avoid a confrontation with the Delamere family, who played a major role in the British colonisation of Kenya in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

There are fears that this latest incident will cause old resentment against white settlers to resurface.

The Masai in particular complain that families such as the Delameres took their best grazing lands and destroyed their traditional migration routes, and a spate of violent incidents indicate that tensions between black and white communities in the Rift Valley are rising.

In January, a 69-year-old film-maker, Joan Root, was shot dead by intruders at her home on the shores of Lake Naivasha and local police believe that she had been targeted by local poachers because of her conservation work.

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