'White Mischief' heir blames friend for killing

The descendant of one of Kenya's most infamous white settler families took the stand in a packed Nairobi courtroom yesterday to deny murdering a black poacher who was shot dead on his land.

Tom Cholmondeley, son and heir to the fifth Lord Delamere, the largest white landowner in Kenya, said he "could not understand" how he could have shot 37-year-old Robert Njoya, suggesting it was a friend who was with him at the time.

The trial of Mr Cholmondeley, a 40-year-old Old Etonian, has threatened to reopen old debates over land ownership and race in a country where most of the 30,000-strong white community live a life of privilege that most black Kenyans can only dream of.

Mr Cholmondeley's grandfather was one of the ringleaders of the so-called "Happy Valley" set, the gin-drinking, wife-swapping colonialists whose epic tales of debauchery were immortalised in the novel and film, White Mischief.

Times have changed and many white Kenyans have sold their land and moved into conservation and safari holidays. But for the younger generation, like Mr Cholmondeley – who are known as "Kenya cowboys" – it is still a life of luxury.

The mix of regular safaris, weekends at the Indian Ocean coast and a never-ending supply of cocktails and champagne is a long way from the confines of the Kamiti maximum security prison in Nairobi, where Mr Cholmondeley has been held on remand for more than two years. Yesterday in the wood-panelled courtroom he recounted, in a 90-minute testimony, the day of Mr Njoya's death.

Mr Cholmondeley had been taking a tour of the family's 55,000-acre Soysambu estate with a friend, Carl Tundo, a local rally driver known to many as "Flash". The two men spotted a group of poachers, one of whom had a dead Thompson's gazelle slung over his shoulder. Mr Cholmondeley and Mr Tundo were both armed, he claimed. Mr Cholmondeley carried a rifle, while Mr Tundo had a pistol.

Mr Cholmondeley took aim at the poachers' dogs and fired. "There was no one in the field of view when I shot those dogs," he said. But a bullet hit Mr Njoya in the pelvis. The other men ran off. Mr Cholmondeley and Mr Tundo carried Mr Njoya to a car and drove him to hospital, but he was dead by the time they got there.

Mr Cholmondeley handed himself in at the local police station and said he had shot him. But in his testimony yesterday, as his parents, Lord and Lady Delamere, calmly looked on, Mr Cholmondeley changed his story.

"Had I shot him, he should have fallen where I shot the dogs," he said. "I was shocked and surprised. I couldn't understand what had happened... From my angle, I could not have shot that man."

Instead, he suggested, his friend Mr Tundo could have shot him. Both men were arrested and spent a night in jail. "That night in the cells, Flash was really upset and tearful," Mr Cholmondeley said. "He asked me not to mention it [his pistol] for fear that he would get into trouble." Mr Tundo, who gave testimony earlier, denies he was carrying a weapon.

It is not the first time that Mr Cholmondeley has been accused of murdering someone on the farm. He shot and killed an undercover game warden in April 2005, but was acquitted before the trial began after the attorney general decided there wasn't enough evidence. His acquittal caused outrage – and wasn't helped by a picture of a grinning Mr Chomondelely giving a thumbs-up sign which was splashed across the front pages of Kenyan newspapers. Masai tribespeople, whose forefathers owned the Delameres' land before the colonialists arrived, threatened to invade Soysambu and reclaim it.

Kenya's Standard newspaper greeted the second arrest of Mr Cholmondeley with the headline "Oh No! Not Again!" The trial began in September 2006 and has proceeded in fits and starts. The defence is expected to continue today.

The trials of Tom Cholmondeley

19 April 2005

Cholmondeley arrested on charge of killing an undercover Masai game warden

17 May 2005

He is freed after the prosecutor says there is insufficient evidence.

10 May 2006

Cholmondeley is arrested again after he telephones police to tell them that he has shot at a group of men he suspected of poaching a gazelle on his farm. One of the poachers, Robert Njoya, dies

24 May 2006

Cholmondeley pleads not guilty. His lawyer tells hearing that his client shot at the group when they set dogs on him, not at Njoya himself

25 September 2006

Trial begins in Nairobi and months of wrangling ensue over access to evidence

8 July 2008

Cholmondeley takes the stand for the first time

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee