Which beast killed conservationist who dined with lions?

The world was horrified when it learnt that renowned conservationist Joy Adamson (left) had been killed. [File, Standard]

First, they denied him a wife. Then they tried him for murder and tried to take his life. This is the twisted story of an adopted boy and the tragedy of his mother, whose love for lions and nature was repaid with death.

The world was horrified when it learnt that renowned conservationist Joy Adamson had been killed. Many, including the lions she so much cared about, were hurt.

Then attention shifted to Joy’s 17-year-old adopted son Paul Nakware Ekai. His pleas of innocence were brushed aside by detectives who believed that Ekai murdered his benefactor Adamson on the night of January 3, 1980 in Shaba camp.

And after a gruelling 12 months of trial, High Court judge Mathew Muli found Ekai guilty of murder. Muli who would later become Kenya’s Attorney General, said he was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ekai had stabbed a defenceless woman to death at a remote camp where she was trying to rehabilitate leopards.

Like the mystery murder, Ekai’s age was a matter of contention as his accusers sought to have him hanged but Muli said the accused was 17 on January 3, 1980, when he committed the offence.

At first, reports indicated Adamson had been mauled by a lion, a factor that hampered investigations and in the process led to loss or destruction of potential evidence. At the time of her death, the world renowned conservationist and author of Born Free, Living Free and Forever Free, was aged 60.

The police initially claimed Ekai had confessed to the murder and had even led them to where a battery was stolen from Adamson’s car was recovered but he recanted the evidence and accused the police of torturing him to a point of forcing him to sign pre-recorded statements.

His protests in court were brushed off by Muli who said he was convinced the boy had been at the murder scene and treated his alibi that he had been at his aunt’s place, as an unconvincing afterthought.

Even after decades of cooling his heels in confinement at Kamiti, Ekai still maintained his innocence although he gave hints of a soured relationship between an adopted son and a mother. He said he had wanted to marry at 17 but his guardian wanted him to wait for a year.

In his confession, Ekai said he attacked the woman for failing to pay him after digging a hole for two weeks. However, a receipt was produced during the trial to prove Ekai had been paid Sh55.90.

More than 40 years later, the question remains, which beast or man killed the lioness who loved lions to death?  

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