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Julie Ward murder mystery back to haunt her killers

BUSINESS
By | September 10th 2011

By LEONARD KORIR

The Julie Ward murder mystery has returned to haunt residents of Trans Mara District, the place where the 28-year-old wildlife photographer was last seen.

There was tension and anxiety last week at Nakwenyi village, Oronkai location in Trans Mara West District when a team of experts searching for the remains of the late Ms Ward raided a homestead in the area accompanied by armed General Service Unit.

Anxious residents caught off guard by the impromptu visit protested as the security personnel denied them access to the purported scene of crime.

Experts dig out a compound in a homestead in Trans Mara where it is believed the remains of the late Julie Ward were buried. [PICTURES: LEONARD KORIR/STANDARD]

The experts were trying to dig out the alleged remains. Journalists, too, were barred from covering the event and attempts by The Standard On Saturday to enter the homestead were thwarted by hawk-eyed security officers. But journalists took pictures from a distance of people digging-up.

Seated pensively in a wooden chair, the deceased’s father, John Ward monitored as the team of geologists, surveyors and forensic experts shovelled out soil.

Dressed in white dust coats, the experts spent the better part of the day digging. Others tested soil samples and decomposing animal bones.

Residents protest

Outside the compound, a group of locals curious to know what was happening inside the homestead, protested and demanded to be involved.

Led by local elder, Moses ole Korinko, they condemned the exercise saying the deployment of security officers was causing tension.

Korinko said such an exercise should have been done openly by involving the local people rather than locking them out.

"This is total disrespect to the owner of the homestead and also to the community.

There is panic among residents who are uncertain of the next move. The presence of these officers is causing unnecessary tension," said Korinko.

The owner of the homestead under search, Joseph ole Mpario, was a senior ranger at Maasai Mara National Game Reserve (MMGR) during the murder. He was among the suspects alleged to have committed the crime.

Speaking after the digging, Mr Mpario, who works with the County Council of Trans Mara, said he was innocent and that the search would be futile. He recounted how the officers stormed his home in morning.

"I was shocked to see a team of GSU officers entering my compound accompanied by plain clothes officers. I asked them to explain their mission. When they mentioned the Julie Ward story, I had to comply with them," said Mpario.

But he said he would take legal action if the team did not unearth the purported remains. "The team is acting on a court order. I am giving them time to do their work. But I assure you that I will take the necessary legal action against them if they find nothing. They have destroyed my compound for something I don’t know," said Mpario.

Julie was murdered in Kenya in 1988 while on safari in the Mara. Investigations into her death have dragged for a long time, with contradicting findings over the years.

John has dedicated most of his time and money to search for his daughter’s remains.

Refuted theory

He has already spent more than £2 million on investigations and has made close to 100 visits to Kenya.

Three people earlier charged with the murder have not yet been convicted.

Ward’s charred, dismembered body was found a week after she went missing.

Simon ole Makallah, a former game warden, was found innocent of the murder and was acquitted by the High Court in Nairobi on September 17, 1999.

The original theory put forth by Kenyan officials was that she had been struck by lightning and eaten by lions.

But they later accepted that she was murdered after her father’s efforts to find the truth uncovered further evidence.

The coroner’s report had been altered to disguise the fact that her bones had been cut by a sharp object rather and not gnawed by animals, as earlier implicated.

To date, there have been two trials, the first in 1992 when two park rangers were acquitted of her murder, and the second in 1998 when the head park warden was also acquitted.

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