Harry Roy Veevers death inquest: Tale of love, passion, poison and death

One of the houses owned by British tycoon Harry Roy Veevers (right) in Mombasa County. Veevers died on February 14, 2013. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

The 10-year inquest into the death of British tycoon Harry Roy Veevers that came to an end in Mombasa last Thursday was a tale of love, passion, poison and death, even as the final witness testified.

The story of Veevers, who died on February 14, 2013, oscillated between Kenya and the United Kingdom.

During the final day of testimonies, Veevers’ former house help, Emily Adhiambo, told the judicial inquest she was shocked to learn that he had died.

She said she arrived at his home in Nyali, Mombasa, as usual, and washed clothes and beddings hours before she was informed of his death.

“As usual, I came to work in the morning but Roy who always opened the gate for me was nowhere to be seen. I took his clothes that had been placed outside the house and washed them. It is after I had washed the clothes that I was informed that Roy had died. I was informed that he had died from a heart attack,” said Adhiambo.

Since 2013, Mombasa residents have been enthralled by the feud between the children of the two women who were once married to the Briton, who migrated to Kenya in the 1980s.

The death of Veevers, who was a property developer, sparked hostility between his two sons on one side and his two daughters on the other. Veevers came to Mombasa with his British wife Azra Parveen Din, whom he married after divorcing his first wife, Florence Marvis, in England.

He had five children with Florence, who included two sons - Richard and Philip. The duo remained in touch with their father even after the divorce and visited him in Mombasa frequently.

In Mombasa, Veevers sired two daughters - Alexandra and Hellen - with his second lover Azra. His death ignited a major dispute between the two families. John Whitehead, a witness, told the judicial inquiry that Veevers had planned to marry a third woman before he suddenly died in his bed. 

Veevers’ sons Richard and Philip, from the tycoon’s first marriage with wife Marvis, accused their stepmother, Azra, together with her daughters, Hellen and Alexandra, of poisoning their father to stop him from divorcing her. Four years ago, Philip told the court that his father died from poisoning and that was why some parts of his body turned pink.

Philip, a soldier, insisted that being a medical expert, what he saw on the body of his father in the mortuary was proof he had died from poisoning.

Veevers’ body was buried but later exhumed after 11 months. It has remained in the morgue at Coast General Hospital (CGH).

However, Azra and her daughter insist he died of natural causes.

Azra denied claims of poisoning her husband to prevent him from marrying another woman. She told the court that Veevers gave her Sh500,000 monthly. In 2018, the Director of Public Prosecutions ordered an investigation into the disappearance of Veevers’ Will.

Roy Veevers’ sons Richard and Philip, from the tycoon’s first marriage with wife Marvis. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

The Will, according to daughter Hellen, was stored in a safe box which also contained money and other confidential documents in a branch of the Barclays Bank in Mombasa.

Hellen claimed her father’s Will disappeared immediately after he died. She blamed the loss on her half-brother, Richard.

Richard also accused his stepmother and her daughters (Hellen and Alexandra) of stealing the Will in order to conceal how his father intended to share his estate.

A toxicology report from the Chief Government Pathologist, Johansen Oduor, indicated that Veevers did not die from pesticide poisoning as alleged by two toxicological reports from the government chemist.

The reports showed he died of cyhalothrin, one of the pesticides, whose traces were found in his body tissues. Dr Oduor said the reports were unreliable.

He told Principal Magistrate Charles Ndegwa that the reports by the police and former government pathologist Moses Njue indicating that Veevers died of cyhalothrin poisoning were unreliable. 

“The two reports cannot help the court to determine the cause of death. I cannot determine the cause of Veevers’ death from the two toxicology reports. They are unreliable,” Dr Oduor said, adding that most of the equipment used by the Government Chemists is obsolete and could not produce correct toxicology results.

Veevers’ religious faith at the time of death is also disputed. Richard and Philip questioned why their father was buried in accordance with Muslim traditions despite the fact that he was a Christian.

His alleged conversion to Islam was the reason he was buried in a Muslim cemetery without an autopsy according to Azra, who is Muslim. But Philip and Richard maintained that he was never a Muslim and that the faith was contrived to conceal the cause of his death.

Dr Oduor agreed with the toxicology report of Dr Alexander Richard Allan from the UK, that determined pesticides cannot kill.

Allan’s report contradicted Senior Government Chemist Stephen Matinde Weibe who said cyhalothrin found in the deceased’s soft tissue was a highly toxic pesticide.

While being cross-examined, Oduor said there is no protocol for moving a body of a person who died at home to the mortuary.

He however admitted that proper procedure was never followed in taking the late Veevers’ body to the morgue.

“That is why I said it gives an opportunity for investigations into his death because of failure to follow the proper procedure,” said Odour.

In February 2020, retired senior police superintendent Shadrack Juma, who investigated Veevers’ death, said Arza’s rush to bury the husband was suspicious, unlawful and unprocedural.

Juma said Azra failed to inform the police of Veevers’ mysterious death and proceeded to bury him without a postmortem report.

He said Veevers’ body was removed from his home without a police report and taken to Pandya Hospital morgue and later released for burial without any involvement of the security officers.

Harry Roy Veevers' daughter Alexander Veevers testifies during the inquest in January 2018. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Initially, the State had indicted Azra and her daughters for murder from apparent poisoning but the charge was withdrawn and a death inquest was launched instead.

An outstanding issue before the inquest is when and whether the deceased ingested the poison over a long time or if it was administered to him in a deliberate act of murder. 

Richard and Philip obtained orders to exhume the corpse buried without an autopsy, alleging foul play. A subsequent autopsy established an insecticide within the corpse’s stomach area.

The doctor who certified the death without conducting an autopsy was reprimanded by the medical board and fined but he has appealed the decision.

The two brothers claim that their father’s apparent Islamisation after death was a convenient and possibly pre-planned ploy to get rid of his body.

Juma said there was no death certificate issued to Azra after her husband died. He further said that Mombasa Hospital had denied ever admitting Veevers and that it was an error.

On April 25, 2016, Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) said Pandya Memorial Hospital erred in releasing the body for burial without involving the police, although Harry had not died at this facility.

The retired officer said that procedurally, when a person dies at home under mysterious circumstances, police are supposed to visit the scene, examine the body and possibly take the body to the morgue awaiting a post-mortem report.

“If someone jumps that process it is because there is something suspicious to hide. I believe it is wrong to release the body without a postmortem report,” said Juma. 

Veevers came to Kenya nearly 20 years ago in the company of Arza Parveen Din, a British Muslim woman, as his partner with whom he sired Hellen and Alexandra.

The late tycoon had divorced his first wife Florence Marvis who had sired him two sons, Philip and Richard.

Azra disputed claims that she had a frosty relationship with her husband and described him as a loving man, with whom they lived happily before his death.

“My husband died from heart attack after falling sick the whole day on February 14, 2013, at our house in Nyali,” said Azra. 

She told the court that she married Veevers in 1977 at Diani in Kwale County under Islamic law, which was witnessed by her friend Lily Khan. 

Azra also denied claims that she burnt her husband’s documents to conceal some information about his property.

She further denied claims her husband was foaming at the mouth when Dr Salim Omar went to her house to confirm her husband’s death.