What would unite a Nazi era war criminal, a polio-ravaged unmarried mother and retired Kenya High Court judge running away from the law?
The answer to this question is hidden in personal vaults, archives and files in numerous courts of law and tomes in Britain, Germany, France and Kenya.
Camouflaged by cobwebs of history, legalese and frailty of the human mind are slivers of truths and half-truths spanning over 90 years and intertwined with the second World War, the Mau Mau liberation struggle and events in post-Independent Kenya.
It is the story of a World War heroine-turned-villain and a retired judge.
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But the central planks in this multi-layered cloak-and-dagger antics are a pioneer medical doctor, Anne Marie-Spoerry, her 68-year-old adopted daughter Rosemary Wamuyu Wachira and a retired High Court Judge, John Philip Ransley.
Spoerry, who died on February 6, 1999, lived in Kenya for most of her adult life. She was known initially for saving the colonial settlers and their workers in the White Highlands and fighting the Mau Mau as a police reservist.
Later, she dedicated her resources to saving ailing children in remote parts of Kenya as a flying doctor working under African Medical Research Foundation.
All this time, she was a declared war criminal in Europe, wanted for sending thousands of prisoners to the gas chambers in Ravensbrück, a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.
Consequently, she was hunted by veterans in France and was banned from practicing medicine there after being denied a chance to complete her medical studies.
The current saga started a few days after Spoerry’s death which marked the end of a dark era which she had guarded all her life. (see separate story)
A few hours after Spoerry was buried on February 12, 1999 in Shella Beach, Lamu, Rosemary flew back to Nairobi then went to Muringa farm in Subukia where she had spent her life with Spoerry.
The following morning, Justice (Rtd) Ransley contacted her and other relatives of Spoerry and announced that there would be a meeting on February 20 and he would disclose the contents of the Will. That was also to be the day Rosemary was kicked out of Spoerry’s home.
It would later emerge that Ransley had drawn a Will on May 23, 1993 which appointed him the trustee and executioner of the estate.
Parts of the Will read: “I revoke all former testamentary dispositions relating to the estate. I appoint Philip John Ransley of Po Box 1021 Nairobi (hereinafter in such capacity called my trustee) to be the executor and trustee thereof. I give all my property whether immovable or movable or personal unto my trustee upon trust to sell the same and having paid all my debts and testamentary expenses and death duties if any.”
In the Will, Spoerry dictated that the residue of her estate be allocated to her brother, Francois Spoerry of France and sisters Therese Pont and Martine Gross all of France in equal shares. Interestingly Francois had already died on January 11, 1999 and in fact Spoerry had attended his burial in France.
The Will also decreed that the executor was entitled to the usual professional fee and would be paid for any time spent administering Spoerry’s estate.
In March 1999, when Ransley filed succession case no 544 of 1999, he listed Spoerry’s known assets as 10 pieces of land in Lamu, and a 2.6 acre estate in Muthaiga Nairobi, another estate in Nakuru as well as money in two bank accounts.
Although shortly before her death, Spoerry had renewed her flying licence, curiously missing from the inventory of assets was the beloved aircraft in which she had flown over 8,000 hours some of it over France and Greece.
According to the Certificate of Confirmation of a grant dated November 19, 1999, Ransley was listed as heir with absolute shares to 15 developed plots in Lamu and four other pieces of land in Nairobi and Nakuru.
The inventory also indicated that Ransely had inherited two bank accounts at Credit Agricole Indosuez, two accounts at Barclays Bank and two more at Kenya Commercial bank.
At the same time, the retired judge was the new owner of two vintage vehicles a Volkswagen Beetle and a Vauxhall saloon, two Peugeot 205 saloons and one Nisan Patrol car. According to some of the court documents, the total value of the assets was given as Sh10 million.
Armed with the Will, Ransley went about selling some of the doctor’s assets, touching off a bitter legal battle with Rosemary who insists the Will was forged and has vowed to have it revoked.
On February 21, 2003, Ransley, who by then had been appointed as a judge of the High Court, entered into an agreement to sell to Chui Estates Limited 2.6 acres of land in Nairobi registered in the name of Dr Anne Marie Spoerry for Sh13 million.
Rosemary is bitter that besides being locked out of the Will, Ransley has ended up as a beneficiary of two pieces of land she had bought with her money.
In her autobiography: They Call Me Mama Daktari: Anne Spoerry, published in 1994, the doctor explains the circumstances under which she became acquainted with Rosemary in 1963 and how she assisted Rosemary, who was crippled by polio, to acquire the land.
Spoerry wrote: “Today Rosemary is nearly 40. I knew her first as a little girl handicapped by polio. I looked after her and saw her through school where she received her primary leaving certificate. She then attended Young Women Christian Association of Limuru where she learnt dressmaking, First Aid and cookery.”
“Rosemary inherited one of these plots but she had to fight tooth and nail to keep it. I supported her claim of ownership but at that time there were no clear legislation on women’s right to property. In order to make Rosemary feel more secure, I built her a little house. Then Rosemary acquired some more fields of her own with her own money and ended up with a nice five-acre property.”
Ironically, the parcels of land Spoerry fought so hard for her adopted daughter to acquire have been sold after they were included in the inventory of assets presented during Ransley’s succession petition.
“There is something wrong with the Will. It must be revoked. Not only is the signature wrong but the inclusion of my property in the inventory of my adopted mother’s estate is weird. One of the plots in Subukia has been sold although I still have the original title deed,” Rosemary adds.
And for 22 years since Spoerry’s death, Rosemary says she has been battling to safeguard her property.
Her last hopes were dashed by High Court Judge D O Ohunge on April 30, 2019 when he ruled that the sale of her land through public auction was legal and that she should remove the caveat she had placed on it at the Ministry of Lands to facilitate its transfer to one Michael Kinyanjui.
Ransley retired as a judge in 2007 and started his law firm Ransley McVicker Shaw Advocates. He however fled to England after he was charged for allegedly stealing Sh102.7 million from Angela Scott and Sh152.7 million from Rowland Minns.
The High Court at Milimani also issued a warrant for his arrest on January 21, 2017 and the Director of Public Prosecutions initiated proceedings to have the judge who is now aged 87 extradited from United Kingdom so he could face trial. This matter has since been settled out of court.