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BBC worker Kate Mitchell flees war in Ethiopia only to be killed in Nairobi

By Nzau Musau | November 23rd 2021

BBC journalist Kate Mitchelle who was killed at a Nairobi hotel on Friday, last week. [Photo, Courtesy]

The BBC journalist who was killed at a hotel in Nairobi on Friday was part of the corporation’s staff that had fled the chaos in neighbouring Ethiopia.

Kate Mitchell, a British national who headed the broadcaster’s charity wing, BBC Media Action’s operations in Addis Ababa, had come to Kenya last month for a safety training, when the UK government issued evacuation directives to its nationals in Ethiopia.

Mitchell then stayed in Nairobi, as the uncertainty in Addis unfolded, as she planned to either obtain a work visa for Kenya or to go back to London pending the resolution of the conflict.

She was found dead in her room at a Westlands hotel.  Police say a man she shared drinks with earlier also lay dead a few floors below.

Police sources say she had been spotted with the man having drinks on the day she was killed. Her former colleagues say she was last active online at 11:37pm on Thursday night. She was found dead the following morning.

“No one seems to know what exactly happened. She was a very easy person to work with, versatile but firm, very understanding and blessed with deep knowledge of her area of work,” Robert Wanjala of Article 19 told The Standard.

Wanjala had worked with Mitchell in Addis Ababa for the media strengthening programme targeting independent media. The project entailed finding effective, sustainable solutions on viability of independent media in fragile contexts.

He said as the civil strife engulfed the country, their meetings grew far in between.

“My last conversation with her was about what was happening in Addis. We used to have weekly meetings on our programme but they slowed down due to the situation there,” Wanjala added.

Police were also said to be reviewing CCTV footage of the building to authenticate eyewitness accounts.

The hotel where she succumbed describes itself as a “unique work of music and art” where value meets style: “We are modern, warm and perfectly equipped for solo travellers, families and groups.”

Its rooftop has a sports bar from where panoramic views of Nairobi skyline can be gleaned.

It is said that Mitchell had raised an alarm. When hotel security arrived she lay dead on her bed.

“We are investigating circumstances around these deaths, but so far it is apparent the man jumped (out of) the window after killing her," Nairobi police chief Augustine Thumbi said over the weekend.

A statement attributed to BBC, Media Action CEO Caroline Nursey said Mitchell had been the wing’s senior project manager in Ethiopia. She said they were all “shocked and horrified” by the news.

Mitchell's family described her as a deeply beloved daughter, sister and friend. 

"Kate loved her work and was tireless in her efforts to make the world a better place. She leaves behind many, many beloved friends and colleagues around the world," Peter Mitchell, her brother said.

[Additional reporting by Kamore Maina]

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