The only testimony that English tourist Julie Ann Ward, 28, had entered the Maasai Mara Game Reserve was her left leg, lower jaw, and a curly lock of her hair, which were recovered 13 days after she was reported missing.
The remains were found 10 kilometres from her abandoned Suzuki Jeep five days after she was supposed to have left the game reserve for Nairobi and onwards to London.
Next to the remains were burnt out grass and shrubs, a pair of flip-flops, a tin of sardines, and what looked like a piece of a green towel hanging from a tree close by.
The mystery of her death has never been solved, and that is why, on a particularly cold evening earlier this month, her father, Mr John Ward, sat in his spic-and-span Nairobi Serena Hotel room, typing passionately on his laptop as an air conditioner hummed restlessly over his head.
He had travelled to Nairobi from London the previous day and was summing up a document on the 1988 murder of his daughter, which he hoped to hand over to officials the following day.
He was almost done with the document when the laptop went on a fritz, taking with it the document he had laboured so tirelessly to produce.
“How could this happen to me now?” he wondered aloud, horrified at the prospect of his trip to Nairobi becoming a wasted journey.
Without the string of words he had put together for investigators, he was nothing but a lame duck; just another British tourist lazing around in the cosy rooms of the Serena.
Series of mishaps
The events of that evening were the culmination of a series of mishaps that had befallen him. He had lost a tooth just a day before he boarded the plane from London to Nairobi, and, to make matters worse, had forgotten to bring another document he had planned to hand over to the authorities in Kenya.
But those were problems he could live with, little accidents of life when compared to the mystery of his daughter’s death that he has tried to solve for 23 years now.
“I have some bad news for you,” he said as he welcomed NTV managing editor Linus Kaikai and I into room 225 at the Nairobi Serena. “I had prepared something for you, but I have lost it. We will have to make do with what we have.”
Mr Ward looked tired, almost world-weary. He cupped his mouth when he laughed — probably to hide the gaping space the missing central incisor had left in his mouth.
On the table, sitting on top of a stack of news print-outs, was a copy of his novel, The Animals Are Innocent, with a picture of Julie on the cover, smiling to the ceiling with her hands wrapped around a cat in a girly hug.
“The truth about my daughter’s death has been enveloped in lies and corruption on a grand scale,” he said. “There must be a conspiracy to protect Julie’s killers.”
His pursuit of justice has attracted many people and, as he writes in The Animals Are Innocent, “there has been extensive media coverage; magazine articles and radio and television interviews.
There have been offers from film companies and they all have an angle of their own. A woman writer suggested I was racist and a psychiatrist journalist pronounced me sane. Perhaps neither was correct,” he says.
The female writer probably could not understand how the 78-year-old has kept the search for his daughter’s killers alive, but Mr Ward believes the truth will one day out.
The darkest chapter in Mr John Ward’s life began when Julie flew into the country for a group tour in June, 1988.
After a couple of weeks, members of her troupe returned to the United Kingdom, but Julie had fallen in love with the country and decided to stay for further tours.
She stayed with the family of another Briton, Paul Welde Dickson — who had lived in Kenya for 24 years — in Lang’ata, Nairobi.
Days turned into weeks, and Julie met and befriended another tourist, Dr Glen Burnes, a marine biologist from Australia who had arrived in Kenya in July of the same year.
Shortly after their meeting, Julie invited Burnes to stay at the Dicksons’ house in Lang’ata. On September 2, Julie suggested to Burnes that they travel to the Mara, and they set off in her jeep, registration number KTS 597.
They pitched tent at the park’s Sand River Camp for the night, then left for Keekorok the following day in search of wild game and the tingly feeling of the African sun on their backs.
They ended up at the Serena Sopa Lodge, where they stopped for lunch. But on their way back, the jeep broke down and, with the help of another tourist, they towed the car back to the lodge, where they discovered that the car’s fuel pump was faulty.
Three days later, on September 5, Burnes flew to Nairobi from the park for a meeting at the National Museums of Kenya. He asked their city host, Mr Dickson, to buy Julie a new pump and send it by air to the Serena Lodge.
Last time she was seen alive
A local mechanic, Paul Naitawan Lemaiyan, repaired the vehicle on September 5 and Julie left for Nairobi the next day. Alone in the wild, she passed by Sand River Camp, where she picked up their two tents at about 2.30 in the afternoon.
That was the last time she was seen alive. After several days of waiting, her host in Nairobi, Mr Dickson, became anxious and made enquiries at the game reserve. He was told she had left on the evening of September 6.
He reported Julie missing to the police, then telephoned her then 56-year-old father, Mr Ward, the managing director of Butterfly Hotels Limited in Suffolk, United Kingdom.
Mr Ward arrived in Kenya on September 11 and immediately organised a fleet of five aircraft to comb the Mara in search of his daughter.
On September 13, one of the search planes sighted Julie’s jeep in the bush, parked in a muddy gully. On top of the car were the letters “SOS” scribbled in mud. The letters SOS are a distress code.
Getting alongside the passenger door, Mr Ward cupped a hand to the glass and looked in. The front seats were empty. The back was filled with a jumble of cloth. Perhaps Julie was unconscious underneath the pile, Mr Ward thought to himself.
“I grabbed the handle and wrenched the door,” he says. “It wouldn’t open. I ran to the driver’s door and tried again. That wouldn’t open either. The single rear door defied me too. ‘Bloody doors are locked!’ I shouted. ‘Perhaps she locked herself in and then she passed out’.”
A friend in the search party smashed the glass and opened the doors. But Julie was nowhere to be found.
Nearby was a burnt-out fire made from shrubs and plastic tubes, and footprints leading away from the scene. They followed these for 10 kilometres before bumping into Julie’s remains.
“The Place, as I have come to call it, was miles from anywhere. There were no roads, no tracks, nothing but endless bush,” Mr Ward writes in his novel.
A tall man in camouflage clothes approached him, saluted, and led him to the scene. Mr Ward looked down and found himself staring at the bottom half of Julie’s left leg.
“I cannot remember what I said or indeed if any sound came from my mouth,” Mr Ward says. “I recall crouching down and stroking her calf with the back of my middle finger and feeling tears start to well in my eyes.”
Nearby, other items lay scattered. A lock of fair hair with a slight curl in it, a burnt pair of sunglasses, film canisters, a charred piece of blue denim, and a half-full food tin.
Julie was dead, and she must have suffered horribly before she gave up her last breath. Then the tragicomedy began.
After days of investigations, the government pathologist, Dr Jason Ndaka Kaviti, could not confirm the cause of Julie’s death, but another pathologist, Dr Adel Youssef Shaker, concluded that death was as a result of injuries caused by a blunt object and subsequent burning.
Mr Dickson, Julie’s host, later told an inquest that when Julie failed to turn up from the game reserve, he made inquiries through the police and visited several hospitals in Nairobi.
The retired film documentation examiner then contacted Dr Perez Olindo, a former director of Wildlife Management and Conservation.
Together, they flew to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in a light aircraft from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport. But they could not trace her car.
Mr Dickson recalled that, together with his wife, they visited the City Mortuary on September 14, 1988 at the request of one Inspector Mwaura. There, Mr Dickson identified a pair of flip-flops and a leg that he said could be Julie’s.
Cut with sharp instrument
“The limb had been severed with a sharp instrument while the jawbones had been dissected using a sharp instrument.
“The pathologist, Dr Shaker, said that, according to his examination, Julie’s leg was cut off before it was burnt. He said this was because the leg was charred around the superior tibio-fibular joint,’’ Mr Dickson told the court.
Balloon operator David Lloyd Weston recalled meeting Julie at the Serena Lodge on September 5, where she accompanied other tourists for a balloon safari. He said he had tried to dissuade her from travelling to Nairobi alone in vain.
Receipts produced by revenue clerk Johnson Sangaine Lokonsho showed that Julie and Dr Burnes had gone through the Sekenan Gate and paid Sh300 on September 2, 1988.
Sekenan is one of the seven entrances to the game reserve. The entry made at the park’s visitor’s book was of Julie Ward and Dr Glen Burnes, both of P.O. Box 15559, Nairobi.
Another revenue clerk, David Kandula ole Nchoko, said he signed the visitors’ book at Sand River Gate to indicate that Julie had left the game reserve for Nairobi through the gate on September 6.
“Constable Gerald Karori was at the gate and I saw him help the lady strike the tents she and Dr Burnes had pitched on September 2,” Nchoko recalled.
The Maasai Mara Game Reserve covers an area of 1,690 square kilometres, and it was here that Chief Game Warder Simon Basha ole Makallah had, in 1988, been working for 14 years with a staff of 154 game rangers.
At the hearing, he recalled that the only two deaths ever reported within the game reserve were those of two tourists gored by buffaloes at Governor’s Camp and Kichwa Tembo Camp in 1984.
Found some footprints
Makallah said his search team had found footprints that led to a climb, but they ended at a stretch of grass. His team then got inside their Land Rovers and moved to the southern part of the game reserve.
“We kept on driving and at about 4.30 pm, saw some vultures on a tree. As we drove by, more vultures took off from the ground. We slowed down and noticed that the grass at the spot seemed to have been disturbed.
“We stopped and came out of our cars and it was then that I saw two pieces of human jaw bones in an open spot within the grass. I noticed the teeth had dental fillings, indicating they were human. There was very little flesh left on them.
“We searched the area further, and it was then that we came across a human leg,” Makallah told the inquest.
The leg, he said, was about 10 metres away from where the jaw bones had been found. It had been severed just below the knee and was lying in an animal track, said Makallah.
“About 20 metres away, we found ashes, burnt coins, camera film cases, a spoon, a knife, a fork, a small cooking stove, a half-burnt saucepan, a burnt cup, pieces of burnt glasses, and other small items,” said the chief game warder.
Further search revealed human hair, pieces of clothing, and human flesh scattered across a radius of about 500 metres.
Thirty-nine days after the lower jawbone and severed left leg were found, Julie Ward’s skull and upper jawbone were recovered near the Kenya-Tanzania border.
And, on Friday, October 28, 1989, after 38 witness accounts in 23 days, confirming what Mr Ward had suspected all along, Nairobi Chief Magistrate Joseph Mango ruled that Julie Ward was murdered, not killed by wild animals in the game reserve.
He said that although it had not been established when she was killed, what the motive was, and who was responsible for the murder, the obvious suspects were kept at bay by a lawyer appearing for the family of the dead woman.
“I fail to understand the protective attitude in respect of them. Dr Glen Burnes and Mr Steve Casper Watson have nothing to lose.
“The Judiciary offered to pay their tickets so that they could come and testify. They flatly refused. What a way to treat a friend at death!” Mr Mango said.
“I agree with Mr Byron Georgiadis (the Ward family lawyer) that there is ample and circumstantial evidence to show that Julie died as a result of foul play by a person or persons yet unknown,” he said.
“The cuts were made by a man who had something to do with her death. There had to be a motive. Animals were innocent and could only have been involved in eating her remains.”
Who carried petrol can?
Mr Mango continued: “The petrol attendant at the lodge saw a 20-litre jerrican full of petrol in the Suzuki. The jerrican was never found.
“The evidence of fuel being used in the fire at Oserusopia (where her burnt remains were found) would seem to suggest that the petrol found its way there. Who carried it there and where did the jerrican go?
“It is unlikely that the woman (Julie) would have walked 10 kilometres from the Suzuki carrying 20 litres of petrol in flip-flops and going the only direction one would have expected her not to go.”
The chief magistrate said that in reaching his findings, he had also considered evidence which indicated that it seemed Miss Ward, after leaving the Sand River Gate Camp, had branched off for five kilometres.
It would further seem that she had gone out of her Suzuki and lit a fire near it before eventually walking across the park for 10 kilometres to the spot where she lit another fire.
Here, at Oserusopia, it would seem that she had started a fire, sat down to eat canned fish, and that, as she sat there, was attacked by wild animals.
After the inquest, Attorney General Amos Wako, in January 1992, appointed lawyer Salim Dhanji to prosecute a case against two game rangers over the death.
Jonah Tajeu Magiroi, 32, and Peter Metui Kipeen, 28, were accused that, on an undetermined day between September 6 and 13, they murdered Julie.
The hearing of the case started on February 10, 1992, with defence lawyers Githu Muigai (now Attorney General) and James Aggrey Orengo (now minister for Lands) appearing for the accused before Mr Justice Fidahussein E. Abdullah.
Evidence similar to that made during the inquest was tendered. Helicopter pilot Sebastian Tham told the court that the distance between the spot where Julie’s jeep was stuck and Sopa Lodge was 15 kilometres, and agreed with the defence that the jeep faced the general direction of the lodge.
Julie’s father told the court that it had taken the intervention of President Daniel arap Moi to have an inquest into the death held after his pleas to the Kenya Police yielded no results.
“It had become clear to me that no matter how much evidence I placed before Police Commissioner (Philip) Kilonzo, he was not going to start a murder inquiry.
“I wrote a letter to the State House Comptroller and to my local member of Parliament in Britain. On April 18, 1989, I wrote another letter to Mr Tim Egger, the Foreign Affairs minister in charge of East African Affairs.
“As a result of the writings and meetings, I was eventually informed that, on direct intervention by His Excellency the President, an inquest would be held into my daughter’s death,” Mr Ward told the court.
Change of mind
On Friday last week, Mr Ward seemed to contradict that statement, saying instead that he believed the government of the day was not interested in finding the killers of his daughter, and that the Moi administration would have settled the matter had it acted professionally and with the expected political will.
Mr Ward said the Chief Government Pathologist, Dr Kaviti, was surprised when confronted with a postmortem report which he (Dr Kaviti) had altered.
“Doctor Youseff Shekar, who had prepared the report, stood by trembling during the encounter,” Mr Ward told the court, adding that after the confrontation, Dr Kaviti agreed that he had altered the report before signing it.
The hotelier said that on September 23, 1988, he had received a copy of the postmortem report from the police pathologist, Dr Shekar, and that, although the words led to a conclusion that his daughter had been murdered, he had noticed that some words had been altered to indicate that wild animals had attacked her.
As a result of this, Mr Ward, accompanied by Mr John Fergusson from the British High Commission in Nairobi, Mr Frank Ribeiro (who was a personal assistant and managing director of Mr Ward’s chain of hotels), and Mr John Lee of the Lee Funeral Services, went to see Dr Shekar.
“As a result of what he (Dr Shekar) told us, we demanded to see Dr Kaviti, who was most surprised to see us,” said Mr Ward.
“I placed the report in front of him and asked him why he had changed Dr Shekar’s findings. For some time, Dr Kaviti gave no reply.
Eventually, he said he had been at the City Mortuary the day before, where he saw the report still in a typewriter.
He said where Dr Shekar had written ‘cleanly cut’ he knew he had meant ‘torn’ and ‘cracked’, and that where Dr Shekar had typed ‘sharp wound’ he had intended to type ‘blunt wound’. Dr Kaviti said it was plain that Dr Shekar’s English was not good.”
Mr Ward continued: “I asked Dr Shekar how many postmortem reports he had prepared as a police pathologist, and he said he had done about 100 of them. I asked how many had been altered, and he replied none.
“At this point, Mr John Fergusson pointed out to Dr Kaviti that, since the report still bore Dr Shekar’s signature and was altered by him (Kaviti), it would be necessary and proper for the chief pathologist to sign his alterations, which he did.”
During cross-examination by the defence, the hotelier said the three postmortem reports by British pathologist Austin Gresham, Kenya’s Chief Pathologist Dr Kaviti, and Egyptian Dr Shaker differed in their findings.
Prof Gresham had found no conclusive evidence on the cause of death while Dr Kaviti had said it had been caused by wild animals. Dr Shekar concluded death was as a result of sharp cuts.
All three medics were unable to establish when Julie died or when rigor mortis occurred. (Rigor mortis is a condition where the muscles of a dead body become stiff a few hours after death before relaxing again. The onset of rigor mortis may range from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on factors including temperature. Maximum stiffness is reached around 12-24 hours after death and can last up to three or four days.)
On April 7, 1992 the court heard that, a year-and-a-half after Julie Ward’s death, Scotland Yard detectives visited the Makari Rangers Outpost camp in the Mara and conducted a thorough search in five huts belonging to warders. Both the accused were posted at the camp at the time Julie went missing.
The team swept the floors of the huts and took away debris for forensic tests by the British Metropolitan Police in their London laboratories, Detective Sergeant David Sanderson said.
According to his findings, the detective said the metal huts had housed different occupants in the 20 months after Julie’s death.
He said bloodstains found in three of the huts could have belonged to either human beings or animals, and denied suggestions by defence counsel James Orengo that the Scotland Yard team had gone to the camp with a “pre-conceived theory.”
Sgt Sanderson said he did not conclude that his search had been a success until he received forensic reports from Scotland Yard that human hair had been found in the debris.
Makari not sealed
“It was clear that Makari was still not sealed after 20 months, and it was obvious that other occupants had been in the huts,” said Sgt Sanderson.
He also had instructions to search houses belonging to Police Constable Gerald Karori and revenue clerk David K. Nchoko at the Sand River Gate Camp, where Julie was last seen on the afternoon of September 6, 1988 striking off her tents and leaving.
In Constable Karori’s house, Sgt Sanderson found signs of bloodstains and the new occupant of the house, also a constable, busy washing it with a disinfectant. The detective also searched the clerk’s house and did not find any clues.
The next day, April 9, 1992, the court heard that six strands of Caucasian hair found in the debris collected from the Makari camp matched those of the murdered British woman.
Forensic scientist Philip Totes also found numerous animal and Negroid or Afro-Caribbean hairs in the debris.
However, on examining semen found in Julie’s sleeping bag, the scientist was unable to exclude the possible presence of semen from a ranger, Peter Kipeen (one of the accused), marine biologist Dr Glen Burnes, a Mr David Tree, and a Mr David Weston.
Mr Totes, who at the age of 42 had worked with the Metropolitan Police as a forensic scientist for 18 years, recalled that the samples were taken to him for tests and examination on March 14 and 15, 1990.
“The purpose of the examination was to identify any evidence of an association or contact having occurred between Julie Ward, her abandoned Suzuki jeep, the site where her remains were found, and the people who were occupants of the five huts at the Outpost camp at the time of her disappearance. These, I learnt, were Mr Magiroi and Mr Kipeen.”
From the samples, the forensic scientist said he looked for traces of blood, semen, saliva, hairs, and textile fibres. He then recalled examining Julie’s sleeping bag and finding semen.
Hair matching Julie’s found
The court then heard that Dr Harris, of the Home Office’s forensic laboratories in London, conducted more tests on the samples.
“The results of his tests indicated that the semen, which I had deduced to have come from Kipeen and the other three, could not have come from any one of them,” Mr Totes said.
“Hairs matching those of Julie Ward were found in the sweepings from the three huts at Makari. They are the only findings I have been able to make which support the possibility that Julie may have been at the rangers’ camp or may have been in contact with Magiroi and Kipeen, the occupants of the huts, at the time of her disappearance,” said Mr Totes.
During cross-examination by defence counsel James Orengo, Mr Totes said: “I cannot exclude the possibility of Sgt Sanderson’s hair falling on the floor of the hut while he swept, neither can I the possibility of his shoes carrying pieces of hair.
“It is not easy to distinguish the hair of a female and that of a male, but there may be circumstances where distinctions can be made. I cannot exclude the possibility that the hair exhibit could have belonged to Ms Ward.”
A Kenyan detective, Senior Superintendent Muchiri Wanjau, told the court that after reading the postmortem reports, and on visiting the scene where Julie’s remains were recovered, he had concluded that the British tourist might have committed suicide.
He denied the defence’s suggestion that the suicide theory was part of a conspiracy to cover up the murder.
No signs of struggle
He told the court that his assumptions were cemented by the fact that there were no signs of a struggle at the spot where Julie Ward’s remains were found.
“It is true that in my report to the DCI (Director of Criminal Investigations) and to the Commissioner of Police, I said there was no evidence of foul play and that it was possible that Ms Ward could have committed suicide. I believe both the commissioner and the DCI accepted that theory,” Mr Wanjau said.
He deduced that Julie might have become desperate after losing her way in the sprawling game reserve and decided to commit suicide. He claimed she may have poured petrol on herself and struck a match.
Wanjau agreed with defence counsel James Orengo that, in his report, he had said Maasai men traditionally never killed women and that, were Julie’s attackers poachers, they would have robbed her of money and other personal effects.
The detective said the jeep’s location indicated she may have stayed there for a long time as there were a number of cigarette butts, a used can of Kengold juice, and the remains of a fire.
The two game ranges on trial, in statements to the police, said they could not have committed the offence as they were in a camp where they had no transport and could not venture out for fear of wild animals.
Both Magiroi and Kipeen challenged Scotland Yard’s insinuations that, since Julie’s jeep was found in a gully a few kilometres from their camp, they had killed her.
“If any blood was found at the Makari Rangers’ Outpost Camp, it came from the wild animals we slaughtered there and from ourselves,” they said.
“As I stated in my earlier statement to the New Scotland Yard detectives, I did not kill that girl. She did not come to our camp. Had it not been for the radio message, I would not have known she was missing or dead,” Kipeen said.
In his statement, Magiroi said he and other rangers never used firewood and depended on kerosene for cooking.
He said he first heard of the missing woman over the radio and later the same evening learnt of the finding of her remains.
After 22 months in custody and on the counsel of Scotland Yard, both rangers were acquitted of murder on Monday June 29, 1992 by the High Court.
In a four-hour judgment, Mr Justice Abdullah said the 32-year-old Magiroi and 28-year-old Kipeen were not guilty and “ought to never have been brought to trial on such hair-thin pieces of evidence”.
Mr Justice Abdullah further concurred with defence counsel Orengo’s submission that Chief Government Pathologist Dr Kaviti was wrong to alter the postmortem report “in order to save the country’s tourism industry”.
Touching on the deceased, the judge said Ms Ward’s “liberal attitude towards sex could have contributed towards her death”.
He described as inconclusive evidence a camera battery and strands of Caucasian hair allegedly found in the huts occupied by both the accused at the Makari camp.
The court, the judge said, was not enlightened about Julie Ward’s character because neither the defence nor the prosecution bothered to get that information from her father, Mr John Ward.
“But from the little we got from other witnesses, we heard that she was humble, intelligent, and a lover of animals. She also used to drink but rarely smoked,” Mr Justice Abdullah said.
He observed that the prosecution’s propositions were based entirely on circumstantial evidence established by conclusions drawn by Detective Searle, and ordered that the two be set free immediately.
But it was not over yet. Six years and 17 days later, on July 17, 1998, former Chief Game Warder Simon ole Makallah, then aged 49 years, was arrested and charged with the murder of Julie Ward.
Earlier that year, Mr David Kandula ole Nchoko, a former revenue clerk at the game reserve, had been discharged by a committal court for lack of evidence.
Numerous mentions of the case followed before Makallah was eventually committed to the High Court for trial on September 14, 1998, exactly 10 years after Julie’s death.
In July of the following year, three court assessors — Ms Elizabeth Mibey, Mr James Oula, and Mr Evans Mbuthia — returned a verdict of “not guilty” against Makallah and, on Friday, September 17, 1999, the man was set free.
Mr Justice Daniel Aganyanya, who heard the case, said he gave the former chief game warder the benefit of doubt for lack of evidence.
“But I cannot subscribe to the view that Julie set herself ablaze for whatever reason. We shall let her rest in peace and end this case here.
“The evidence is purely circumstantial as there was no eyewitness, but the cause of her death remains unknown as no bloodstains, signs, or weapons linked to the death were found,” the judge said.
Crestfallen, Mr John Allan Ward returned to England, but he has since been collecting information about what could have happened.
“It is only a matter of time before I find my daughter’s murderers,” he says. “The two governments have been trying to stifle the whole thing, but change is in the air.”
The Scotland Yard is expected in the country in a week’s time to examine new leads in the mystery alongside Kenyan police officers, whom Mr Ward described as having become “highly professional and genuinely cooperative” in the past few years.
In the meantime, the world, and particularly the Ward family, waits.
This report received input from Mr Andrew Kuria, a former court reporter with the ‘Daily Nation’ who covered the Julie Ward murder trial, Mr John Ward’s seminal, ‘The Animals Are Innocent’, court files, and personal interviews with Mr Ward.