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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK

World: Africa

Julie Ward's killer: A decade of searching

By News Online's Dominic Casciani

There is one photograph of Julie Ward that has remained in the public consciousness ever since she was brutally murdered in Kenya 10 years ago.

[ image: Julie Ward: Loved animals]
Julie Ward: Loved animals
It shows a smiling attractive young woman holding a chimp, its arm around her neck in an embrace.

Aptly, the image brings to mind the title of her father John Ward's book about his long struggle to track down Julie's killers, 'The Animals are Innocent'.

It took Mr Ward a decade of his life and a good part of his business fortune - £500,000 at the last count - to finally see the man he had long regarded as the prime suspect, Simon Makallah, brought to the courts.

His campaign to find Julie's killer or killers saw him battle against officialdom, suspected cover-ups and a general unwillingness on the part of authorities to investigate.

Into Africa

Julie Ward, 28, left home for Africa in February 1988.

[ image: Masai Mara: Final fateful trip into reserve]
Masai Mara: Final fateful trip into reserve
A week before she was due to return to England in September that year, after the trip of a lifetime, she made one last excursion into the Kenyan Masai Mara game reserve to photograph migrating wildebeest.

Setting off with an Australian, Glen Burns, they became stranded when their jeep broke down. The pair stayed at a reserve lodge and the next day Mr Burns returned to Nairobi to send on a spare for the jeep.

Julie repaired the jeep and then headed back to the campsite to collect the tents and, according to reports at the time, ignored advice and drove back to Nairobi alone.

She was never seen alive again.

As soon as he discovered his daughter was missing, John Ward flew to Kenya and organised spotter planes to scour the reserve.

[ image: John Ward: Devoted 10 years to search]
John Ward: Devoted 10 years to search
The jeep was soon found abandoned. Written on its roof in dust were the letters SOS.

Within hours her dismembered remains - not her body - were found in a corner of the reserve.

Her father was able to recover part of a leg, half of a jaw that had been cut in two and, six weeks later, her skull.

Cover-ups begin

It is an appalling experience to find that your child had been murdered and the least any family expects is that authorities do their best to track down the killers.

For years, the Wards saw, at worst, no action at all and, at best, delay, obstructions and false trails.

[ image:  ]
Authorities initially denied there had been a murder, suggesting that Julie had either committed suicide or had been devoured by animals.

The former prompted John Ward to retort: "Yeah, she cut off her leg and jumped in the fire. Very likely".

The official Kenyan post-mortem was altered to say that her leg had been "torn" off, suggesting animal involvement.

That contradicted an earlier version and the British autopsy which both reported a clean cut.

In January 1989, Kenya's police commissioner flatly refused to conduct a murder inquiry.

Furious with the inaction, allegedly compounded by the attitude of British officials in Nairobi, Mr Ward hired his own investigators.

He smuggled evidence out of Kenya and did everything in the deliberate glare of maximum publicity.

He even circulated globally the serial number of Julie's camera in case it turned up in a repairer's workshop.

It took more than a year for the family to get a Kenyan court to agree that she had been murdered.

Suspects line up

While Mr Ward fought against the red tape, the real goal of discovering who was responsible was not being ignored.

[ image: Makallah: Suspect from day one]
Makallah: Suspect from day one
The family suspected that their daughter had been abducted from the campsite - her signature had been forged on signing out forms.

The chief suspect was Simon Makallah, the man now cleared of her murder.

It was Makallah, the chief warden in the Masai Mara, who had discovered the body, having driven directly from the abandoned jeep to her remains.

At the time he said that he had been following vultures circling seven miles away.

Scotland Yard detectives were brought in after the intervention of the then UK Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd.

They concluded that Julie had probably been murdered following a sexual assault by two rangers from an outpost a mile away from where the jeep was found.

[ image: Jonah Magiroi: Suspected but cleared]
Jonah Magiroi: Suspected but cleared
They named Peter Kipeen and Jonah Magiroi in early 1990, despite the protests of Mr Ward.

The pair were put on trial in 1992 but six months later were acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

In the first public admission of corruption in the case, the trial judge said there had been a cover-up to protect Kenya's vastly expanding tourist industry.

He demanded that police investigate three other men in the reserve, one of them Makallah, and David Nchoko and Gerald Karori.

Murder 'politically motivated'

More than a year later and £300,000 worse off, Mr Ward was taken down yet another false trail.

Valentine Kopido, who claimed to be a former government chauffeur, said Julie was murdered after stumbling on a smuggling operation involving a leading politician and Israelis.

[ image: President Moi: National embarrassment]
President Moi: National embarrassment
Maintaining a healthy scepticism, Mr Ward checked and cross-checked the allegations and even brought in more Scotland Yard detectives to see if they could break Kopido's story.

It was not until 1996 that Kopido was exposed as a liar when he wrote a fraudulent letter to the family purporting to be a character reference from a Kenyan opposition leader in exile.

But by this point, Mr Ward had become a political embarrassment to Kenya. His determination to see justice done had now dragged the name of the authorities through the mud for eight years.

They reopened the inquiry.

Offering full co-operation to Mr Ward, the Kenyans put an entire independent police team at his disposal in 1997 - men whose work led to the arrest and charging of Makallah.

Before the trial began, Mr Ward said that after 10 years, he was willing to wait for the trial to be done right.

And in his conclusions, the trial judge, Daniel Aganyanya, exhibited the same view.

The prosecution case was, he said, based purely on circumstantial evidence.

"Nothing added to nothing makes nothing," he concluded.

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