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Last Updated: Monday, 25 September 2006, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Aristocrat in court over shooting
Thomas Cholmondeley
Thomas Cholmondeley is heir to a 100,000-acre Rift Valley farm
The trial has opened in Nairobi of an aristocrat accused of murdering a black Kenyan man he suspected of poaching on his family's 100,000-acre estate.

Thomas Cholmondeley, 38, great-grandson of one of Kenya's first white settlers, Lord Delamere, denies the murder of 37-year-old stonemason Robert Njoya.

It is the second murder charge the divorced father-of-two has faced.

He admitted shooting a Maasai ranger but denied murder last year. The case was dropped, sparking national outrage.

The accused tampered with the scene after shooting the deceased and two dogs
Keriako Tobiko, prosecutor

Reports say the court was packed to overflowing as the state prosecutor outlined the case against Mr Cholmondeley.

He was led, handcuffed into court, and while surrounded by photographers and television cameramen, sat impassively waiting for the trial to begin.

His father and mother, the fifth Baron, Lord Delamere and Lady Delamere, sat in the court room, surrounded by friends and family, and the family of Mr Njoya were also in court.

Keriako Tobiko, Kenya's director of public prosecutions, offered revenge as motive for the killing, dismissing claims Mr Cholmondeley feared for his safety.

"The accused attacked the deceased and his companions as retaliation or revenge for trespassing and poaching," he told the court.

"The accused was not under any attack or threat from the deceased or any of his companions.

"In an attempt to conceal his crime or hinder investigations the accused tampered with the scene after shooting the deceased and two dogs."

The court was told that Mr Njoya was hit in the pelvis by a bullet and died later from his wounds.

Poacher testimony

BBC correspondent Adam Mynott said the court also heard from one of the two fellow poachers, Peter Gichuhi.

He described how the three men had walked deep into the estate belonging to the Delamere family when suddenly shots rang out.

Mr Gichuhi said he dropped a large blade and a Thomson's Gazelle that they had found trapped in a snare and fled on foot, but never saw Mr Njoya alive again.

Correspondents say this case is likely to spark more controversy in the central Rift Valley where resentment still rankles with the region's Maasai community over the dropping of the last case.

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The old Etonian could face the death penalty if convicted.

Mr Cholmondeley and a friend were arrested in May after he phoned the police to tell them about the incident.

He told police that the man had three companions and a pack of dogs and he suspected them of poaching a gazelle.

He said he shot at the group after they set their dogs on him, hitting the man, who died later on the way to hospital, and killing two dogs.

Last year, Mr Cholmondeley admitted shooting Maasai ranger Samson Ole Sisina, but said he acted in self-defence mistaking the warden for an armed robber.

That case highlighted the security fears of landowners and the resentment of the local Maasai population in the Rift Valley region.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Kenya
09 Apr 05 |  Country profiles



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