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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Aristocrat has 'case to answer'
Thomas Cholmondeley in court in Nairobi
Old Etonian Mr Cholmondeley could face the death penalty if convicted
A white Kenyan aristocrat accused of murdering a man who had been poaching on his estate has a case to answer, a court has ruled.

Thomas Cholmondeley, 38, a descendant of white settler Lord Delamere, denies the murder of 37-year-old Robert Njoya.

The court has heard from 38 prosecution witnesses since it opened in September.

Under the Kenyan system judges can end the trial at that point if there is insufficient evidence, but in this case have ruled the defence should go ahead.

Defence lawyers for Mr Cholmondley, who faces the death penalty if convicted, are due to call seven witnesses.

He has already said he shot the poacher in self-defence, telling police after his arrest 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.

Second murder case

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

In 2005 he admitted shooting another man - Maasai ranger Samson Ole Sisina - but said he acted in self-defence, mistaking the warden for an armed robber.

The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence and his release prompted national outrage and mass protests from Maasais.

Opening the latest trial last year Keriako Tobiko, Kenya's director of public prosecutions, dismissed claims Mr Cholmondeley feared for his safety when he killed Mr Njoya.

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

The trial later heard that the shooting took place after a spate of armed robberies on Mr Cholmondeley's estate.

Ranch manager Koigi Kahugia told the Nairobi trial that the farm's managing director was shot in a hold-up and two other managers were robbed at gunpoint.

Spear

Mr Cholmondeley had driven the dying man to hospital, the court also heard.

Witness Karl Tundo said he had been walking through dense bush, a few metres behind the defendant, when he had heard voices and then three or four shots in quick succession.

Mr Tundo said: "Tom [Mr Cholmondeley] shouted at me to go and get the car because he had hit someone by mistake."

Another witness, Peter Gichuhi, said he was among poachers accompanying Mr Njoya.

At one point he admitted he had lied under oath to the court when he said he had not been carrying a spear.

He said he and two other poachers had walked deep into the estate 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.




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



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