Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 17:55 UK

Profile: Thomas Cholmondeley

Thomas Cholmondeley in court in Nairobi, 7 May
Thomas Cholmondeley was convicted after spending three years in custody

Thomas Cholmondeley, heir to Kenya's most famous white settler family, has been convicted of manslaughter for shooting a black poacher on his family's estate in the British former colony.

His trial gripped Kenya, especially as an earlier shooting death case against him was dropped for lack of evidence.

To Kenyans, he is the sole heir to a massive family estate in the Rift Valley and one of the white minority's most visible representatives.

British aristocratic circles know him as the great-grandson of the third Baron Delamere, one of Kenya's first major white settlers more than a century ago.

Agricultural school

Cholmondeley was born in 1968 to Hugh George Cholmondeley, the current holder of the title Baron Delamere.

A landscape on the Soysambu estate (image: Soysambu Conservancy website)
The Soysambu estate is developing into a wildlife reserve

He was educated in England, at Eton College, the exclusive public school, and the Royal Agricultural College.

He then returned to his family's estate in Kenya, Soysambu.

Known as the Soysambu Conservancy since it diversified from cattle-breeding into wildlife conservation, the estate is about 19,000 hectares (48,000 acres).

It teems with zebra, giraffe and other animals.

Cholmondeley is credited with importing irrigation machines to improve farming on the estate in the 1990s, as well as developing Soysambu's tourist infrastructure.


In 2005 Cholmondeley admitted shooting a Maasai ranger but the case was dropped owing to insufficient evidence.

Hugh Cholmondeley, the father of Thomas Cholmondeley, reacts to the verdict, 7 May
Cholmondeley's father Hugh was in court for the verdict

He said he had acted in self-defence after mistaking Samson Ole Sisina for an armed robber.

In 2006, he was arrested for murdering Robert Njoya, a suspected poacher, on his estate.

Cholmondeley told police at the time that Mr Njoya was with three companions and a pack of dogs, and he suspected them of hunting a gazelle.

He said he had shot at the dogs, killing two of them. Mr Njoya was hit by a bullet and died on the way to hospital.

Cholmondeley's defence argued that the fatal shot might have been fired from a weapon carried by his friend but this theory was rejected by the judge.

Judge Muga Apondi reduced the charge from murder to manslaughter, saying the shooting was without malice or intent.

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