Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Police in Kenya arrest British aristocrat

NOT SO `HAPPY VALLEY' The titled family of Thomas Cholmondeley seems to be cursed by notoriety after he was held following the death of a man shot on his estate

AFP , NAIVASHA, KENYA

Thomas Cholmondeley is escorted by a Kenyan policeman in this photo from April last year. Police arrested Cholmondeley yesterday for shooting and killing an alleged poacher, the second time in little more than a year the rancher has killed someone on his property in central Kenya.

PHOTO: AP

Kenyan police have arrested a British aristocrat who shot a man dead on his family's ranch a little over a year after killing a game warden on the premises, police said yesterday.

They said Thomas Cholmondeley, son of the fifth Baron Delamere and great-grandson of Kenya's most prominent early British settler, was arrested along with a friend overnight after he told authorities he fired at a suspected poacher on the ranch in the central Rift Valley.

"We have arrested Tom and his colleague and they are currently being held at the Central Police Station in Nakuru and investigations are going on," said a senior police official in Naivasha, about 90km northwest of Nairobi.

"We have recovered a 0.303 rifle and five rounds of 0.308mm bullets from the suspect," he added.

Former Safari Rally driver Carl Jean-Pierre Tundo was arrested along with Cholmondeley, who last year escaped murder charges after killing a game warden on his 40,500 hectare Delamere estate.

Cholmondeley said they were taking an evening walk late on Wednesday when they encountered five armed men carrying dead impala, according to police.

"When the men armed with machetes, arrows and bows were challenged to stop, they released two dogs onto the duo, and in the process, Tom shot dead two dogs and shot one suspect on the pelvic bone and the rest fled," police said.

After the incident, he reported the matter to police.

The as yet unidentified man died of his wounds en route to a hospital, just over a year after Cholmondeley shot and killed an undercover Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officer on the same ranch.

"Tom claims the man was a poacher who was slaughtering a wild animal on his farm when he shot him deep in the bush," Naivasha police commander Simon Kiragu said, adding that Cholmondeley had admitted to using an assault rifle.

The shooting is likely to spark major controversy in the Rift Valley where resentment over the dropping of murder charges against Cholmondeley last year still runs high among the region's indigenous Maasai community.

On April 19 last year, Cholmondeley, 48, shot and killed KWS ranger Simon Ole Sasina, a Maasai, who had gone to the Delamere's Soysambu ranch to investigate charges that it was involved in the illegal bushmeat trade.

He admitted to the shooting but insisted he acted in self-defense. He was initially charged with murder, but prosecutors dropped the case, prompting nationwide outrage and mass protests by members of the Maasai tribe.

At the time, some Maasai threatened to attack the Delamere ranch and other European-owned farms in the region that was once known as "Happy Valley" for its eccentric, decadent and often controversial colonial-era residents.

A commission of inquiry formed after the charge was dropped has yet to deliver a ruling in the matter, which ripped open festering resentments and highlighted growing security fears among expatriates, at least four of whom have been killed in apparent robberies in the Rift Valley since 2004.

Cholmondeley's case has received particular attention due to his family history. His great-grandfather Hugh was a major player in the British colonization of Kenya in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

His grandfather achieved notoriety in 1955 when he married Diana Broughton, the central figure in the murder of her lover, Josslyn Hay, the 22nd Earl of Errol, on the outskirts of Nairobi in 1941.

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