Coroner says Julie was unlawfully killed

By Patrick LowmanTHE father of murdered East Anglian photographer Julie Ward hopes a fresh inquiry into her brutal killing could be launched within weeks.

By Patrick Lowman

THE father of murdered East Anglian photographer Julie Ward hopes a fresh inquiry into her brutal killing could be launched within weeks.

John Ward, 70, has vowed to travel to Kenya within a month to present the “significant new evidence” he is confident will eventually bring his daughter's killers to justice.

An emotional Mr Ward - who has spent almost 16 years battling for the truth - was speaking yesterday after a coroner ruled his daughter had been “unlawfully killed” on the Masai Mara game reserve in September 1988 and the Kenyan authorities had staged a cover-up.

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He said: “Obviously, I am very pleased with the verdict, although it is not a surprise. I have known how Julie died for some time, but it is nice to have it official.

“The next step will be a meeting between myself, Lincolnshire police and the Kenyan justice minister, Kiraitu Murungi, and we will plot a way forward from there.

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“One of the most important things to come from the inquest is that the Kenyan authorities have been very forthcoming in recognising the problems of the past and made an undertaking to put the situation right.

“The minister is prepared to meet me and we will take things from there. I always knew I couldn't do anything while the President Moi regime was still in power, but the new Kenyan government is keener than ever to get a result.

“I have a pretty good idea who may have been involved in Julie's death and the net is closing in.”

Mr Ward, a hotelier, from Brockley Green, near Bury St Edmunds, said he hoped to travel to Kenya within a month and will now start making arrangements for the trip.

Ms Ward, 28, died while travelling in the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya. Her Jeep was found stuck in a gully in the middle of bush land populated by lions. The remains of her left leg and lower jaw were found near a fire almost five miles away.

Pathologists said she had been murdered, decapitated and dismembered with a heavy instrument and her remains scattered around the bush. A dental expert said it was likely she received a blow that broke her jaw before dying.

But the Kenyan government under then president Daniel Arap Moi refused to open a murder inquiry, saying Ms Ward had either been struck by lightning, attacked by animals or committed suicide.

Officials at the British High Commission, detectives from the Metropolitan Police and MI6 agents subsequently became involved in the case.

Three people who worked in the game reserve have stood trial, but have been acquitted of killing Ms Ward.

Three years ago Mr Ward triggered a new inquiry - which is being carried out by detectives from Lincolnshire police - by complaining the Foreign Office and Metropolitan Police had colluded with the Moi government to pervert the course of justice.

Lincolnshire Deputy Chief Constable Jon Stoddart said after the conclusion of the inquest: “Our inquiry is still live and members of the team are still investigating the claims of a conspiracy.

“Our hope is then we can fully assist and pass on the evidence and expertise we have gathered onto whoever reinvestigates Julie's murder.”

When pushed by Mr Ward on the subject of the conspiracy between the British and Kenyan authorities, Mr Stoddart said: “There is significant substance for your suspicions.”

He added justice would be carried out if it was found people had been involved in a conspiracy and pledged it would “make no difference at all if it involved police officers”.

Mr Ward said he hoped the Metropolitan Police and the British High Commission were kept out of any new investigation.

“I would feel much happier dealing with the new Kenyan government and the Lincolnshire police,” he added. “I would prefer to rule out the British High Commission, the British Foreign Office and Scotland Yard.”

Mr Ward said he could still not understand why the intelligence service had become interested in his daughter's murder, but remained convinced

it had played a part in the alleged cover-up. “I don't make these comments about the British government lightly,” he added.

Greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean ruled yesterday Ms Ward, from Brockley Green, had been unlawfully killed after hearing six days of evidence at the Ipswich inquest.

Speaking as he recorded his verdict, Dr Dean said: “A resolution will only be reached and justice finally done for Julie by the reopening of this case in Kenya. The net is closing around those responsible for this awful and brutal crime.

“There are clearly people in Kenya at this time who do have knowledge - now is the time for those people to come forward and let the authorities know what they know.”

Dr Dean said the Moi regime had tried to cover-up the truth and he praised Mr Ward for his crusade for justice.

“It was impossible to listen to Mr Ward's evidence without being moved emotionally by the events he described and at the same time without being impressed by his unrelenting dedication and sheer determination to seek the truth against what appears to have been a mounting wall of official obstruction and ludicrous misinformation,” he added.

“On the evidence I have heard over the last week the actions of those people in authority at that time can only really be explained by one of two things.

“Either a level of professional incompetence, the extent of which would have to border on disbelief.

“Or, much more plausibly, a blatant and astonishingly clumsy attempt to cover up the exact circumstances of this death for reasons which are outside the remit of this inquiry.”

Yesterday's verdict clearly came as a relief to Ms Ward's family. In a rare show of public emotion, Mr Ward kissed his wife, Jan, and then shook the hands of his two sons, Robert and Tim.

But despite the amazing progress he has made during his 16-year quest for the truth, Mr Ward refused to accept he had done anything remarkable.

“I had my daughter murdered, dismembered and thrown to the lions - what would you do?” he said.

Lincolnshire police are now close to completing their report, which will be passed onto the independent Police Complaints Commission.

Nicola Williams, a commissioner for the Police Complaints Commission, said last night: “I will now be able to conclude the supervision of the Lincolnshire police investigation into complaints lodged against officers from the Metropolitan Police Service.

“I will then be able to decide whether the officers carried out their duties properly when investigating Julie Ward's murder.”

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