THE FAMILY of Julie Ward, the British woman whose charred and dismembered remains were found in a Kenyan game park 14 years ago, were given fresh hope yesterday as the newly-elected government signalled its willingness to re-open the murder investigation.
Ms Ward’s father, John, whose long campaign to bring his daughter’s killer to justice has resulted in several investigations - including one by Scotland Yard - and two trials but no convictions, said last night it was the breakthrough he had been hoping for.
"I’ve been waiting on this election for a very long time" said Mr Ward, 69, a hotelier from Suffolk. "This is a solvable crime and the only thing that’s being holding it back is government intervention. If that government changes and has the will to proceed then Julie’s murder could be cleared up."
It is Mr Ward’s long-held belief that the Kenyan government - under the rule of President Daniel arap Moi - was guilty of a cover-up of the murder of his 28-year old daughter in the Masai Mara game reserve in September 1988.
Yesterday, he went further and claimed that the British government were complicit in the cover-up - something that is denied by the Foreign Office but is the subject of a current investigation by the Police Complaints Authority.
"When the Kenyan government was busy trying to conceal this murder by ordering documents altered and doing all sorts of things, they were largely supported by the British government." he said.
The move by Kenyan authorities to re-open the investigation, follows an appeal by Mr Ward to the new president Mwai Kibaki, following 24 years of President Moi’s rule.
An aide to the president was reported yesterday as saying: "There was clearly a cover-up and well-connected officials must have been protected. As our new president said, the era of the whitewash in Kenya is over."
Mr Ward’s own investigation into his daughter’s death came after he was told by Kenyan police that she had been eaten by lions and struck by lightening. Ms Ward, a publishing assistant, vanished while driving through the Masai Mara to photograph wildebeest.
After hundreds of trips to Kenya and a private investigation costing him 500,000, he uncovered what he had most feared, that his daughter had been murdered - severed limb from limb and burnt.
His discovery of a postmortem report - drawn up by a chief government scientist - which had been altered lent weight to his theory of a whitewash by the authorities. The original report said that her leg had been "cleanly cut" but was changed to "torn" which gave credence to the theory that she had been devoured by animals.
Over the 14 years since his daughter’s death, Mr Ward has been on a roller-coaster ride of breakthroughs and disappointments in his quest for the truth.
In 1992, following a Scotland Yard investigation, two rangers on duty at the time of Ms Ward’s murder were charged and brought to trial, but the charges were dropped, due to "insubstantial" evidence. At the time, the judge recommended the investigation of three other individuals, one of whom was later brought to trial.
Not long afterwards, Mr Ward was drawn into a wild goose chase when an informant came forward to claim that his daughter had been murdered because she stumbled across a smuggling operation run by prominent Kenyans. It turned out to be completely untrue.
There followed another investigation and trial, this time of Simon Ole Makallah, the park ranger at the reserve who found Ms Ward’s remains. But he was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
Yesterday, Mr Ward reiterated his belief that both the Kenyan investigation and the Scotland Yard inquiry was flawed and that the Foreign Office were complicit in the cover-up.
"Did the Foreign Office send Scotland Yard over there on a cosmetic exercise?" he asked.
The 1992 inquiry, by the Metropolitan Police, is now the subject of an investigation by Lincolnshire Police, under the Police Complaints Authority.
Yesterday, Superintendent Terry Hackett confirmed that the role of the FCO formed part of the current investigation.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the FCO denied any involvement in a whitewash: "We certainly wouldn’t be involved in anything like that. But we note Mr Ward’s concern."
Mr Ward said that, with the backing of the new Kenyan authorities, he can now move forward with his investigation.
"I’ve got statements of people on file naming people and naming witnesses. I’ve not been able to do anything about it because if I had reported those people giving evidence to the Kenyan police I think those people would have disappeared. This is an opportunity for the Kenyan government to show the world that things have changed, that they are prepared to put their house in order."