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Kenya Holds 2 in Slaying of British Tourist

March 16, 1990|MICHAEL A. HILTZIK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NAIROBI, Kenya — Authorities here have taken two game rangers into custody in connection with the 1988 murder of a British tourist in one of Kenya's most popular game parks, police said Thursday.

The detentions result from an investigation by two Scotland Yard detectives who were sent to Kenya at the request of President Daniel Arap Moi after the Kenyan police probe of the crime developed into an international embarrassment for this tourist-dependent country.

There are two teams of Scotland Yard investigators currently at work in Kenya. The second team, also here at the government's request, is investigating the murder last month of Kenyan Foreign Minister Robert J. Ouko, whose charred body was found not far from his home in western Kenya three days after his family reported him missing.

The detention of the two unidentified rangers (authorities here declined to say the men were "arrested," but made it clear they could be charged within 72 hours) marks the first major break in the investigation of the killing of Julie Ward, 28.

Ward disappeared while driving alone in the Masai Mara Game Reserve in early September, 1988. After her father, a wealthy British hotelier, arrived in Kenya to conduct a search, the burned and slashed remains of her leg and jawbone were found in a remote corner of the park, which is southwest of Nairobi on the Tanzanian border.

Kenyan police at first contended that she had unwisely wandered away from her jeep and was killed by wild animals. Later they suggested she had committed suicide. But evidence unearthed by Ward's family showed she was probably murdered, and the woman's father charged that the likeliest suspects were park officials.

He also charged that Kenyan officials were trying to cover up the murder to protect the country's tourist trade, which last year attracted 700,000 game viewers to Kenya. Tourism brought about $360 million into the country in 1988 and is Kenya's largest earner of foreign exchange.

At a month-long inquest held here a year after Julie Ward's death, Kenyan police officials acknowledged that they had never questioned or investigated the movements of any of the park rangers on duty at the time of her disappearance. The inquest ended with a ruling that Ward had indeed been murdered. President Moi's request for Scotland Yard's assistance followed.

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