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Among the dry trees that dot the barren landscape of the African savanna, smoke from a dying fire was the only sign of human life. There was no one anywhere near the burnt-out pit, only the animals who roam the Serengeti. The Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya is home to some of Africa’s most glorious animals. Although they are majestic to watch, predators like lions, leopards and hyenas are unforgiving when prey crosses their paths.

 

It was the vastness of the African plains and the rich wildlife that drew 28-year-old British photographer, Julie Ward, to visit Kenya. She was a careful traveller with respect for native wildlife. Julie also had an appreciation for local people and their customs and treated everyone and everything with kindness. She had spent most of 1988 travelling through Africa, and after seven months, she was ready to head back home to England. But she wanted one last weekend away to experience the Wildebeest migration.

 

Back home in Suffolk, Julie’s father John had a nauseating feeling that his only daughter was not safe. When his phone rang, he knew it was bad news… Julie had disappeared, no one had seen her in three days, and she had not made contact with any of her friends.

John was on the next flight to Nairobi and immediately organised a search party. What followed was an international investigation that went up to the highest levels of the Kenyan government. The Ward family has been relentless in their pursuit of justice. But more than 30 years have passed since they’ve lost their daughter and sister. What happened to Julie Ward on the hazy September afternoon in 1988?

 >>Intro Music

Julie Ann Ward was born on the 20th of April 1960 to parents John and Jan. She was the eldest and had two brothers: Tim and Bob. Julie’s father owned a chain of hotels, and the family lived comfortably in Suffolk, England.

Everyone who knew Julie loved her gentle, animal-loving nature. Her brother Bob recalled how she always had to fend off the boys because she was beautiful, intelligent and sweet.

After high school, Julie worked as a publishing assistant at Rowland Phototypesetting Ltd for many years. At the age of 28, she decided to take a gap year, a time-out to re-assess her priorities and dreams in life. She hoped to pour all her energy into her passion, which was wildlife photography. This brought about the adventure of a lifetime: an eight-month overland journey from the UK to Kenya.

Julie joined a group of 26 adventurous souls who left England in February 1988. They made their way through Spain, crossed the Mediterranean to Morocco from where they headed out across the African continent. The tour took Julie and her tour group to countries like Algeria, Mali, Ghana, The Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. The last stop on the itinerary was Nairobi, Kenya.

Most of the tour group returned to England from Nairobi, but Julie wanted to stay behind. Thanks to her tour leader, who made the introduction, she met Paul and Natasha Weld Dixon, who owned a large property. The elderly couple welcomed tourists to camp on their land and soon became good friends with Julie. She decided to stay until September, so she could experience the wildebeest migration. Because she was staying a while, Julie rented a cottage from Paul and Natasha’s neighbour and purchased a car. She was based in Nairobi but took short trips to the surrounding national parks, where she took thousands of photos.

The annual wildebeest migration is one of the most spectacular events on our planet’s natural calendar. Wildebeest, zebras, elands and gazelles migrate across the Serengeti in search of food and water. More than a million animals hoof it through the savanna, moving from one pasture to the next. Anyone who has ever witnessed such a migration would agree that the energy is palpable when the herds of animals rumble across the plains and through the mighty African rivers.

Julie met an Australian biologist, Dr Glen Burns, through mutual friends in Nairobi. He was keen to see the migration too, so they planned to go together. Julie had booked her flight back to England already but was eager to take the five-and-a-half-hour journey west to the Maasai Mara Reserve before she left.

Julie and Glen drove all the way with her Suzuki Jimny off-road mini SUV and arrived on Friday the 2nd of September. They set up camp at the Sand River Campground – the perfect base to explore the 580 square mile reserve.

The next day, they went for a game drive, looking for animals to photograph. Once they were a fair distance from their campsite, Julie’s car broke down. They had only just arrived the day before, and it was rather frustrating. They did not have too much time to waste because Julie was due to return to the UK in a week. Also, Glen needed to get back, seeing as he had to attend a conference at the Nairobi Museum on the coming Monday.

A safari tour operator, Steve Watson, spotted Glen and Julie and offered to help them out. He towed Julie’s car to the nearby Serena Lodge and contacted a local mechanic. As it turned out, the fuel pump needed to be replaced. Glen and Julie weren’t going anywhere soon; they were stuck in the Mara. Steve lent the friends a spare tent, and they spent the night at Serena lodge, next to a campfire, with their new friend Steve, and plotted their next move.

After much deliberation, they decided that Glen would return to Nairobi by plane to still attend his conference. He would take the fuel pump with him and send a new one as soon as he got to the city. Julie would stay behind and drive back once her car was fixed. Both Glen and Julie felt safe in Kenya. They knew the customs and pitfalls and never considered this to be a risky decision. Besides, Steve was there to lend a hand in case Julie needed anything.

Glen flew back to Nairobi on Sunday, September 4th, and with the help of Paul Weld Dixon, managed to have the new fuel pump delivered to Serena Lodge the next day. This was no small feat – Glen clearly did his part, figuring out logistics and acting quickly, in a place where ‘African time’ can cause a logistical hurdles. Things happen a bit slower and service isn’t always the best. But Glen and Paul did well, and Julie was able to have her car repaired. However, she’d have to wait till Tuesday for a mechanic to come out to the Mara… 

Not that Julie complained. She enjoyed spending time with Steve Watson. In fact, the two were quite taken with each other. They spent one last night together at Serena Mara Lodge, before Julie’s vehicle was good to go. Julie and Steve said their goodbyes. He took a tour group around the Reserve, she headed back to Nairobi. Before she left, Julie stopped off at Sand River Campsite where she had stayed with Glen on the first night. She packed away both their tents and paid for the three additional nights. 

From this point on, no one could say for sure what Julie’s movements were. A clerk at the Sand River Gate showed that Julie signed out at 2:30pm, and he saw her drive off in the direction of Keekorok Lodge. The police constable on duty in the Mara confirmed this sighting, and also stated that Julie was alone. However, a witness later said Julie left with an armed man in military fatigues. What really happened to Julie after parting from Steve Watson remains a mystery.

Back in Nairobi, Paul and Natasha were anxiously expecting Julie. They had planned a dinner for her last night in Kenya, on the 9th of September. The next day, they would drive her to the airport. Because Paul helped Glen with the fuel pump, they knew Julie had had car trouble and assumed she was delayed, waiting for a mechanic in the Mara. But when there was still no sign of Julie on the 10th, the day she was supposed to fly home, they raised the alarm.

At his home in England, Julie’s father, had the ominous feeling that his daughter was in danger. When Paul and Natasha informed the Ward family about Julie’s disappearance, John immediately made his way to Kenya, to find her. He arrived on the 12th of September – Julie had been missing for six days. They had no time to waste.

John, fortunately a person of means, spent a tremendous amount of his personal money to fund a search effort. He contracted five aircraft to scour the entire Maasai Mara Reserve, and look for any sign of Julie or her car. They knew Julie wouldn’t go off the beaten track and looked for any signs of her at all designated camping areas.

The next morning, a search pilot spotted Julie’s Suzuki Jimny in a gully by a river. The car had been abandoned and there was no sign of Julie. By this time, Julie had been missing for a week. Police were called to the scene and examined the car. They removed some items to keep as evidence: a map, two bottles of beer, a pair of binoculars and some other personal items. Everything was taken to the Sand River Police Post for safekeeping.

The location was a strange place to leave the car – as it was off the road and heading into a river. The riverbanks are steep and dangerous and John struggled to believe that Julie would have purposefully driven there. Because the letters SOS were written in the dust on the roof of the vehicle, the assumption was that it had broken down again and that Julie had left on foot, to go and find help.

On the same day Julie’s car was recovered, Chief Game Warden, Simon ole Makallah came upon a burnt-out campfire at Oseropia, near the Olaimutiek Gate. He informed the searchers that he had discovered human remains and John Ward rushed to the site. In the ashes of the firepit, he saw a human leg, a piece of a human jaw and a lock of hair, and instinctively knew it had to be Julie’s. John Ward recalled finding the firepit:

“The fire was about 4ft in diameter; in it there was a mug, some burnt sunglasses and film cassettes. Even though I knew it had to be Julie, I wanted to go through the ashes to see if there was something I could find and identify. The odour was one of burnt flesh. The fire itself was black and oily. I could find nothing that I could identify.”

Sand River Police were called to the scene. It was a puzzling scene with very little evidence. For starters, there was no blood anywhere. There were no signs of a struggle and there was a faint smell of gas. 

The pathologist confirmed that the remains were Julie’s. A month after her leg and jaw were found, Julie’s skull surfaced in the bushes near the firepit where the other parts were burnt.

On the 15th of September, police pathologist Dr Adel Shaker concluded that Julie was murdered. Julie’s death was no accident, it was a homicide. Her leg had been severed with a sharp blade and there was an attempt to burn the limb after it had been removed.

However, police did not accept his report, and informed Julie’s family that she was struck by lightning and that her body was mauled by wild animals. They were not sure which animals, but assumed it could have been lions, hyenas, cheetahs or leopards. The British Foreign Office was informed of Julie’s death, and accepted the police’s theory, as it was the only one presented to them at the time. 

Author Grace Musila refers to Kenya’s rumour mill as the ‘pavement radio’. It was a-buzz with every new piece of information that was revealed about the case. Julie’s murder was well-publicised in Kenya and in the UK, and it became one of the biggest unsolved murder mysteries the country had ever witnessed. A week after Julie was last seen alive, the Daily Nation released an article, captioned: ‘British Tourist eaten by beasts.’

John Ward refused to believe this. Why was Julie’s car in a different location from her final resting place? It was a good seven miles away. Her leg was clearly cut with a blade, not mauled by an animal. John found out that there was a problem with the pathologist’s report. It failed to mention the fact that Julie’s leg was doused in gas and set alight. To John’s shock, he discovered that a second pathologist wrote the final report. A week after Dr Shaker’s examination, Chief Government pathologist, Dr Jason Kaviti reworded the original version, replacing the term ‘cleanly cut’ with ‘torn’, aligning the report with the theory that Julie was attacked by animals. He also neglected to mention that the remains had been exposed to fire.

John Ward took his daughter’s severed leg back to England to have it re-examined. Two separate British pathologists agreed with the first examination. They stated that Julie’s leg had been removed with a sharp blade, like a panga (that is and African machete), then drenched in petrol before it was set on fire.

For John, this meant war. Over the years, he has made more than one hundred trips to Kenya and spent more than two million pounds in his quest to find his daughter’s killer. 

In April of 1989, Kenyan police Superintendent Muchiri Wanjau informed John Ward that they couldn’t exclude the possibility that Julie took her own life and that animals destroyed her remains. Wanjau believed that she attempted to hack herself to death with a panga, and when she failed, she set herself on fire. This became the official stance of police headquarters in Nairobi, even though it didn’t really sound plausible. John Ward’s reaction to this showed his frustration:

“Yeah, she cut off her leg and jumped in the fire. Very likely”.

Because the official pathologist’s report, which had been altered by Dr Kaviti, was contested, a coroner’s inquest followed. The inquest into Julie Ward’s death was held in Nairobi between August and October 1989. Cambridge University Professor Austin Gresham gave evidence, proving that from injuries on the jaw and skull, it was obvious that Julie had been decapitated from behind with a sharp blade. He agreed with the initial findings of Dr Shaker and challenged Dr Kaviti’s report. Magistrate Joseph Mango had no other choice than to conclude that Julie was murdered by a person or persons unknown. However, he ordered that no further investigation was required.

John Ward couldn’t believe what he heard… The inquest concluded that his daughter had been murdered, yet, they did not deem it necessary to find the killer? How was this even legal? John’s questions were met with silence or illogical comments. 

In February 1990, Scotland Yard detectives arrived in Kenya to investigate Julie’s murder. In 1992, these detectives identified two suspects and Kenyan authorities were pressured into pressing murder charges. The suspects, Peter Kipeen and Jonah Magiroi were both park rangers at Maasai Mara when Julie died. They were the only two rangers on duty in that part of the Mara on the day Julie was last seen. A battery from Julie’s camera and a strand of her hair proved that she was at the gate post. The question was: what happened to her after that?

Investigators proved that Julie’s name on the sign-out sheet at Sand River gate post was forged. During Kipeen and Magiroi’s trial, there was a strange twist of events: the clerk who was on duty and the constable who corroborated his testimony was placed under suspicion. Confusion took over the courtroom: who was actually on trial? The two rangers (Peter Kipeen and Jonah Magiroi) or the clerk and the cop (David Nchoko and Gerald Karori). In the end, everyone was acquitted due to a lack of evidence. This didn’t surprise John Ward, as he never thought any of these men had killed Julie.

During the trial, the presiding judge recommended an investigation into Chief Game Warden’s involvement, Simon ole Makallah. It was Makallah’s actions during the search for Julie that made him appear suspicious. Makallah did not take part in the search for Julie, nor did he order any of his 113 rangers to assist John Ward. 

A Swiss TV crew who was filming a documentary in the park at the time, made their radio-equipped vehicles available for the search as well. However, Makallah told them to mind their own business and leave the search to John Ward’s team. The Swiss team also saw a prominent person in the park around the time Julie disappeared, right near the location where her remains were found. We will explore this person a bit later on.

Makallah also arrived at the scene where Julie’s car was found AFTER police had been there, yet in court, he testified about the items he saw in Julie’s car: a map, two bottles of beer, a pair of binoculars… All of which had been removed by the time he got there. The judge said that he believed Makallah had previous knowledge of the murder, and therefore needed to be investigated.

A witness recalled that Makallah was summoned by President Daniel arap Moi shortly after Julie’s remains were found. In fact, within a matter of days, Makallah was no longer on duty at the Mara. At first, other rangers were informed that he was on leave, but it later came out that he had been suspended. He never returned to Maasai Mara as Chief Warden again.

And this was not the first time the Moi government came up in the investigation. One story was that Julie was working for British Intelligence and that she took photos of militia camps in the Mara. Another variation was that Julie wasn’t a spy, but that she witnessed something she should not have, like drug smuggling over the Tanzanian border. Or perhaps she inadvertently captured illegal activity while photographing animals.

In 1992, Valentine Uhuru Kodipo, a renegade from the secret militia, spoke about his time working for the Moi government at the Forum for Restoration of Democracy. As part of his confessions, he claimed that he witnessed Julie’s murder, and that the killers were high-ranking individuals in Moi’s government. This exert from Kodipo’s original statement:

“[Julie Ward] may have sealed her fate after stumbling across one of the secret training camps used by the death squads hidden in the Maasai Mara Game reserve. […] Everyone in the group was whipping her with hippo hide whips and shouting questions at her about her movements and what she knew about them. They thought she had been spying on them.”

The Kenyan government denied such a training camp existed and said that Kodipo was never employed by them. But after he revealed detailed information about QUOTE an elite gang which carried out political torture and 108 murder missions in the country END QUOTE, there was an attempt on his life, while he was hiding in a safe house. Kodipo was forced into exile, in part, because of his explosive testimony in Julie’s case – information that went right to the top of the Kenyan government.

John Ward’s investigation tied up all the information uncovered by Scotland Yard and law enforcement in Kenya. Everything he learnt, took him straight to the highest-ranking politicians. He believed President Daniel arap Moi tried to cover up Julie’s murder, because he did not want to harm one of Kenya’s most significant sources of income: the tourist industry.

But over the years John has learnt that there was so much more to the story. John Ward often hit a wall in his investigation, and also became frustrated with British authorities in Kenya. He suspected that MI6 helped the Kenyan Government cover op Julie’s murder, but he could not understand why.

In post-colonial Kenya, the diplomatic relationship between the UK and their former colony was not great. John believed that the British Consulate did not want to anger President Moi, and agreed to turn a blind eye to his cover-up of Julie’s death. What they didn’t consider, was that John Ward was not planning on ever giving up. 

In 1988, the world still had the film ‘Out of Africa’ starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in mind when thinking of Kenya. However, the reality was not quite as romantic. The Kenyan African National Union (KANU) ruled the country, with President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi at the helm. When Moi first came to power, he was popular and Kenyans were looking forward to a prosperous future. However, before long it became evident that Moi’s government was wrought with corruption and mismanagement. The economy stagnated and only the wealthy abusers of power thrived. 

The political elite was untouchable; they owned Kenya. Locals even referred to politicians as wenyenchi, which translates to ‘owners of the country’. And President Moi himself, having been in power since 1978, was considered to be above them all, omnipotent even. His face was on billboards, on banknotes, schools and airports were named after him. He survived re-elections and even an attempted coup. The President was indestructible; Kenya was Moi’s country.

In September 1995, Valentine Kodipo was interviewed by the UK Daily Mail. By this time he was safely living in exile and openly talked about witnessing Julie’s murder. Kodipo claimed that it was Jonathan Moi who ordered Julie’s murder, after raping her. Jonathan Moi was none other than President Daniel arap Moi’s eldest son. 

Kenyan authorities interviewed Jonathan Moi at the beginning of 1997, and told him about Valentine Kodipo’s allegations. Moi issued a statement, denying the claims. He said that, in September 1988, he was on his farm at Eldama Ravine, 155 miles north of the Mara. He also claimed that he had never entered the Maasai Mara Reserve before, and only ever stayed on his farm when he went to the area. Furthermore, he denied knowing Julie Ward and said that he only learnt about her death in the news. At this point in time, investigators could not do much more. 

Almost a decade after Julie’s death, in 1997, CID in Kenya appointed a new team of investigators to examine the evidence in Julie’s case. Following a two-year investigation, they finally had enough evidence to take Chief Game Warden, Simon ole Makallah, to court. Makallah was charged with Julie’s murder, because of his actions in the days following Julie’s disappearance. Remember, he did not take part in the search effort. He also declined the Swiss camera crew’s offer to assist. Makallah seemed to know more about Julie’s murder than he was letting on.

Makallah arrived at the gully where Julie’s car had been abandoned and, by his own admission, only peeped inside. Yet he recalled seeing items that had been removed by then. 26 minutes after he left the scene, he radioed the news that he had found human remains.

In the years that followed, investigators drove from the site where the Suzuki was found to the burnt-out campfire location. The fastest time they ever made it there, was 26 minutes. The spot was in the bushes, off the main road. This proved to them that Makallah knew exactly where Julie’s remains were – he drove straight there. When confronted by this evidence, Makallah explained how he found the spot so quickly. He said he simply looked up at the sky and saw vultures circling above it. The site was seven miles away; he would not have seen the vultures.

On the 16th of September 1999, Makallah was found not guilty, because of a lack of evidence. Many people felt he was guilty, but the prosecution didn’t have enough to convict him. After his trial, Makallah made a statement, he said:

“I was charged in a court of law for a crime I knew nothing about. I was tortured, I have been traumatised, but I never killed Julie Ward. I never knew her and I never saw her. That is all.”

John Ward also didn’t believe Makallah was the man who had killed his daughter. He felt he was involved somehow, but did not know what he was hiding. However, John, with the constant support of the Ward family, was not about to give up, so he took the case to his native England. A British inquest held at Ipswich in 2004, ruled that Julie’s death was, without a doubt an unlawful killing. No animals were involved in her death and she also did not end her own life.  

In 2005, President Moi was no longer in power and the National Rainbow Coalition Government reopened Julie’s case. For a brief moment the Ward family was optimistic that the case would be solved, but it still dragged on. 

In March 2009, former Superintendent Wanjau, the officer who once stated that Julie’s was a case of suicide, reached out to John Ward. He told John that he was ready to talk about the murder. John was stunned – this man testified in court that his daughter had killed herself. If he knew it was murder, why didn’t he say so? Wanjau confessed that he was forced to do so by his superiors. After spending a couple of days in the Mara, interviewing rangers and other park employees, he concluded that Jonathan Moi most likely killed Julie. When he informed his bosses back in Nairobi, they told him to ‘look somewhere else’.

Wanjau made another startling comment. He claimed that Chief Game Ranger Simon ole Makallah had nothing to do with Julie’s murder, but that Moi ordered him to dispose of her body. For John Ward, the pieces of the puzzle were coming together to form a bigger picture.

That same year, head of Metropolitan Police’s anti-terrorism squad, John Yates, visited Kenya. On his insistence, Julie’s case was reignited once more. With advancements in forensic science, they hoped to link DNA found in Julie’s car to one of the suspects. 

But in this case, it is always one step forward, two steps back. A key witness in the investigation, Valentine Ohuru Kodipo, passed away. He was the first witness to speak to the media about Jonathan Moi’s involvement in the case. Kodipo died in Denmark where he had lived in exile for close to twenty years. 

In 2012 John Ward was ready to reveal all the information he had gathered over the years. He published a report in Nairobi Law Monthly, claiming that Jonathan Moi killed Julie. 

John Ward’s article was a concise recount of witness statements and facts. In the article he outlines all the pieces of eyewitness testimony that he received over the years. One was that of a baggage handler working at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport. He claimed that Julie arrived in Nairobi by private plane, with Jonathan Moi. They had the broken fuel pump and wanted to have it replaced. The baggage handler requested money from John Ward to steal the aircraft manifest to prove his story, but John suspected it was either a set-up or merely a way to extort money from him. Because this information did not fit into any other facts, John had to file it away in the ‘unlikely evidence’ folder.

Moi’s lawyers responded in the Nairobi Star, denying any involvement in Julie’s murder. In the statement Moi is quoted saying:

“I am totally shocked to hear this. I had no relationship with the said lady and I even didn’t know her. I never did such a thing, and it has never crossed my mind to do it.”

Besides being the President’s son, who was Jonathan Moi? The eldest son of a large blended family of eight children, Jonathan, or JT as his friends called him, was a constant source of trouble for his father. He was known as a rich playboy who didn’t do much else than indulging in his father’s power and money. He was an avid rally car driver and had only the best equipment. He tried to throw his hat into the ring as a politician, but lost out at the polls. Other than that, he advised his brother Gideon, who made it as a politician, but most people suspected the job was just an excuse to keep Jonathan on the payroll.

Shortly after Julie’s murder, rumours surfaced about an alleged affair between Julie and Jonathan. The ‘pavement radio’ speculated that the President’s son saw Julie at the Rickshaw Restaurant in Nairobi and joined her for dinner. He quickly fell in love with her and wanted to see her again. Jonathan invited her to Maasai Mara, where he owned a luxurious home. According to this story, when Julie arrived with Glen, Jonathan was not happy. But then Julie’s car broke down and Glen left for Nairobi. So, Jonathan seized the opportunity to take Julie for himself. Julie was not interested and a struggle ensued, resulting in Julie’s death.

This version has many holes. For instance, if Jonathan invited Julie to his private farm, why did she opt to camp inside the Reserve. Julie and Glen were just friends, so why would Jonathan have to wait for him to leave before approaching Julie? One version of the story said that Glen was forced to leave Kenya, but this isn’t true. He attended the conference in Nairobi after leaving Julie. 

Rumours and half-truths made John Ward’s investigation a nightmare. In John’s Nairobi Law Monthly report, he revealed all witness testimonies. As far as possible, he followed up on every single lead. Some of them were more plausible than others. Like the tip-off he received from a stranger at Keekorok Lodge. A local woman saw him waiting for transport one afternoon and slipped him a hand-written note. It had one line, and a postal address in Mombasa. The note read:

“The man who killed your daughter is Jonathan Moi.”

John Ward contacted the woman in Mombasa and learnt that she sold clothes to women in the Mara and its surrounding villages. Word on the street was that a ‘Big politician’, or someone connected to a ‘Big politician’ killed Julie. Some of her clients were married to game rangers. According to the woman, everyone living in the area suspected Jonathan Moi. 

Again, it was all hear-say, but John handed the information to Scotland Yard anyway. He never heard anything of it again. John had seen Jonathan Moi’s farm that bordered Maasai Mara Reserve whenever he travelled to the Reserve. When he visited the area two years after Julie’s death, he was told that Moi had not been to the farm since Julie’s death. 

When he was back in England, John received an anonymous letter from a former employee at Keekorok Lodge. The woman said that she worked at the lodge in September 1988, at the time of Julie’s murder. One afternoon, when she had finished work, she was waiting at a gas station for a lift, the station located at the gate to Keekorok Lodge. The entrance was across the road from a property known as Government Guest House – this was an exclusive villa, used by only the highest members of the Government, like the President, state guests – and of course, his family. On that September afternoon, the witness claimed that she saw three men dragging a white woman from a Land Rover into the house.

Another informant who preferred to remain anonymous went through a great deal of effort to meet John Ward face-to-face. The man told him that he knew for a fact Jonathan Moi was Julie’s killer. He used to work for Moi and showed John various photos of himself and JT Moi at Moi’s private residence in Lavington, Nairobi. 

The informant claimed that on the 6th of September 1988, Jonathan Moi, Ibrahim Choge (who was his farm manager), two bodyguards and his driver left his farm in his Landrover and drove into the Maasai Mara Reserve. They entered at the Oloololo Gate and exited at the Sekanani Gate. They would have encountered Julie who was making her way from Serena Lodge and passed Keekorok Lodge to the Sand River Gate.

According to the informant, Jonathan Moi’s party came upon Julie, who had stopped to take photos. They had a conversation and light banter, but when he propositioned her, things changed. Like the anonymous intelligence officer who had told a Kenyan newspaper, the informant told John Ward that Jonathan Moi raped Julie. When Julie threatened to report the incident, Moi ordered his bodyguards to silence her.

Ibrahim Choge had been a close friend of Jonathan Moi’s for years. In fact, he was married to Jonathan’s sister, so they were family. Ibrahim was also Jonathan’s navigator when he competed in rallies. But after September 1988, Ibrahim distanced himself from Jonathan. According to the anonymous informant, Ibrahim desperately tried to intervene when Jonathan forced himself on Julie. What followed caused Ibrahim to quit his job and end his friendship with Jonathan. The informant overheard a conversation between Jonathan and Ibrahim during which Ibrahim allegedly said:

“One day, I will blacken your name around the world for what you did to that girl in the Mara.”

After being estranged for ten years, Ibrahim Choge was killed in a car accident. Choge’s father told John Ward that he believed his son was murdered. An autopsy concluded that Ibrahim had been strung up and beaten with a blunt object, like a baseball bat. He suffered a ruptured spleen, which caused his death. The car accident was staged as a red herring. Choge’s father believed that he was about to reveal what he knew about Julie’s murder, but Moi’s men prevented him from doing so. People wondered why Choge would wait ten years to speak. His untimely death was in the same year as former Chief Game Warden Simon ole Makallah’s trial took place. There was renewed interest in the case and Ibrahim Choge knew he held the final piece of the puzzle.

John remembered a newspaper interview with a former Kenyan intelligence officer back in 2004. He did not want his identity known, but spoke to a newspaper in Nairobi. The former officer said that he witnessed Julie’s rape and subsequent murder at the hands of three men. He claims that Julie was taken hostage by the men, who forced her to drive her car to the location where it was eventually found. They made her write SOS in the dust on the roof of her car, so it would appear as if her car had broken down again. If someone found the car and the message, they would have assumed she decided to walk to get help. 

This interview ties up with the information from John’s informant. The three men seen with Julie were in all probability Moi’s two bodyguards and his driver.

In 2018, John Ward turned to the media for help once more. He wanted to pressure Kenyan authorities to obtain a DNA sample of the person he suspected of killing his daughter, a man known to everyone in the country – Jonathan Toroitich Moi, but nothing has come of it.

Jonathan Moi passed away in April 2019 to pancreatic cancer. After his death, people didn’t forget his links to Julie’s case. He denied any involvement to the end. His father, former President Daniel arap Moi passed away a couple of months later, in February 2020.

John Ward hopes that people who were too afraid to speak up before, would find it within themselves to come forward now. In a recent interview John said, that even with both men deceased, one witness was ‘physically trembling‘ when he gave evidence. Daniel arap Moi was larger than life, a dangerous man, feared by all. But Moi’s power does not extend beyond the grave.

This case is about versions of truth – there are so many possibilities, perhaps too many. John Ward initially thought it was a government cover-up to protect the tourism industry, when in fact, the cover-up was more likely for reasons much closer to home.

Why then, with so many witnesses and evidence pointing to Jonathan Moi, has this case not been concluded? John Ward is in his eighties, and would like to see justice for Julie in his lifetime. Julie’s brother Bob has joined his father’s investigation and has vowed to pursue it for as long as it takes. 

If you’d like to read more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes.

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