Byline: WILLIAM CASH
Drive along the dusty, bumpy Naivasha to Nakuru highway, some 60 miles north of Nairobi, and you enter the spectacular Great Rift Valley. At some point along this potholed road, not far from the basking pink flamingos of Lake Elmenteita, you pass the white gates of Lord Delamere's Soysambu estate.
A crude hand-painted warning sign reads: 'Game and Livestock have Right of Way.' Another says: 'No Entry to Delamere Camps Without a Voucher.' Whether, early in the morning of Tuesday 19 April, 44-year-old Kenyan Wildlife Service warden Simon Ole Sitima had a voucher, let alone presented any ID, before driving through the gates in an unmarked Land Rover, remains disputed.
According to the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS), he was part of a team conducting an undercover investigation into a slaughterhouse on the Delamere estate suspected of selling illegal bushmeat.
The Hon Tom Cholmondeley, Lord Delamere's 37-year-old heir, thought the undercover officer was an armed intruder on the 100-year-old estate. 'The farms have been victims of a spate of robberies in the past 12 months, it was thought this was a raid,' says a Delamere family member.
Who fired first remains unclear. What is certain is that by the time the police arrived at noon, the warden was slumped in his car with a bullet through his neck fired from a Luger licensed to Cholmondeley.
Although the public schooleducated father of two, financial director of the family's dairy farms and estates, claims he acted in self-defence, he does not deny he pulled the trigger. In this, he is echoing the case of Sir Jock Delves Broughton, the second husband of his father's stepmother, Lady Delves Broughton, who was accused of killing the 22nd Earl of Erroll, his wife's lover, in 1941.
The rake-thin, 6ft 4in Cholmondeley is languishing on remand in a tiny, filthy jail cell in Naivasha equipped with a cardboard mattress, his head shaven to avoid prison lice. If found guilty of murder, he could face life in a stinking African jail - without parole.
Although his 75-year-old father, Lord Delamere, has said nothing publicly on the subject, he has spoken to close friends such as Michael Cunningham Reid, a distant relative and Naivasha neighbour, about his son's predicament.
'There's no doubt that this KWS ranger shot first but that doesn't stop them putting Tom on a charge,' Cunningham Reid told me. 'I spoke to his father two days after the event, and Hugh said that he didn't think Tom would be convicted, but he was worried about the time his son is going to spend in prison on remand.' A family member who visited Tom in jail has told me that he is 'in good spirits'. My sources hope it won't go to trial, but he may spend up to a year in jail.
As one Kenyan society source observes: 'It's tricky.
You can portray this as a white man who shot a black man who was possibly trying to protect game around the Naivasha area; or is this what happens when there isn't clear law and order and you have rampaging insecurity?
Even if guns were being waved around, it's not impossible that Tom is in the wrong.' One person who knows about the problems of security in Kenya is Lady Liza Campbell, who used to live there when she was married to a Kenyan big-game fisherman, Willie Athill. She told me: 'The big problem in Tom's case is that the man he shot happened to be a Masai tribesman, as opposed to a Kikuyu. Masais feel they have the right to land around the Delamere farms.
There could be added trouble because there is tension between the Masai and ranchers. Everybody is nervy. There is a climate of fear; you have these undercover officers creeping across your land and you think you are under attack.' In the past six months, crime in the fashionable white neighbourhoods and villages of Kenya has worsened.
Partly because the Kenyan government has begun to crack down on gangs operating in Nairobi, organised crime has spread to pockets of white affluence. …