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Julie Ward murder detectives go back to Kenya

LONDON (Reuters) - A team of British detectives, armed with new forensic techniques, has travelled to Kenya to investigate the death of Julie Ward, who was murdered on the Masai Mara game reserve in 1988 during a visit to photograph animals.

The father of Julie Ward, John Ward (blue shirt) March 29 listens to court proceedings at the Mara Bridge Police post in the Maasai Mara Game reserve. Reuters/file

Six detectives and a crime scene manager arrived in Nairobi on Thursday evening and will stay in the country for around 11 days, Scotland Yard said in a statement.

“Officers intend to interview a number of witnesses in connection with the case and will also be taking DNA samples and fingerprints for elimination purposes,” it added.

They would be working alongside Kenyan detectives both in the capital Nairobi and on site in the country’s Narok region.

The charred remains of the 28-year-old Ward were found by her father John in September 1988, a week after she had gone missing, but no one has ever been convicted of her killing.

Kenyan authorities, keen to protect the country’s tourism industry, initially claimed she had been killed by wild animals. Others said that Ward, a publishing assistant, could have committed suicide or have been hit by lightning.

But a British pathologist later showed that her body had been dismembered with a machete, doused in petrol and set alight.

An inquest in Ipswich in 2004 recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

There have been two separate murder trials in Kenya and in total three men have been in the dock in 1992 and 1999.

Two game wardens were accused of murder after an initial Scotland Yard investigation and, seven years later, Simon Makallah, the head warden of the Masai Mara at the time of the death, was tried for murder. All three men were acquitted.

The technology behind DNA profiling was in its infancy at the time of the murder but has since made huge advances and the investigation was reopened in 2009 after reviewing the forensic material available.

Scotland Yard detectives last visited Kenya to work on the case in March 2010. In all, 13 people have been interviewed since 2009 but no arrests have been made.

Stephen Addison