Tom Cholmondeley was back in court today. This time it’s for the latest appeal hearing as his defence team try to overturn the trial judge’s order to hand over their list of witnesses to the prosecution.
Like most people I thought that to shoot one person dead was unfortunate, but to be accused of murder a second time was…well, the mark of a murderer. But as the case against him unfolded it became increasingly clear that there was little evidence to support the prosecution’s original claim that the killing was premeditated and motivated by “revenge” – presumably for the poaching done on his ranch. One of the prosecution’s key witnesses dramatically undermined the case when he took the stand. Carl “Flash” Tundo – former Durex model and rally driver – was accused by the defence of firing the fatal shot (something he denied).
None of that counts for much in the Kenyan court of public opinion which has already decided that Cholmondeley is guilty. He is, after all, an Old Etonian British aristocrat, part of a colonial legacy that left large tracts of land in white hands and their African neighbours with nothing.
Now Cholmondeley’s friends and family are trying to fight back and overturn what they see as an unfair stereotype. They have launched something of a PR campaign to turn public opinion around. Which is how I found myself inside the gates of Kamiti prison yesterday, shaking hands with a man I had only ever nodded to across crowded courtrooms.
For an hour Cholmondeley talked eloquently about the need for prison reform, agricultural diversification on his family’s land, and the ethnic faultlines that have torn Kenya apart since the disputed elections. He seemed a nice guy and I feel for his family – essentially an anachronism in modern Kenya, envied for their land but ultimately too poor ever to go back to Britain. But there are still difficult questions to answer about he could twice get caught up in a fatal shooting.