NAIROBI, July 8 – Naivasha rancher Tom Cholmondeley on Tuesday denied shooting stonemason Robert Njoya at his Soysambu ranch in May 2006.
Cholmondeley, who defended himself in the murder trial, narrated events preceding the shooting and what transpired thereafter before trial Judge Justice Muga Apondi and said he couldn’t have shot the man.
“Up to now, I cannot see how I could have shot that man,” he said, claiming that Njoya was nowhere on the field of view when he shot two dogs that were in Njoya’s company.
The rancher recounted that he was touring the property with his friend Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo, who was looking for a site to build a residence within the expansive ranch, when he bumped into a group of people with several dogs in tow.
He told the court that he saw about five men running away and overheard them saying: “Hawezi kufanya kitu” (He can’t do anything). It is at that point that Cholmondeley said he dropped on one knee and aimed at the dogs that were approaching him and shot down two of them.
“Had I shot him, I would have expected him to lie there where the dogs were. I can’t understand how I shot him while he was moving to the left.”
The rancher said that he was in possession of a loaded rifle at the time because of a probable attack by rogue buffaloes that had killed three people a few days earlier.
He also introduced new evidence by saying that his friend Tundo had a gun at the time and had even shot a white dog.
Cholmondeley narrated to the court that the men ran to his right, whereas one ran to the left, carrying a Thompson’s gazelle on his shoulder.
He then said that his friend (Tundo) emerged from the left end, seemingly terrified and proceeded about 50 metres into the bush.
It was then that they noticed a man writhing in pain pointing at his backside, and he (Tom) shouted at Tundo to bring the vehicle and take the man who had a bullet lodged in his buttock, to hospital.
“Flash (Tundo) was quite disturbed,” the court heard.
He said they first moved the dogs and impala carcasses to a clear place before taking the injured man to Pine Breeze Hospital in Nakuru, where he succumbed to the bullet wounds.
All this time, Cholmondeley said his phone had network difficulties and he used Tundo’s cell phone to call the police to the scene, but ‘Flash sped off and didn’t say where he was going’.
When questioned by the police, Cholmondeley said he did not mention the scenario because he was confused at that stage.
“That day I tried everything possible to be as clear and helpful as possible,” he said, concluding: “that is absolutely the truth.”
Meanwhile, the first of seven witnesses to be called on the case also testified in court on Tuesday.
Benson Gathirwa Ngugi, who is an employee at the ranch, said he was informed about the incident by his immediate boss, who later took him to the scene of the incident.
Ngugi said he spotted a dead white dog and added that he was prevented by Tundo to speak of it.