NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 5 – Assessors in the trial of Naivasha rancher Tom Cholmondeley have ruled that he is not guilty for the murder of stonemason Robert Njoya.,
Linet Boyani and Raphael Chege said eye witnesses did not see Cholmondeley shoot the deceased but only heard gunshots.
“According to our assessment we have formed an opinion that the accused is not guilty of murder,” said the assessors, adding that it was extremely difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the rifle that killed Mr Njoya was Mr Cholmondeley’s.
Mr Njoya was killed at the expansive Soysambu ranch in the larger Delamere estate on May 10, 2006.
The verdict of the assessors is however not binding to the court, and Justice Muga Apondi will deliver his own ruling on April 30.
The assessors said they had cleared Mr Cholmondeley because there was no sufficient proof that the rifle which inflicted the fatal injuries on Mr Njoya belonged to the suspect.
“It is difficult to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the killer rifle belongs to the accused,” the assessors said.
Mr Cholmondeley had accompanied rally driver Carl Tundo who is also his friend to check on a suitable site within the ranch where Tundo intended to construct a house when they stumbled on Mr Njoya in a group of poachers.
It was then that Mr Njoya was shot and he died due to excessive bleeding on reaching Pine Breeze Hospital in Nakuru.
According to the two assessors, Mr Tundo and two of Njoya’s friends who testified as prosecution witnesses did not tell the court that they saw Mr Cholmondeley shooting the deceased.
They only heard gunshots, according to their testimony in court. The assessors said the accused intended to shoot the dogs which had accompanied the poachers.
The actions of Mr Cholmondeley after the incident proved that he had no intention of shooting the stone mason as, they argued, he administered first aid to Mr Njoya by tying his handkerchief around the wound to stop the bleeding.
He also called on Mr Tundo to bring the car to where he was with Mr Njoya to transport the latter to hospital.
The accused had also called the security manager of Delamere farm, Geoffrey Mitto to take Njoya to hospital and meet the costs of his treatment. He also called the police and informed them about the incident.
Earlier, while summing up the evidence for the assessors Justice Apondi told the two that the status of the suspect who is Lord Delamere’s grandson should not poison their mind.
He further cautioned them that the media reports which have been published should not affect their verdict.
The prosecution is led by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko assisted by state attorneys Patrick Gumo and Jacob Ondari. Mr Cholmondeley is defended by Fred Ojiambo and Virginia Shaw.
More than 40 witnesses testified in the case with both the prosecution and the defence calling their witnesses.