State drops case against rancher

Nakuru - Kenyan prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a murder charge against a prominent white Kenyan farmer accused of killing a game ranger, saying the state had insufficient evidence to proceed with the case.

Attorney-general Amos Wako had decided to drop the case against Thomas Cholmondeley, son of one of Kenya's largest white landowners, the 5th Baron Delamere, prosecutors said.

"He (Wako) has further directed that this case file may now be placed before the chief magistrate in Nairobi, who should proceed to conduct a public inquest at the earliest opportunity," director of public prosecutions Philip Murgor told the High Court in Nakuru, north-west of the capital Nairobi.

Cholmondeley, a 37-year-old Kenyan citizen, was accused of shooting and killing ranger Samson Ole Sisina at his farm near the town of Naivasha on April 19. He denies the charge.

But the judge, Muga Apondi, ordered Cholmondeley to be remanded in a maximum security prison until the court rules on Wednesday on the application to scrap the trial.

Patrick Kiage, a member of the Law Society of Kenya, said it was within the judge's power to reject Wako's application and proceed with the case if he thought dropping it was against the public interest.

"We feel immensely gratified that the state law office has acted not to please public mass hysteria, but has acted in accordance with the law," said Fred Ojiambo, Cholmondeley's lawyer.

Police say Sisina was killed after approaching workers who had been preparing to chop up a buffalo carcass at a slaughterhouse on the farm. Buffalo hunting is banned in Kenya without a licence.

The Delameres - the family's title derived from its origins in the British aristocracy - are prominent white ranchers who have lived in Kenya's Rift Valley for a century and have had close links to governments under both British colonial rule and after independence in 1963.

The current Baron's stepmother outraged white Kenyan society in the 1940s with her love affair with the Earl of Erroll whose murder was recalled in the book and film "White Mischief".

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