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Kenya hearing opens into death of woman seen with British soldier

A court hearing opened in Nairobi on Wednesday into a lawsuit over the 2012 death of a young Kenyan mother who was last seen alive with a British soldier. However, the hearing was almost immediately adjourned until May, prompting criticism from the victim’s family who has long sought justice over her killing. The body of Agnes Wanjiru, 21, was found in a septic tank after she reportedly went out partying with British soldiers at a hotel in the central town of Nanyuki, where the British army has a permanent garrison. In October 2021, Britain’s The Sunday Times newspaper reported that a soldier had confessed to his comrades to killing Wanjiru and showed them her body. The report alleged that the murder was taken to military superiors, but no further action followed. An investigation was opened in 2019 but no results have been made public. Kenyan police announced it would reopen the inquiry after the Sunday Times revelations. Wanjiru’s family has filed a lawsuit against the British army in Kenya as well as Kenyan legal, police and political officials over her death. After the hearing was adjourned until May 21, Wanjiru’s niece, Esther Njiko, voiced disappointment and accused the authorities of wanting to “cover up” the truth. “We are very sad. This is not the decision we were expecting,” she told AFP. Since Kenya gained independence in 1963, the former Crown colony has kept a permanent army base near Nanyuki around 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Nairobi. The British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) is an economic lifeline for many in Nanyuki but has proved a lightning rod for criticism. In a document handed to the Nairobi court and seen by AFP, BATUK commander Colonel Andrew Wilde said: “The UK government, as a foreign sovereign state, does not consent to submit to the jurisdiction of this honourable court.” “It is not correct to say that the Ministry of Defence or the UK government covered up the investigations or the revelations of the perpetrator of the alleged murder,” he said. London and Nairobi have been at odds over the question of jurisdiction for British soldiers who break Kenyan law.

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