Kenya: UK Under Pressure to Probe Killing of Agnes Wanjiru By British Soldier

A British soldier (right) gives instructions during a joint training with Kenya Defence Forces at Archer’s Post in Samburu County on October 7, 2020 (file photo).
24 October 2021

The British government is now under pressure to probe and prosecute a soldier who allegedly killed and dumped the body of a Kenyan woman in Nanyuki in 2012.

This is after an exposé by the UK's Sunday Times revealed that the killer soldier nicknamed "The Lions of England" was part of Northwest's premier infantry regiment.

Agnes Wanjiru, then aged 21, then a mother of a five months old daughter, was last seen going into a room with a British soldier at the Lions Court Inn in Nanyuki town before she disappeared.

Two months later, her decomposing body was found in a septic tank by a hotel worker.

By the time the body was discovered, the exercise had ended and the troop was sent back to Britain. A post mortem revealed that she died from multiple stab wounds in her chest and abdomen.

Her fingers and toes were missing due to advanced decomposition. She had a two centimetre stab wound in her lower right abdomen and a blunt force injury in the chest. Her lungs had collapsed.

Seeking answers

A probe of the case by local police officers failed to bring anyone to justice. Wanjiru's family has been seeking answers since their kin's death nearly a decade ago.

The Sunday Times reported that the probe identified nine soldiers who had booked in the hotel that needed to be questioned and asked the British Royal Military Police to interview them and take DNA samples.

"However, the Ministry of Defence said they never received any such request and DNA samples were never provided, causing the inquiry to stall," the paper reported adding that the nine did not include soldiers X and Y.

A 2019 judicial inquest however found that Wanjiru had been "killed by a British soldier".

This is brilliant reporting and a tragic tale which I will be pressing the Defence Secretary for answers about. Her name was Agnes Wanjiru and we owe her a debt. https://t.co/B0PGd2ohWh

- Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) October 23, 2021

The new allegations have since prompted a fresh inquiry by the Royal Military Police while Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley Ms Jess Phillips has called on the government to ensure justice is served.

"This is brilliant reporting and a tragic tale which I will be pressing the Defence Secretary for answers about. Her name was Agnes Wanjiru and we owe her a debt," Ms Phillips wrote on Twitter.

"I have actually stayed in this hotel I believe while in Kenya meeting sexually exploited women and men,"she added.

Four soldiers

According to the paper, four soldiers who took part in the drunken debauchery with local sex workers that evening said the alleged killer confessed to the murder in the hotel bar.

"That soldier told everyone what he had done but senior officers dismissed his account and told him to shut up," one of the four soldiers identified as soldier Y confessed to the paper.

Soldier Y said Soldier X burst into the bar where the other soldiers were partying and asked for help.

"We were in the pub and Soldier X came in crying for help saying, 'Help me, help me', I've killed her." I asked him to show me and he just stopped crying like that, turned around. He took me to the tank and lifted it up, and I looked in and I just remember seeing her in there. My heart sank. My mind just went blank. The only thing I could say to him was: 'I'll never forgive you for this."

The ex-squaddie added that when they returned to their base at the (British Army Training Unit Kenya) BATUK camp, he informed his seniors of the incident but no action was taken, neither was he probed about the incident later.

Soldier X however denied the claims when he was contacted by Sunday Times.

"Honestly, I'm not surprised because there were rumours in my battalion. If you speak to people in my battalion they'll say that. But it's a rumour. There was a rumour going around for a long time, which actually was borderline bullying. But there's nothing you can do when you're in the military. There's a lot of idiots, but there's no real truth in it," he said as reported by The Sunday Times.

The soldier however said he did not report the alleged bullying and when asked whether he could remember being at the hotel that night, he asked that he be allowed to contact his lawyer.

Unwritten rules

Another soldier from the same regiment identified a soldier Z, however gave The Sunday Times a different narrative of the incident.

"His story was that he'd been having sex with her and he'd choked her and she'd died," claimed the soldier as reported by The Sunday Times.

The paper added that soldier Z believed that no action was taken against Soldier X in line with their 'blue code of conduct.'

"In the army, there is a certain code. You keep your mouth shut. There are some unwritten rules. Stuff does get covered up, you protect your own," the soldier told the Sunday Times.

The paper added that neither the Foreign Office and British high commission in Nairobi, the directorate of criminal investigations and attorney-general in Kenya and the Lions Court Hotel responded to their questions.

In a statement on Sunday, British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott said the UK was fully cooperating with the investigating agencies.

"I share the outrage and concern about the tragic death of Agnes Wanjiru in 2012 - my thoughts are with her family and the community. I can assure Kenyans that the UK is fully cooperating with the investigation and will help in any way we can," she said.

She added: "In 2012, the UK's Special Investigation Branch carried out initial enquiries in Kenya, including providing information about British personnel to Kenyan police. No further requests were received at that time."

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