The Kenya Forum | The Murders of Julie Ward and Dr Robert Ouko, and the 'Madness' of Valentine Kodipo and George Wajackoyah - The Kenya Forum

July 23, 2023


There were several connections between the two cases, including the dubious conduct of Kenya’s then Chief Government Pathologist Dr Jason Kiviti, the involvement of New Scotland Yard in both investigations, and the testimony of two individuals in particular: Valentine Ujure Kodipo and one George Luchiri Wajackoyah.

More by Martin Minns

The Murders of Julie Ward and Dr Robert Ouko, and the ‘Madness’ of Valentine Kodipo and George Wajackoyah

The Murders of Julie Ward and Dr Robert Ouko, and the ‘Madness’ of Valentine Kodipo and George Wajackoyah

George Wajackoyah, source of the provably untrue 'Shot in State House' theory.

The funeral of John Ward and his wife Jeanette (known as Jan), the parents of Julie Ward, the 28-year old wildlife photographer who was murdered in the Maasai Mara in September 1988, was held in the UK on Friday, 30 June.

John and Jan were born two weeks apart in 1933. They married in 1958. And they died just two weeks apart. Of their 89 years on this earth, nearly 35 years were spent in the dogged search for the truth surrounding their daughter’s death, the quest for justice to be visited upon her killer, or killers, and perhaps in the hope of, if not peace, some sort of closure to the tragic events that had marred their lives.

Investigations into the murder of Julie Ward and Dr Robert Ouko

I got to know John Ward over regular pub lunches on my visits to the UK, where we would discuss developments in his investigation and my own research into the murder of Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Robert Ouko, in February 1990.

There were several connections between the two cases, including the dubious conduct of Kenya’s then Chief Government Pathologist Dr Jason Kiviti, the involvement of New Scotland Yard in both investigations, and the testimony of two individuals in particular: Valentine Ujure Kodipo and one George Luchiri Wajackoyah.

Valentine Ujure Kodipo

As reported in an article in a British newspaper The Mail on Sunday in September 1995, seven years after Julie Ward’s murder, 34- year-old Valentine Kodipo claimed that he was a former Government Services Unit officer and part of a ‘special police paramilitary unit’ who had witnessed Julie Ward’s torture and bludgeoning to death with a club on the orders of ‘a senior Kanu politician’.

Kodipo was initially regarded as a credible witness by New Scotland Yard whose story was ‘entirely feasible’, sufficiently so for two senior detectives from ‘the Yard’ to travel to ‘a Scandinavian country’ to meet Kodipo, who had in fact sought asylum in Denmark (the Canadian’s had turned him down because of his alleged ‘murderous past’).

This was not however, the first time that Kidopo had made wild allegations against a senior Kanu official. In the parlance of British police at the time, Kodipo ‘had form’.

In 1992, giving testimony to the Parliamentary Select Committee investigating and ‘Ethnic Clashes in Western and other parts of Kenya in 1992’, chaired by the Hon. Joseph Kiliku, Kodipo claimed that former government minister Nicholas Biwott had financed a group of “Kalenjin warriors” to cause tribal clashes and incited inter-tribal violence at rallies in Kapkatet and Narok.

No evidence was produced at the time (or since) that his allegations were in anyway true.

On 6th October, 1992, the Hon. Terer, Assistant Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, discredited Kodipo’s testimony by producing an affidavit of one Samuel Tunoi who Kodipo had cited as the source of his allegations. The affidavit proved Kodipo to be lying. A member of the Kiliku Committee, stated, “We did not believe those (Kodipo’s) allegations.”

Discredited witness

Kidipo’s story that he was a witness to the murder of Julie Wards, also began to unravel.

Police Commissioner Shadrack Kiriuki said: “We don’t know him and he was never a member of our police force”, and his name could not be found in any of the lists of former police or GSU officers.

Kidopo’s credibility as a reliable witness was further called into question by a Matthews Ochieng, who had known Kidipo since childhood. Ochieng said Kodipo, “is gifted in fabricating stories and making them appear like the truth.” He added that Kodipo’s real name was Valentine Uhuru Ndege.

Kidipo was also the source of an allegation that first appeared as a rumour emanating from the British High Commission in 2004, 16 years after Julie Ward’s murder, which gave Kidipo as the source of an allegation that she had been ‘murdered on the instruction of Jonathan Moi.’

Kidipo was also to allege that Nicholas Biwott was involved in Ward’s murder, an allegation that John Ward completely rejected.

“All along I have never believed in the witness claimed by Kidipo,” John Ward said and added, “Kidipo’s motive for his claims could have been political mischief.”

In April 1997 John Ward dismissed Kodipo as a credible witness. “We now have proved that he is not genuine. Believe he is mentally unbalanced. He suffers from fantasies and hallucinations”, and was “a person of unsound mind.”

John Ward’s assessment of Kodipo was to become far more dismissive and coruscating. At an inquest held in the UK in 2003 into Julie Ward’s murder, Ward described Kodipo as, “a perpetual, pathological liar and a fraud”.

The tables had begun to turn on Kodipo years before, however. Local Kenyan and British press reports indicating that Kodipo himself was emerging as a prime suspect in Julie Ward’s murder.

Meanwhile, John Ward travelled to Denmark on several occasions in an attempt to get Kidipo to make a statement.

Ward said that the last address he was given for Kodipo in Denmark was a psychiatric institution. Kodipo, who had sought asylum in Denmark, was now in an asylum.

Enter George Wajackoyah

The name George Luchiri Wajackoyah will be known to many as the leader of the Roots Party, who stood as a presidential candidate at Kenya’s elections in August 2022 (he polled 61,969 votes, 0.44 percent of the total votes cast).

Wajackoyah first hit the headlines, however, on 26th April 1992, when a story was published in the British newspaper The Sunday Times, under the headline ‘Moi watched cabinet minister’s execution’, in which Wajackoyah claimed he had ‘pieced together his account’ of the murder over two years before, of Dr Robert Ouko, Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs who was shot dead near his farmhouse in Koru, Western Kenya, on February 13th, 1990.

Similar to Valentine Kodipo, Wajackoyah said he was a former Special Branch Inspector. His account of Ouko’s murder he said, was derived from telephone interceptions and Special Branch files.

The gist of Wajackoyah’s story was that Dr Robert Ouko had been abducted from his Koru home by the then Permanent Secretary for Internal Affairs Internal Security, Hezekiah Oyugi, and the Minister of Energy Nicholas Biwott, and taken to State House in Nakuru where he was beaten and shot in front of President Daniel arap Moi before his body was dumped back to a spot near to his Koru farm.

Wajakoyah’s allegations understandably excited the press both in the UK and Kenya, even though they are provably untrue and were in April 1992, if The Sunday Times journalists had bothered to check the story against the known facts and the findings of the team of detectives from New Scotland Yard, who were invited to Kenya by President Moi to investigate Ouko’s murder. The team was led by Detective Superintendent John Troon and supported by a UK Home Office Forensic Pathologist, Dr Iain West.

Troon’s ‘Final Report into the death of Dr John Robert Ouko MP,’ based on his own investigation, eye witness testimony, the findings of crime scene expert Detective Sergeant David Sanderson, and the post mortem and forensic report of Dr Iain West, all arrive at one conclusion: Ouko had been shot dead on the morning of the 13th February 1990; he was shot where is body was found in Koru; a bullet was found to have been discharged where the body had been found; and although Ouko’s body had been moved, it had been so only by a few feet.

Dr Robert Ouko could not have been taken to state house in Nakuru, 123 kilometers and over two hours driving time away, shot there and his body dumped back in Koru.

Toon concluded in his report (paragraph 290), ‘There is no evidence to suggest that Dr Ouko had died at any other venue than the scene’.

‘Shot in State House’

Troon read out his Final Report in Kisumu Town Hall, during the hearings of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Ouko’s murder which was reported verbatim in the Kenya press, in October and November 1991, six months before Wajakoyah told his story to The Sunday Times.

As with Valentine Kodipo, George Wajakoyah’s story soon began to unravel and his veracity as a witness increasingly became called into question.

A press report in Kenya on May 24th, 1992, said that there were ‘increasing doubts in official and media circles here [London] over the credibility of Mr George Luchiri Wajakoyah’ and that ‘skepticism has deepened since the initial London press reports’.

“He is very plausible and articulate”, one journalist was reported as saying, “The trouble is that he cannot substantiate his claims and accusations. It seems to me that he has stitched together a story based on rumour, gossip and speculation”.

On August 2, 1992, an article in The Daily Nation headed ‘Ouko Claims Man to Study law in UK’ by a Paul Redfern, reported the Directorate of Intelligence at Police Headquarters, Nairobi, as claiming that Wajackoyah ‘has psychiatric problems’.

George Wajackoyah’s story was provably untrue but even so it became the widely believed ‘Shot at state House’ theory which influenced the Parliamentary Select Committee into the murder of Dr Robert Ouko chaired by Gor Sungu MP (2004-05) which took the theory hook, line and sinker.

Unbeknown to many, Wajackoyah also claimed that he knew who murdered Julie Ward. It was alleged in the media that an intermediary on Wajackoyah’s behalf approached John Ward, offering to sell him information for £2,500 but ‘the offer was firmly rejected’.

John Ward confirmed this story to me in conversation and in an email dated 25 February, 2021, in which he said he was amazed that The Sunday Times had fallen for Wajackoyah’s testimony, dismissed the claim that Moi and Biwott had ordered and been present when Ouko was murdered, and advised me, “George Wajackoyah… I would not waste any more time on him.”

John and Jan Ward have passed on after a lifetime marred by tragedy and struggle. I fervently hope that after life’s fitful fever they sleep well. May they rest in peace.

The above article was first published in The Star on July 17, 2023, under the title ‘Mad’ Witnesses in Murders of Julie Ward, Robert Ouko.

Kenyan Forum readers may also be interested in the following articles from the archives:

Analysing the claim that Jonathan Moi raped and murdered Julie Ward (7/3/2012)

George Wajackoyah’s Ouko Murder Story (29/6/2022)

Ouko Murder: Sex Lies and Corruption (10/2/2018)

Murder of Dr Robert Ouko: What really happened? (2/6/2012)

Marianne Briner-Mattern President Moi’s mistress? (13/2/2012)

Marianne-Briner Mattern: Jeff Koinange’s ‘date rape’ accuser (13/2/2012)

Marianne Briner-Mattern: Destroyer of Raila Odinga’s presidential bid? (12/2/2012)

KHRC Report: Kiliku and Akiwumi reports into ‘tribal violence’ (3/10/2021)

Citizen TV Murder at Got Alila – Who killed Dr Robert Ouko and Why? (March 2017)




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