The Kenya Forum | The Ouko Murder Suicide Theory - The Kenya Forum

June 14, 2011


The difference between Dr West and Dr Kaviti is that the former rapidly came to the conclusion that Dr Ouko’s wounds were not consistent with suicide and that he had been murdered.

More by Martin Minns

The Ouko Murder Suicide Theory


Dr Robert Ouko had been murdered on the morning of 13th February (his body was initially found by a local herdsboy on that day who reported it to local villagers but not to the authorities). The Minister’s disappearance was only notified late the following day (the 14th) after he failed to turn up to the airport to travel to The Gambia on an official visit. It by then being dark a police search began the next morning (the 15th) and Dr Ouko’s burnt body was found the next morning (the 16th) at Got Alila Hill.

It was in the late morning (about 11.30am) of the 17th February that Dr Kaviti arrived at the foot of Got Alila about 2.8 kilometers from Dr Ouko Koru farm to examine his body and began the first stage of the post-mortem process.

Kaviti noted that Dr Ouko had been shot in the head and that the bones of his right ankle had been broken. The latter he initially attributed to the effects of the heat generated by the burning body but later he agreed that the break could have been caused by ‘a blunt or sharp force’.

Ouko’s body was then sealed in a body bag and taken to Nairobi for a further post-mortem examination which revealed bullet fragments in his skull and intense burning on the back of his body.  Kaviti concluded that the cause of death was ‘severe brain damage following a bullet wound to the head and subsequent burning’.

On the 21st February, 1990, Detective Superintendent John Troon of Scotland Yard arrived in Nairobi supported by two other British detectives and Dr Iain West, a Forensic Pathologist from Guys and St Thomas Hospitals in London.


Dr West then carried out a further post-mortem at the Lee Mortuary in Nairobi throughout which Dr Kaviti was looking over his shoulder. West recorded later that he did not reveal his thinking to Kaviti other than to say, “I don’t think this is suicide”, to which Kaviti replied, “But you can’t exclude suicide”. West recalled that at the time he agreed with Kaviti, “because at that stage we didn’t know what the tests on the firearm residues were going to show.”

Forum readers may be wondering why Kaviti and West were even considering suicide as a possible cause of Dr Ouko’s death at that point. The answer is, because they had to. At that stage all they knew for sure was they were looking at a burnt body with a shot wound in the head and Ouko’s .38 five chambered revolver containing one spent round was also found near the body, so they had to consider all options as to the cause of death, however unlikely.

The difference between Dr West and Dr Kaviti is that the former rapidly came to the conclusion that Dr Ouko’s wounds were not consistent with suicide and that he had been murdered, in short, that he could not have shot himself in the head, set himself on fire and then laid down neatly on the ground, whereas Kaviti for some time maintained the suicide theory as a realistic (but obviously absurd) possibility.

From West and Kaviti’s consideration of suicide as a possible cause of Ouko’s death, and Kaviti’s insistence that the theory was a viable one, arose the largely erroneous story that the ‘official’, that is the Kenyan government’s position, was that Ouko had killed himself. There is little evidence to support this contention other than Kaviti’s stance.

President Moi had already issued a statement that was published on the front page of The Nation on the 17th February (the day after Ouko’s body was officially found) ‘to assure the public that anyone who may be associated with this horrible event will most certainly be apprehended and brought to justice’, and on the same page Professor Saitoti’s statement was reported in which he stated that Ouko’s death was ‘murder’.

The ‘pushing’ of the suicide theory story seems largely to have arisen because newspapers at the time reported that suicide was being considered by the police (British and Kenyan), which of course they had to consider, and this in turn was the theory they favoured where in reality it was largely only Dr Kaviti (and some local officials) who still pushed the idea.

Interestingly, Detective Superintendent Troon’s ‘Final Report’ delivered to the Kenyan authorities some six months later still included the line, ‘I cannot completely rule out the possibility that Dr Ouko committed suicide’.

The Kenyan Police Further Investigations Report concluded that ‘quite a good number of people including professionals held the view that Dr.Ouko might have committed suicide’ but that, ‘It was possible that that was a mere speculation based on ones impression after looking at the scene’ but that Ouko had not committed suicide and that he ‘must have been murdered’ and that ‘nobody offered evidence to support that [suicide] theory’.

By the time of the Gicheru Commission in 1991 Dr Kaviti had changed his line and agreed that Ouko had been murdered and he said the same to the Parliamentary Select Committee in 2004, although on that occasion he got the date of Ouko’s murder wrong by claiming his murder occurred on the 14th February 1990.

Scotland Yard’s investigations and Dr Iain West’s forensic analysis had already proved in 1990 that Ouko was killed on the 13th February and that Ouko had been murdered where his body was found, or a few feet from that spot (which also ruled out the ‘shot in State House theory’).


Nearly two years before Dr Ouko was murdered, Kaviti had gained prominence (and later notoriety) for again arguing against all reason that British photographer Julie Ward, whose dismembered body had found in the Masai Mara Game Reserve in September 1988, had been killed by wild animals or by lightening. Julie Ward had in fact been murdered and an attempt made to hide the fact by cutting up her body and burning it.

At that time Dr Kaviti was Director of Public Health and there is pretty much incontrovertible evidence that he altered the forensic report compiled by Dr Adel Shaker, Kenyan Police’s forensic expert, changing the description of Julie Ward’s injuries, to cover up her murder.

Here we are, some 23 years later, and the murderers of Julie Ward and Dr Robert Ouko have never been successfully prosecuted. Some of them are still alive and at large. There are many reasons why the truth of these two murders has remained hidden or obscured. One reason was the incompetence, or worse, of Dr Jason Ndaka Kaviti.

They say that you should not speak ill of the dead but on this occasion the Forum feels that it has to.


Who wrote, ‘It’s now our turn to vomit Mungiki regime. Kill them without fear or favour’? See this coming Friday’s posting.


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