A DEATH IN KENYA by Michael A. Hiltzik


The Murder of Julie Ward
Email this review


 The death of Julie Ward in a Kenyan game park made headlines around the world in 1989, and her murderers have yet to be tried. In the meantime, Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times bureau chief in Nairobi, offers an insightful report that's as much about contemporary Africa as about her murder. Ward, a beloved daughter and exemplary employee, went to Africa in her 20s and fell in love with the continent. She traveled widely, spending the most time in Kenya, where she hoped one day to live permanently. Before she returned to England in September 1989, she made a brief trip to the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Friends became alarmed when the usually reliable woman failed to return to Nairobi, and a search was immediately organized. Julie's father, John Ward, a self-made and successful businessman, flew out to help; dismayed by the Kenyan police's handling of the investigation, he began to conduct his own. A charred limb and part of a skull were found, as well as Julie's Suzuki, stuck in the mud, with the letters ``SOS'' scrawled in mud on the roof. At first, Kenyan authorities insisted she'd been eaten by animals. Autopsy reports were tampered with, witnesses not questioned, and evidence never collected. But John Ward persisted, and at a preliminary inquiry the Kenyan judge finally ruled that Julie had indeed been murdered. According to Hiltzik, the Kenyans' unhelpful responses were partly a reflection of poor police methods and corruption, but were motivated also by the fear that a verdict of murder could harm tourism, a major industry. And, indeed, when other tourist murders occurred, the Kenyan government finally brought in Scotland Yard to help find the culprits. Sympathetic and sensitive reporting, as well as an astute commentary on the problems of maintaining an independent judicial system in a one-party state. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 1991
ISBN: 0-385-30191-X
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991