A descendant of Kenya’s most famous white settlers was convicted of manslaughter yesterday for shooting a black poacher on his vast estate.
It was the climax of a case that has stirred simmering tensions over race and land in Kenya.
Eton-educated Thomas Cholmondeley (40) looked down when the verdict was read. Some of his family and friends in court started crying.
The shooting of 37-year-old Robert Njoya in 2006 was the second time in just over a year that Cholmondeley had shot dead a black man on the farm in the Rift Valley. The lake-studded region was once dubbed ‘Happy Valley’ because of the decadent lifestyles of its colonial settlers.
Judge Muga Apondi reduced the charge from murder to manslaughter, saying the shooting was without malice or intent. Cholmondeley has said he fired in self-defence, aiming at a pack of dogs, and that he did not see Mr Njoya. The victim was apparently poaching on the farm. Sentence is expected to be announced next Tuesday. The maximum for manslaughter is life in prison. Cholmondeley has already served three years since his arrest in 2006.
Cholmondeley is the great-grandson of the third Baron Delamere, one of Kenya’s first major white settlers more than a century ago. His father is the current holder of the title and Cholmondeley is his only heir.
The case has received huge publicity because of Cholmondeley’s aristocratic heritage and his grandfather’s place in Kenyan lore. The fourth Baron Delamere was married to Diana Broughton, whose lover was shot in the head on the outskirts of Nairobi in the 1940s.
Broughton’s first husband Jock Broughton was tried for murder and acquitted, an episode that inspired the book White Mischief, which also was made into a 1987 film starring Charles Dance and Greta Scacchi.
The book highlighted the free-spending often alcoholic ways of some of the early colonialists in Kenya.
Charges in the earlier case against Cholmondeley were dropped amid high-level government intervention, enraging Kenyans who say he received special treatment.
Both cases have exposed deep tensions about the British presence in Kenya, with many citizens resentful that the best land was taken over by the British Government during colonial times.