Post Mortem Forensics and Scotland Yard

On 17th February at 11.30am the Kenyan State Pathologist, Dr. J. N. Kaviti arrived, examined the body and began the first stage of the post-mortem. Photographs were also taken of Dr Ouko’s body and the surrounding area.

The following items were found at the scene:

A revolver

A holster

A white plastic jerrycan

A red plastic lid

A torch

A box of matches

A leather jacket

A pair of gumboots

A walking stick

A green polythene paper containing clothes

A sock

[KPFI 4:1 pages 14-15]

Dr Ouko’s jacket pocket contained Sh400 and four rounds of ammunition from his revolver.

Dr. Kaviti noted that Dr Ouko had been shot in the head with an entry wound 8cm above the right ear, exiting 6cm above the left ear.

Dr Kaviti also recorded that the minister’s right tibia and fibula (i.e. the bones below the knee) were broken at the ankle. Although he initially attributed the cause of the break to have been the heat of the fire he later agreed that they could have been caused by ‘a blunt or sharp force’.

The body was then sealed in a body sheet and taken by air [helicopter?] to the Lee Mortuary in Nairobi where a post mortem examination was conducted by Dr Kaviti in the company of Professor Oliech, the Director of Medical Services, Dr Joab Bodo, Chief Orthopaedic Specialist and the Ouko’s family doctor, Dr Joseph Oluoch.

The post mortem revealed lead bullet fragments embedded inside the skull and more intense burning on the back of the body than the front.

Dr Kaviti concluded that the cause of death was ‘severe brain damage following a bullet wound to the head and subsequent burning.’

Okoko continued with the investigation until he handed to Detective Superintendent John Troon of New Scotland Yard, London. It must have seemed a good idea at the time.


On February 19 the government announced that three detectives from Scotland Yard, Detective Superintendent John Troon together with Detective Inspector Graham Dennis and Detective Sergeant David Sanderson from ‘the Yard’s’ International and Organised Crime Branch, would take over the investigation. They were accompanied by Dr Iain West, a Forensic Pathologist from Guys and St Thomas Hospitals, London.

The Scotland Yard team arrived on 21 February.

FORENSIC EVIDENCE[Troon’s Final Report paras 41 – 52 inclusive]

On the same day that they arrived in Nairobi, Dr Iain West, accompanied by Superintendent John Troon, carried out a second post mortem at the Lee Mortuary.

The body of Dr Ouko lay on its back. The trunk had been largely destroyed by fire his face and head had not been badly burnt and he was easily identifiable.

Beside his left leg was the torch he had borrowed from his driver, Joseph Otieno.

Behind and to the right of his head lay his .38 five chambered revolver, with, it transpired, one spent round at the twelve o’clock position.

Some 3-4 feet to the right of his body stood an open 6 litre white plastic jerrycan and a matchbox with some matches still inside lay nearby.

Further away, approximately 15 feet from the body, lay jerrycan top and the minister’s walking stick, his holster and Wellington boots. There was also a plastic bag containing a pair of jeans, a shirt and a pair of socks, and a leather jacket in the pockets of which were found four live rounds of .38 ammunition, a pair of glasses and Sh400 cash.

All of the items except for the jerrycan, matches and the torch, were later identified as belonging to Ouko and were usually kept in his bedroom.

Evenly spaced out between the leather jacket and the minister’s body were four burn marks approximately 12 inches round.

Dr West, too, concluded that the cause of death was ‘a firearm wound to the head which occurred in life’ but there was no contact wound.

Dr West, however, went further in his analysis and conclusions than Dr Kaviti had done.

West stated that Dr Ouko’s body had been burnt by a slow but intense fire after he had been killed, that there was no evidence that his body had been on fire whilst he was alive and that fire had taken place once the body was laid down.

The broken ankle was caused while Dr Ouko was still alive, not by the heat of the fire, probably by a heavy fall or blow.

Dr West also found bruising on Dr Ouko’s right upper arm which was ‘consistent with a blow at the time of death or shortly before.’

The bullet wound was also not in a position that would have been usual if death had been the result of suicide and that the damage to Dr Ouko’s skull was more severe than would be expected if it had been caused by standard .38 special round, i.e., by Dr Ouko’s own gun.

Dr Ouko would have lost consciousness and all muscular activity immediately he was shot.

The shot to Dr Ouko’s head had of course resulted in severe blood loss but West noted that the blood flow across his face (as witnessed by photographs taken at the scene) suggested that the head had been moved after the fatal injury had occurred within six hours of death.

Dr West concluded that the injuries suffered by Dr Ouko were not consistent with suicide but rather he had been shot by someone else after breaking his right leg and the body had subsequently been set on fire.

Finally, West concluded, Dr Ouko’s ‘death should be investigated as one of homicide’. Hehadbeen murdered. 

As the days and weeks of the Scotland Yard investigation went on further detailed examination of the murder scene and examination of the physical evidence was undertaken.

On 22 February, Dr West and Troon visited the site where Dr Ouko’s body had been found. Their search revealed ‘a bullet mark that had removed a small portion of branch from a bush 7 feet north of the body’.

A Detective Sergeant David Sanderson, a specialist in forensic examination of crime scenes from London’s Metropolitan Police Laboratory assisted Dr West with an examination of the trajectory of the bullet and its relation to the position of Dr Ouko at the time he was shot.

Dr West deduced that if the bullet mark had been caused by the fatal shot to Dr Ouko’s head then its trajectory would indicate that he had been shot when standing up. [Troon, Interim, Para 56].

West concluded that if Dr Ouko had been shot whilst he was seated in the position where his head was found then the bullet could have hit the branch nearby but if he had been seated in the same position as where his body was found then the branch would not have been hit. For Dr West this evidence suggested that Dr Ouko’s body had been moved after death.

Together with the evidence of the blood flow on Dr Ouko’s face Troon concluded on the basis of Dr West’s findings that if the bullet mark on the branch had resulted from the fatal shot then the body had been moved by ‘at least two or three feet and within six hours of death’ but that there was ‘no evidence to suggest that Dr Ouko had died at any other venue than the scene’. The injury to his arm and leg however, could have occurred elsewhere.

Despite a search supervised by Detective Sergeant David Sanderson and weeks of searching by Kenyan police officers however, the bullet was never found. Without the bullet there could be no certainty whether the fatal shot had come from Ouko’s own gun or another weapon.

It is important to note that… the correlation of witness testimony from the maid Salina Were and the herdsboy Paul Shikuku (supported by testimony from local villagers) with the post mortem examinations and analysis of photographs taken of the body at the scene, particularly the blood flow on the deceased’s face, and the nature of the evidence that a shot had been fired at the place where the body was found led to an inescapable and critical conclusion: Dr Robert Ouko had been shot at or within a few feet of where his body was found.

Troon’s ‘Interim Report’ and ‘Final Report’ mention that ‘exhibits’ from the case were sent to  the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory in London through British Airways. [Troon Interim Report para 59 & Final report 252]. However, in his book Dr Iain West’s Casebook, Chester Stern claimed that ‘John Troon had helped Dr West to take the skull vault through the airport by persuading the authorities that the usual X-rays might damage vital samples being taken back to England. When it came to the state funeral, an imaginative and innovative mortuary assistant had simply covered the discrepancy by creating a convincing death-mask to attach to the top of the body for the benefit of those wishing to view the body’. [Dr Iain West’s Casebook by Chester Stern pages 98-99]

Aside from the fact that part of Dr Ouko’s skull was arrogantly and improperly removed to London, it leaves the question, is it still there?

The Senior Scientific Officer (Firearms Section), Scotland Yard, Mr Kevin O’Callaghan also reviewed the evidence.

O’Callaghan concluded that there was no evidence of a contact wound (i.e. the shot that killed Dr Ouko was fired from several inches away). He also noted that he was unable to ascertain whether the bullet fragments found in the skull were ‘from a plain bullet or fragments from a jacketed bullet’ but that they were ‘not consistent with any of the four remaining rounds of .38 ammunition’ found in the pocket of Dr Ouko’s leather jacket.

He also concluded that the lead mark found on a tree branch nearby was, in his opinion, a bullet mark and that ‘there strong indications that the cartridge case found in the chamber of the Minister’s weapon had been fired from the exhibit’.

Forensic Scientist Mr Phillip Toates reported to Troon that no blood was found on Ouko’s gun, or on the inside of his Wellington boots suggesting that the latter were not being worn at the time Dr Ouko’s ankle was broken. He was also of the opinion that the shirt and jeans found near the body had been worn since the last time they had been washed which in turn suggested Ouko had changed his clothing on the night he disappeared.

Intriguingly Toates reported that ‘a single Caucasian hair was found loosely associated with a partially burnt handkerchief found at the scene’. The origin of the hair was not known but Troon concluded that ‘it could only come from light skinned or Asian population’ and its presence could have resulted from site contamination.

Mr Andrew James Douglas, a specialist in fire investigations examined the exhibits sent to London and photographs from the post mortem and of the scene where Dr Ouko’s body was found. He confirmed that the jerrycan had contained diesel (with a tiny percentage of cattle dip) and that Dr Ouko was wearing clothes at the time of his death.

Douglas’s opinion was that, ‘Dr Ouko was lying on his back for either all or most of the fire and his clothing and the immediate area surrounding the body was soaked in diesel fuel. Diesel had also been detected in a sample of soil obtained from where the Minister’s jacket was found’. [Troon FR para 260]

He also undertook various tests to see how a fire might have developed. He concluded that from the moment the body, soaked in diesel, was ignited it would have taken perhaps 10 seconds for the flames to reach the face area (depending on atmospheric and weather conditions).

Forensic Scientist Geoffrey Warman Bsc, PhD, examined swabs taken from Dr Ouko’s palms and the .38 spent cartridge case found at the scene. Warmen noted that the swabs taken by the Kenyan police were ‘heavily covered in debris and were not ideal for the process’. However, he conclude that although there was evidence of ‘a very small particle of firearm discharge residue’ found on a sample labelled ‘right palm’, this could have come from handling the spent cartridge or from ‘the frequent handling of a weapon’ and that there was ‘insufficient evidence to support any view that Dr Ouko had recently fired a weapon’. [Troon FR 264-266]

Troon summarised the (later) forensic evidence that it was only possible to say with certainty ‘that the firearm wound was not a contact wound, the particles found inside Dr Ouko’s head are not consistent with the ammunition found at the scene.’ And that, ‘The evidence of the bullet mark on the branch confirms that a firearm had been discharged at the scene. Diesel fuel has been identified as the burning agent and for most of the burning Dr Ouko was lying on his back’. [Troon FR para 267]

He added, ‘There are no indications that the rubber boots found at the scene were recently worn. No blood or fingerprint was found in or around these exhibits’. [Troon FR 269]

The crucial part of Scotland Yard’s forensic evidence was that Dr Ouko had been killed where his body was found, or a few feet from the spot.

This evidence, together with the eye-witness testimony of the herdsboy Paul Shikuku and others, evidence and testimony that has never been disputed, is absolutely central to an understanding (and refutation) of many of the theories that have grown up around the murder of Dr Robert Ouko.

The evidence and testimony in this respect is clear: Dr Ouko was killed on the morning of the 13th February, 1990, and killed at the spot where his body was found.

In the absence of any new evidence to the contrary all other theories have to be set against these facts.

Next Chapter: Investigations Inquiries and Theories : Suicide General Crime and Troon.