The murder of Dr Robert Ouko was the subject of investigations by two police forces, a judicial inquiry, two murder trials (both of the same man, Jonah Anguka), a parliamentary commission, libel actions and at least eight published books, including:
•Initial investigations by the Kenyan police, February 1990
•Investigation by New Scotland Yard, February 21 to June 30, 1990
•The Judicial Commission of Inquiry, October 1990 – November 1991
•‘Further Investigations’ by the Kenya Police, 1991
•The trials of Jonah Anguka, 1992-94
•The Parliamentary Select Committee Investigation 2004/5
THE TEN THEORIES
From these investigations and inquiries arose ten areas of investigation that either had to be investigated (however far-fetched they seemed) or became the bases for believable motives for the murder of Dr. Ouko. The ten theories were based on:
•The ‘Washington trip’
•The Kisumu Molasses Project and corruption
•An ‘Executive order’ killing
•An un-attributed allegation against Domenico Airaghi and Marianne Briner-Matten
•Local politics and local government corruption
•A family row
•A domestic dispute
•Specific charges against Jonah Anguka
Both the Kenya and Scotland Yard police investigations did have to consider the possibility that Dr Ouko had committed suicide, however implausible that would seem, on the basis that a professional empirically-based investigation would have to consider all possibilities, however remote.
Troon’s ‘Final Report’ stated that ‘In the early stages of the investigation there were many who held the view that Dr Ouko had committed suicide, some still maintain that view’ [TFR para 271]. Troon also conceded ‘Dr Ouko’s attitude and demeanour and some of his actions during the last few days of his life may have given some people the impression that he was in a state of mind, which with the benefit of hindsight, is suggestive of suicide’ [TFR para 275].
Even in the ‘Conclusions’ of his ‘Final Report’ Troon stated that even though he thought it highly unlikely, ‘I cannot completely rule out the possibility that Dr Ouko committed suicide’ [TFR para 279].
The Kenyan police ‘Further Investigations’ Report noted 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’.
Ultimately, however, the conclusions of the Kenyan police as summarised in their ‘Further Investigations’ Report and those of the Scotland Yard team as set out in Troon’s ‘Final Report’, were the same.
The Kenya police stated that Dr Ouko had not committed suicide and that he ‘must have been murdered’ [KPFI p57 8:3 (vi)] and that ‘nobody offered evidence to support that [suicide] theory’ [KPFI 8:3], whilst Troon concluded that ‘the evidence so far obtained in relation to Dr West’s findings, events leading up to his death and motives suggests in all probability Dr Ouko was murdered’.
The Kenyan police noted that Dr Ouko’s gumboots were ‘placed neatly on top of each other’ which would seem odd for someone intending to commit suicide. They noted too that his revolver appeared to have been placed near the body by another individual; that four rounds of ammunition were found in his pocket not in the chamber of his revolver, again an odd thing to have done if he had committed suicide; and that his fingerprints were not on the gun found at the scene (although… rough wood handle…). The entry and exit point for the shot to his head also ‘indicated that the gun had been fired by another person’ [KPFI page 55, 8:3 (ii)]. These observations, together with the presence of Dr Ouko’s clothes at the scene and the manner in which they were laid led the Kenya police to conclude that ‘After taking the above points into consideration, we see nothing in favour of suicide. We therefore exclude suicide from our findings. We concur with experts that Dr. Ouko must have been murdered’ [KPFI page 57, 8:3 (vi)].
Troon too ruled out on the grounds that there was no evidence of sufficient cause, whether it was the ‘longstanding dispute between the brothers’ or the alleged dispute on the Washington trip. Troon also considered highly unlikely that Dr Ouko ‘would venture by foot 2.8km over rocky terrain in the dark carrying five litres of fluid in a can, a torch, spare clothing and a walking stick before finally burning and shooting himself’ [TFR para 276].
To an extent the idea that the suicide theory for Dr Ouko’s death was [pushed] has reached near mythical proportions. There is no doubt that local police officials and even Dr Kaviti maintained the theory as a possibility for some time but there is little or no evidence of a concerted attempt among higher authorities to do so.
As has been noted, the police, be they Kenyan or British, had to consider suicide as a theory. Both rejected the idea and if anything the Kenyan police ‘Further Investigations’ Report did so more emphatically than the Troon ‘Final Report’.
Similarly, statements made by President Moi and others at the time of Dr Ouko’s death, including Professor Saitoti, were clear that they regarded it as an act of ‘murder’ or ‘foul play’. The Nation newspaper’s front page on the 17th February carried statements and headlines to this effect from Moi and Saitoti.
Just as the police forces investigating Dr Ouko’s murder had to consider suicide as a cause they also had to rule in or out whether his death had arisen as a result of some ‘general crime’, a robbery that had gone wrong for example.
The fact that nothing appeared to have been stolen from Dr Ouko’s house, that his jacket found at the murder site still contained 400 shillings in cash [check amount] and that his revolver was also found at the scene, the Kenyan police concluded that ‘in the general commission of crime, these could not have been left behind. For this reason, we do not believe that a general crime could have been the motive for the murder of Dr. Ouko’ [KPFI page 57, 8:4].
For the first five or six weeks of his investigations, Scotland Yard’s Detective Superintendent John Troon was confronted with witness testimony that directed him toward a long-running and often vitriolic row in Dr Ouko’s family, allegations of a vicious local political campaign going back to before the 1988 election, and allegations of corruption in the Kisumu Town Council, as possible motives for Dr Ouko’s murder.
Dorothy Randiak, Dr Ouko’s sister, made three statements to Troon, on March 2, 27 and April 11, the first two of which were entirely about the family row and its possible link with local politics, and his involvement with another woman.
Mrs Christabel Ouko, Dr Ouko’s wife, made four statements to Troon on March 2 and 13 and April 5 and 8. Her second statement (March 13) was a purely administrative (but highly significant) action recording the handing of her passport and that of her late husband, to Troon. The first and third statements, however, were also entirely about the family row and her husband’s private life.
Troon’s ‘Interim Report’ submitted in July however, points to a major shift in his investigation some time in the middle of March, 1990.
In paragraphs 101 and 102 of the ‘Interim Report’ Troon stated that, ‘On Saturday 17 March my colleague Detective Sergeant Lindsay received a telephone call to meet a person in the Imperial Hotel, Kisumu. Lindsay attended the venue and there met a person who identified himself as Professor Thomas A. Ogada, the Kenyan Ambassador to Switzerland’, and that, ‘Prof. Ogada informed Lindsay that he had been directed by His Excellency the President to hand over to the Scotland Yard Officers a sealed envelope which he had brought with him from Switzerland. In addition to the envelope, Prof. Ogada supplied details of two contacts in relation to the contents, one being Mrs Briner Mattern, the other being her advocate in Kenya Mr Frank Addly of Kaplan and Stratton Advocates, Nairobi.’ [Troon, Interim report, paras 101 & 102]
Perhaps interestingly, no record of President Moi’s involvement was made in Troon’s ‘Final Report’ submitted in August, 1990.
Troon’s investigation from this time seems to have concentrated on proving motives for Dr Ouko’s murder based on the theories gained that there had been an argument between Dr Ouko and Nicholas Biwott, then Kenya’s Minister of Energy, during the trip to Washington following a supposed meeting between Ouko and the U.S. President, George H.W. Bush (although Troon did accept that the “factual basis” for the alleged row on the Washington trip was “somewhat tenuous” [‘Final Report’, paragraph 142] and based on “hearsay” [‘Final Report’, paragraph 217]; that Biwott had battled with Ouko to bring about the cancellation of a project to build a molasses plant at Kisumu (in Ouko’s constituency); and that Dr Ouko was preparing a report on high level political corruption in relation to the Kisumu Molasses Project (which by implication named Biwott).
The basis of Troon’s theory about a ‘row’ on the trip to Washington was the testimony of Dr Ouko’s brother, Barrak Mbajah, and the later testimony of his sister Dorothy Randiak (in her third statement made on April 11th) together with her alleged conversations with Troon.
Troon’s theory that the ‘Kisumu Molasses Project’ and a possible ‘Corruption Report’ linked to it, might have provided a motive for murder, was based on a file of allegations handed to Scotland Yard apparently at the direction of President Daniel arap Moi, allegations made by a Domenico Airaghi and to a greater extent a Marianne Briner-Mattern, who said they were directors of BAK International, a company based in Switzerland that had tendered to Ouko when he was Minister for Industry to re-start the Molasses Project in Kisumu.
Troon’s took a witness statement from Briner-Mattern on the 22nd March, some five days after his team had received the file from the Kenyan ambassador to Switzerland, as ‘directed by His Excellency’, on the 17th March.
Next Chapter: The Washington Trip