Inquest into Suffolk photographer opens

AN inquest into the death of Suffolk photographer Julie Ward has opened in Ipswich today. The 28-year-old was murdered on the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya in 1998.

AN inquest into the death of Suffolk photographer Julie Ward has opened in Ipswich today.

The 28-year-old was murdered on the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya in 1998.

The inquest, held in the council chamber in County Hall, has heard from her father, John, who opened with a background of his daughter.

Miss Ward grew up in Welling, Hertfordshire, and moved to Suffolk when she was 16 years old, the inquest heard. She worked for a small photographic company until her late 20s.

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Mr Ward said: "She felt life was passing her by when she was 27 or 28 years old and decided to take a break from the job. She had two hobbies, she had a love of dogs and was a keen photographer, especially of wildlife."

She then embarked on an outward bound-style holiday in a rundown camper van through Europe and into Africa.

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Mr Ward said: "Julie thrived on it. From a relatively sheltered life, this was a total change.

"The girl that arrived in Nairobi was totally different. We heard from her frequently but because of the nature of the trip, we were worried. When she finally got to Nairobi we breathed a sigh of relief."

Mr Ward, who lives near Bury St Edmunds, was occasionally choked by tears during the inquest. He added that there was a contentious issue on the game reserve after she arrived there.

A game warden had agreed to show them the annual migration of the wildebeest and they planned to take him in their vehicle.

Mr Ward said that the game warden wanted to sit in the front, there was a heated argument about it and they decided to leave him behind.

Mr Ward said the warden was angry, probably because he had lost a day's earnings from the potential trip.

Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean opened the inquiry and said: "I wish to offer my thoughts and condolences to Julie Ward's family and I wish to pay tribute to the commitment, resolve and tireless dedication of Mr Ward over the last 16 years since this tragedy occurred."

He added: "This is a fact finding inquiry and not a fault finding trial."

There have been two trials held in Kenya but suspects were acquitted through lack of evidence. Successive coroners decided not to hold an inquest but Dr Dean has decided there is nothing to gain from further delay.

This is the first time the details of Miss Ward's death have been heard in a British court.

The inquest will hear from various witnesses including a former member of the security services who will be referred to only as "Mr A". Others include former members of the British High Commission in Nairobi and scientists.

Her tenacious father has worked tirelessly for the last 16 years to bring her killers to justice.

He is representing the family with only a 'shop floor' training as a barrister and will be asking questions of other witnesses.

He says he has new evidence about the case which he is yet to reveal.

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