Julie Ward

A RETIRED policeman and former M16 contact who featured in the inquiry into the death of British tourist Julie Ward in Kenya 16 years ago denied today that he was involved in any "cover up".

A RETIRED policeman and former M16 contact who featured in the inquiry into the death of British tourist Julie Ward in Kenya 16 years ago denied today that he was involved in any "cover up".

David Rowe, 70, a former assistant commissioner of the Kenyan police, said his part in the investigation had been unfairly represented at an inquest into Miss Ward's death, which concluded in Ipswich, Suffolk, earlier this month.

Mr Rowe, who is English and has a house in Capel St Mary, Suffolk, said he was considering contacting coroner Peter Dean to offer his side of the story.

Miss Ward, 28, who lived near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, vanished in 1988 while travelling alone in the Masai Mara game reserve. Her killers have never been found.

The inquest heard that the Kenyan authorities initially claimed that she had been attacked by wild animals after a post-mortem report which suggested that she had been murdered was altered by a senior Kenyan pathologist.

A British pathologist told the inquest that tests clearly showed by a Miss Ward's body had been dismembered with a sharp instrument before being scattered around the bush and Dr Dean recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

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Miss Ward's father John, 70, a hotelier who also lives near Bury St Edmunds, says the Kenyan government of former President Daniel Moi tried to cover up the fact that his daughter had been murdered in order to prevent damage to the tourist industry.

He has complained that the Foreign Office and Metropolitan police, whose detectives travelled to Kenya to help in the investigation, colluded in the cover up so as to placate Moi.

The complaint is being investigated by a team of Lincolnshire Police detectives which is due to present its report to the police complaints commission later this year.

Mr Rowe did not attend the inquest - although the coroner said he had been invited.

The inquest was told that in the aftermath of Miss Ward's death Mr Rowe, who had left the police force but was working as a consultant, discussed the case during a meeting at his house with an MI6 agent, named as "Mr A".

Mr A had logged details of the meeting in a file at MI6 headquarters.

But when question by Lincolnshire detectives last year neither Mr Ward nor Mr A had mentioned the meeting.

Mr Rowe and Mr A had then met Mr Ward at in the British High Commission in Nairobi. Mr Ward said Mr Rowe had put forward the theory that Miss Ward could have been struck by lightning so fierce that it snapped her bones.

The British pathologist who examined her remains told the inquest that the suggestion was nonsensical.

Mr Rowe said today he had been in Kenya since November last year and only returned to his house in Suffolk this week. He said he had not realised that the inquest was being held.

He said he had not mentioned the meeting with Mr A to police because he had forgotten about it.

And he denied saying that Miss Ward had been hit by lightning. He said he had merely suggested that lighting could be the cause of a fire in the bush.

"I would have willingly given evidence because I could have dispelled some of the nonsense that was reported."

"I was aghast at what I read.

Mr Rowe went on: "When I was interviewed by the police I had forgotten about the meeting with Mr A. That's all. Can you remember what you were doing 16 years ago?"

"I didn't say Miss Ward had been struck by lightning,'' added Mr Rowe. "I was asked what might have caused the fire and I said one possibility was a lightning strike if there was a tree nearby.

"I certainly am not involved in any cover up. Certainly not. And I don't believe the British government was involved."

He went on: "I empathise with John. I always have done. I feel sorry for him. "Of course I welcome a new investigation. I think the sooner John gets across to meet the new commissioner the better."