New hope in Julie Ward murder probe

THE father of a Suffolk photographer murdered in Kenya 21 years ago has told of his hope that new evidence could finally provide a breakthrough in finding her killer.

Russell Claydon

THE father of a Suffolk photographer murdered in Kenya 21 years ago has told of his hope that new evidence could finally provide a breakthrough in finding her killer.

John Ward was speaking as it emerged Scotland Yard was in talks with officials from the African nation to reopen the case of his daughter Julie's murder.

The 28-year-old was murdered while travelling in Kenya's Masai Mara game reserve in September 1988 and he has tirelessly battled to bring those responsible to justice ever since.

But after two decades of frustration, Mr Ward now believes new leads could solve finally end his search for the truth.

The 75-year old former hotelier told the EADT how:

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He has twice met a woman who claims she knows the final resting place of the rest of the remains of his daughter, which have never been found.

New forensic advancements have led to the possibility of obtaining a DNA profile of a single or multiple killers.

One of Scotland Yard's most respected figures is behind trying to reopen the case with the Kenyan authorities.

Mr Ward, who lives near Bury St Edmunds, said he has been at this stage before, but this time it felt different.

He said: “Things are moving certainly. I have learnt not to get too optimistic but on the other hand this one has got John Yates (head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism squad and former top murder investigator) behind it and is significant.

“He is a fairly powerful and influential figure. If he were to receive any blockage from Kenya or our government he is strong enough to handle it.”

Mr Ward visited Nairobi with Mr Yates and two other detectives in July to speak with police chiefs about the opportunities in re-investigating the case in light of advances in scientific techniques.

But while a new DNA reading from what little was found of Miss Ward's body is said to be the focus of Scotland Yard's inquiries, Mr Ward believes there is also another significant lead to be pursued.

“My primary inquiry is someone who says they know where most of Julie's remains were buried,” he said.

“The skull and left leg were the only things discovered and it has always been assumed the rest of her had been probably taken by wild animals, but in fact in response to a reward notice placed in a Kenyan newspaper a couple of years ago someone came forward and said 'no, that is not right she was buried' and she can show me where.”

Mr Ward claims he has met the woman, who fears for her safety in lawless Kenya, in person twice and believes it could be the most significant clue he has chased in more than 100 visits to the country in 21 years.

He said: “This particular one I have been working with now for six months and I cannot fault her.

“That does not mean she is not telling the truth. The only way to discover that is to dig which, at some stage, we shall certainly do.

“Such is DNA these days we shall know immediately if it is Julie's remains or not.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Service confirmed it was continuing to liaise with the Kenyan police following the visit at the end of July.