DNA samples give hope to father chasing killers of murdered safari girl 20 years on

Last updated at 15:44 03 January 2008

The father of murdered safari girl Julie Ward believes her killer could finally be brought to justice after 20 years due to new DNA evidence.

Retired hotelier John Ward revealed that advances in forensic technology had produced a DNA sample from human excrement found at the murder scene.

Mr Ward hopes it will match one of the men under suspicion of murdering Julie, 28, while she photographed wildebeest in Kenya's Masai Mara game reserve in 1988.

But he claims that Home Office officials are blocking Scotland Yard's bid to send detectives to Kenya to help local police.

The excrement was brought back to Britain by Mr Ward and deep frozen after he found it at the murder scene soon after his daughter was killed Detectives tested it twice without success - but scientific advances enabled Scotland Yard to extract a DNA sample when they recently tested it for a third time.

Mr Ward, 74, of Brockley Green near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, said: "The DNA reading was very strong and it could well be a breakthrough in the case.

"We have seven or eight suspects who insist they were never at the scene, so it is very significant if swabs are taken from them and the DNA matches one of them.

"It is one of those things that is better than having a witness. If a positive match was made with one of the suspects he would certainly have a lot of explaining to do.

"When people commit violent crimes it is apparently quite common for it to cause a bowel movement. I don't know whether it is through tension, excitement or panic.

"One thing we know for a fact is that the excrement did not belong to Julie because it does not match her DNA. It is therefore likely to be from her killer.

"On a scale of one to 20, this sample has been rated at 17. Anything with a rating over ten is said to be enough for a conviction."

Mr Ward has campaigned tirelessly to find his daughter's killers over the last 20 years, spending £1 million and making more than 100 trips to Kenya.

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The Kenyan authorities at first claimed that publishing assistant Julie might have been killed by wild animals or in a lightning strike after her charred and mutilated remains were found.

But Mr Ward proved that her body had been chopped up, indicating she had been murdered. The Kenyan authorities later admitted a cover up.

Greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean ruled she had been unlawfully killed after a six day inquest into her death held in Ipswich in 2004.

Mr Ward alleged at the inquest that the Foreign Office had colluded with Kenyan authorities in trying to cover up her murder, possibly to protect the country's tourism industry or high ranking officials who might have killed her.

The inquest was also told of unsubstantiated rumours that the son of former Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi was involved in her death.

Mr Ward said Scotland Yard was initially denied permission by the Kenyan authorities to travel to Kenya with the new DNA evidence.

But he later persuaded the Kenyan attorney general to allow the visit, only for the Home Office to intervene and ban detectives from travelling.

Mr Ward was originally told it was because it would infringe the European directive of human rights which banned British police from working overseas on cases that could lead to a conviction with the death penalty.

He got a counsel's opinion stating that no such ban existed, only for the Home Office to state that sending officers would breach the 1996 Police Act.

Mr Ward is convinced the interpretation is wrong as British police have previously worked on other high profile cases in other countries with the death penalty.

He added: "It has just been announced that Scotland Yard is to help Pakistan investigate the killing of Benazir Bhutto - so why is my case different.

"I believe that the Home Office would prefer Julie's murder not to be solved for political reasons.

It is like we have taken one step forward and then three steps backwards."

Mr Ward believes he could get round the ban by taking the DNA to Kenya himself, but he is unable to travel yet because of the political turmoil and violence in the country.

He added: "Although I cannot do much in Kenya until things quieten down there, I intend to turn up the pressure on Scotland Yard.

"I still cannot exclude the possibility that there are people in this country who know who murdered Julie.

"It is very exciting to be presented DNA evidence that might help catch the killer after all this time, and it is frustrating not to be able to do anything with it at the moment.

"But I have been up and down with this case for so long now and I am used to hitting stumbling blocks, and I just have to keep trying."

Two game reserve rangers and the Masai Mara's senior warden have already been cleared of murdering Julie at two separate trials.