Army chief ‘appalled' by British soldiers' alleged role in killing of Kenyan woman

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The head of the army has said he is “appalled” by allegations that British soldiers may have been involved in the killing of a Kenyan woman.

Army chief ‘appalled’ by British soldiers’ alleged role in killing of Kenyan woman
© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Daniel Irungu/EPA

Gen Mark Carleton-Smith said he was determined to work with the authorities to establish the facts in the killing of Agnes Wanjiru.

The body of Wanjiru, who was 21, was found in a septic tank at the Lions Court hotel in the town of Nanyuki, close to the Batuk (British Army Training Unit Kenya) camp, two months after she disappeared in March 2012. She had been stabbed, Kenyan investigators later concluded.

In a statement shared on Twitter, Carleton-Smith said: “I am sure you are all as appalled as I am at the recent allegations surrounding the murder of Agnes Wanjiru in Nanyuki, Kenya, in 2012. I want you to know I am determined we support the appropriate authorities to establish the facts of the issue as quickly as possible.”

However, he did not say whether that should include an investigation by the Royal Military Police.

The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has said he is waiting on a request from Kenya for assistance in finding Wanjiru’s killer. A defence source told the PA news agency: “The defence secretary has been impatient with the pace of this, and has directed full cooperation. He has worked with the military police and Kenyans to ensure their investigation is not impeded.”

Army chief ‘appalled’ by British soldiers’ alleged role in killing of Kenyan woman
© Photograph: Daniel Irungu/EPA Rose Wanyua, Agnes Wanjiru’s sister, holds up a picture of her late sister.

The Sunday Times reported that a soldier accused of the murder has been named by his comrades after he allegedly confessed to the killing and that another soldier reported the killing to senior officers at the time, but the military took no action.

Labour has called on the government to investigate any possible “cover-up”. The shadow defence secretary, John Healey, described the killing of Wanjiru as “dreadful” and called on ministers to act on “reports of grave failings by the British military exposed in this case”.

He added: “There’s been no MoD-led investigation of the soldiers involved and no inquiry into why the MoD failed to respond when Kenyan detectives asked for help. Nine years on, justice must now be done for Agnes and her family.”

Wanjiru dropped out of high school and later became a sex worker to look after her baby. She was last seen by witnesses on the night of 31 March 2012 walking out of a Nanyuki bar accompanied by two British soldiers.

Related: UK defence minister faces call for inquiry into 2012 killing of Kenyan woman

Her body was later discovered behind a room where the soldiers had stayed, with missing body parts and a stabbing injury.

According to the Sunday Times, a Kenyan judge presiding over the 2019 inquest concluded that Wanjiru had been murdered by one or two British soldiers. Njeri Thuku said: “I have formed the opinion that Agnes was murdered by British soldiers. It may have been one or two. But what is certain is that it was British soldiers because they were dressed in their uniform.”

The judge said a broken mirror and blood were found in a room at the Lions Court hotel and there may have been a “cover-up”. She ordered two further criminal inquiries. Despite Kenyan police investigations and inquiries by Ministry of Defence investigators, no one was brought to justice, the Sunday Times reported.

Wanjiru’s daughter, now 10, is cared for by Agnes’s sister Rose, who told the paper: “We are poor, but we will not be silent. I know British soldiers killed her. All I can do now is pray they will be caught.”

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